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Gene looks through the window and sees the war moving on to the campus of Devon. A number of jeeps approach, followed by heavy trucks carrying sewing machines. Brinker joins Gene at the window and sees the trucks. He remarks that Leper should have been assigned to the parachute rigger's school after he enlisted in the army; then, perhaps, he would not have gone crazy. Brinker takes Gene to meet his father, who is downstairs in the butt room. He tells Gene that he wishes he were young enough to enlist, for there are many exciting opportunities. Gene tells him that he has enlisted in the Navy and that they will be sending him to Pensacola. Brinker's father talks loftily about the importance of serving one's country. Brinker, however, is angry that his father's generation is responsible for the war, but it is he and his friends who have to fight in it.
Brinker leaves to continue his packing, and Gene goes over to the gym to clear out his locker. In the gym, Gene thinks of the old Finny and remembers his ability to take everything in his stride and bear things that others would find difficult to endure. He will always remember Finny's vibrant, spontaneous nature. He believes that "Finny had a vitality, which could not be quenched . . . even by the marrow of his bone." Gene also feels very relieved that none of the students at Devon have ever accused him of being responsible for Finny's death.
Gene feels that he is finally ready for the war, for he has lost all his anger. He thinks that Finny has probably absorbed it and taken it with him. Although Gene fights in the war, he never feels personally involved and never kills anybody. He thinks it is probably because he has already fought a personal war to its conclusion. Because he feels that he has killed Finny, he cannot bear the thought of killing someone else.
Brinker is finally going off to war, after months of talking about it. Obviously, his father has been encouraging his son's participation all along. He talks to Gene about the glory of serving one's country. Brinker does not agree. He resents that he and his friends are having to fight in a war caused by his father's generation. Gene disagrees with Brinker. He feels that the war is caused by the ignorance of the human mind.
Gene speaks about the war from firsthand experience. Although it was not a world war, he fought a battle the entire time he was at Devon. His school days were marred by his hero worship of Finny. His feelings grew so intense that they turned into raging jealousy, bordering on hatred. The jealousy led him to shake the tree, causing Finny to fall and become a cripple. The war then became an internal one for Gene in which he had to constantly battle his guilt. Finny's crippled presence served as a constant reminder of what he was done, increasing the guilt.
Because he has already fought his own war, Gene never becomes mentally involved in the fighting of World War II. Even though he serves in the Navy, he cannot bring himself to kill another human being.