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Because of his busy schedule, studying, helping Finny, and practicing sports, the war because less important to Gene. He is not even really affected when Leper quits school to enlist; he simply wonders
how a war is strong enough to draw Leper away from his snails, birds, and beaver dams, while Brinker stays in school and talks about enlisting.
As time passes, the students begin to associate every important event in the war with Leper. They often talk of him, praising him for enlisting. Finny never joins the praise and discourages Gene from doing so. He tries to draw Gene into a world where no one exists except the two of them, and nothing is important except training for the Olympics of 1944.
Towards the end of winter Finny decides to organize a "Winter Carnival," which Devon has never had before. Gene volunteers to become the head of the committee on snow statues. When Brinker shows no enthusiasm for the project, Gene tries to convince him to get involved, for this is the first thing that Finny has attempted since his return to Devon.
The carnival is to be held on Saturday. Finny has gathered prizes for the winners of the various games; Brinker has also managed to get some hard cider, which he guards with his life. The cider is placed at the center of the carnival, and statues, resembling the Devon teachers, are made out of damp snow and placed around the cider, as if guardians. As the students gather, Chet Douglas makes the sound of a bullfight on his trumpet. The boys attack Brinker and take away the cider. Brinker is angry, but Gene calms him by pouring some cider down his throat. Brinker declares the games open. Finny, however, interrupts by saying that the carnival cannot begin without a sacred fire from Olympus. He pours cider on one of the prizes, a book entitled The Iliad, lights fire to it, and declares the game officially open. He then announces that Gene Forrester is "our Olympic candidate." Gene easily wins the games in which he participates. His training with Finny has made a difference.
For one afternoon, the students at Devon have managed to escape from the difficult times of 1943; through the carnival, they have created a special and "separate peace," far removed from the tension of war. The peace, however, is interrupted by the arrival of a telegram for Gene. Finny is sure that it is from the Olympic Committee. Instead, the telegram is from Leper, who pleads for help and asks Gene to come to him at once.
The war rages on and begins to take its toll on Devon. Although Brinker continues to talk about enlisting in the army, he never does. Leper, however, leaves school to join the war effort. Gene is amazed that this sensitive young man can leave behind his birds, snails, and beavers to become a soldier. When the other students praise Leper's bravery, Finny remains silent and encourages Gene to do the same.
Because he is so busy with studying, helping Finny, and practicing sports, Gene finds he has little time left over to think about the war. Of course, Finny, who can never join the war effort, likes to ignore it. But to improve the spirits of the students during the trying times, he organizes a Winter Carnival, where everyone will compete in games to win prizes. Brinker even manages to obtain some hard cider to serve at the carnival. On the day of the games, he insists that they start with a fire from Olympus; therefore, he burns a copy of the Greek epic, The Iliad. Since the book is filled with praise for the heroes of the Trojan War, it is like Finny is trying to burn out or abolish war.
It is significant to notice that this innocent carnival is held on the banks of the dirty Naguamsett River. With contrasting irony, the feats of the daring Super Suicide Society were held on the clean, innocent banks of the Devon River. Finny was always the winner in the sessions of the Super Suicide Society; it is now Gene who wins all the games in the winter carnival. Ironically, his success is directly related to
Finny's failure. Since Finny can no longer participate in sports, he has spent the fall and winter training Gene to be a skilled athlete. He has obviously been successful. With further irony, Gene's victory in the games is also a victory over Finny.
The separate peace, established in the carnival and far removed from the war, cannot last for long. The successful games are soon brought to an abrupt end by the arrival of Leper's telegram. He explains to Gene that he has escaped from the fighting and that he wants Gene to come to him immediately. Suddenly, both Gene and Finny are forced to face the trauma and hopelessness of war.