1. “So the more things remain the same, the more they change after all–plus c’est la même chose, plus ça change.” (p. 14)
Gene cites this phrase in the beginning, where he is 15 years past the time of his story. The quote is particular in the fact that, with a glance at the real world, it indeed proves to be true. Nothing seems to endure the degrading acid of time. Love does not last permanently, either faded by time or by bitterness. Memories do not last, being the substance of those who live a century and die longing for life. As for material substances, such as the tree, they do not last long due to the many forces which pass through and leave their own mark.
2. “It was only long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.” (p. 29)
Gene recognizes sarcasm as the defense mechanism for the weak, even though he himself is riddled with it. Those who cannot face the problem directly often stoop to avoiding it, using sarcasm as the back door to their situations. Many people use it in their everyday life, and what I can’t help but think is: if sarcasm is the tool of the weak, what does that make the human race?
3. “If I had fallen awkwardly enough I could have been killed. Finny had practically saved my life.” (p. 32)
This quote is interesting in the fact that Gene is rescued by Finny when he is about to tumble to the ground, and the tables are turned when Gene causes his “best-friend” to fall from the tree instead. If Phineas had not been true at heart, Gene would have suffered the fate he delivered to someone else, or worse. Many people in today’s era focus primarily on themselves, not thinking about the consequences their actions could deliver to others. Why should others have to suffer for the choices of a few who hold bitterness brought by their own problems?
4. “Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him.” (p. 40)
When Gene said this phrase I thought about the strong points of Gene’s life as well as mine, and I realize that the quote is quite true, describing every person who lives and breaths. Moments in an individual’s life may seem important, where nothing could wipe clean the event or shroud the emotions expressed at that current time. This is the defining moment of that character’s life, and ultimately describes the person who is participating. This moment could be a birth, death, exciting moment, or a time of mourning, and requires only that the person of interest must always remember it.
5. “It was all cold trickery, it was all calculated, it was all enmity.” (p. 53)
This stone-cold realization that Gene’s friendship is nothing but a sham forces him to become the monster he is describing. Many people try to blame matters on everyone around them, but the truth is that what they try to escape is their own cruelty, their own devices. This is the case with Gene, for he blames Phineas of being deceitful where there is none at all. Instead the result is that Gene pretends to be friendly and then knocks him out of the tree, ruining his life forever.
6. “Now I knew that there never was and never could be any rivalry between us. I was not of the same quality as he.” (p. 59)
Everyone experiences a feeling in their life where they realize they can’t measure up to something or someone. With Gene he realizes it when he finds the complete innocence Phineas radiates, and somehow this realization that he can never measure up caused the poor boy to snap. With an unthinking sureness he jostled the branch and doomed his best friend to pain and suffering for the rest of his life. Small matters such as this begin in the heart and spread to the mind. When they corrupt a person altogether, a nasty sporadic behavior may occur, usually not boding well for anyone in the vicinity.
7. “I fought that battle, that first skirmish of a long campaign, for Finny.” (p. 79)
This is a self-justification for the actions of a boy unable to free himself from an exposed position of weakness, and so he lashes out like a cornered animal. I can relate to this feeling of desperation, where anything can be a savior and anything can be the executioner. So many people fall dead or injured due to the self-justifications that “I’m doing this for my father, I’m killing him for my mother, or I’m jumping off the roof because of the bottle.” Why doesn’t the world drop the justification process and embrace the innocence that Phineas radiates? How could the world prevent people like Gene from becoming desperate at all?
8. “Just like a stag at eve,” Brinker roared back. “It was a winter wonderland, every minute” (p. 100)
This line is lathered with sarcasm, and every time my eyes read over it I cant help but smile. Brinker is the friend everyone wishes they had in their life, being comedic and entertaining to keep life interesting. However, this response is not made for attention but out of outrage. After working hard all day and being confronted with a naturalist who doesn’t seem to care about the labors of others, Brinker seems to lose his cool. The quote is simply ironic because while Brinker and the other guys labor in their “winter wonderland,” Leper is sightseeing in one.
9. “What is all this crap about no maids?” (p. 104)
This quote originates first from when Finny returns to Devon and catches how his bed isn’t made for him. The irony in this statement is highlighted by Gene when he brings forth the fact that men and women are dieing in a war, and Phineas is worrying about maids fixing his bed. However, the boy simply shrugs the remark off and continues to ignore the war as if it were nothing but a fly to be reckoned with. Amazingly, there are people just like Finny who believe that war is a sham, and will continue to believe this until their grave, or until war overtakes them.
10. “I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case.” (p. 194)
When you die, can you see the assembled who come to weep and mourn over your body? Can you weep and mourn with them? No one on earth knows what death feels like, or what it holds, and so they cannot say whether you can weep or laugh when you leave your body. To be literal, Gene knows that Phineas would never laugh again, and he would never cry or speak out ever again. This pains him so much that as he believes himself an extension of Phineas, without the sorrow of his counterpart there would be no sorrow on his end either. Just as Phineas dies with high spirits and a light heart, so shall Gene live.