Separate Peace Summary

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A Separate Peace

Gene Forrester is a quiet, intellectual student at Devon School in New

Hampshire. During the Summer Session of 1942, he becomes close friends

with his daredevil roommate Finny, who has a talent for getting away

with mischief through his sincere, disarming charisma. Finny prods Gene

into making a dangerous jump out of a tree into a river, and the two

start a secret society based on this ritual. Gene envies Finny's

astonishing athletic abilities, and he begins to suspect that Finny

envies his superior academic achievements and has been taking steps to

distract him from his studies. His suspicions turn to hatred, but he

makes sure to maintain an appearance of friendship so Finny will not

suspect him.

Gene realizes he was grievously mistaken about the existence of any

rivalry between them one day when Finny expresses a sincere desire to

see Gene succeed. He goes to the tree to jump with Finny while he is

still in a state of shock from the force of his realization, and when

Finny gets out to the edge of the branch, Gene shakes it, causing Finny

to fall to the bank and shatter his leg. The doctor tells Gene that

Finny's athletic days are over. Gene goes in to see Finny and begins to

confess what he has done, but the doctor interrupts him and Finny is

sent home before Gene gets another chance.

The Summer Session ends, and Gene goes home for a brief vacation. On his

way back to the school from his home in the South, Gene stops by Finny's

house and confesses that he shook the branch on purpose. Finny refuses

to listen to him, and Gene takes back his confession and continues on to

school. World War II is in full swing, and the boys at Devon are all

eager to enlist in the military. A prominent class politician, Brinker

Hadley, suggests to Gene that they go off to enlist together, and Gene

agrees. That night he finds Finny has returned to school, though, and he

drops his plans to enlist, as does Brinker. Finny expects Gene to take

his place as the school's sports star, and when Gene protests that

sports no longer seem important in the midst of the War, Finny declares

the War is all a massive hoax.

Finny tells Gene he once had aspirations to go to the Olympics, and Gene

agrees to train for the 1944 Olympics in his place. Everyone is

surprised when a gentle, naturalistic boy named Leper Lepellier becomes

the first one in their class to enlist. Gene and Finny go on training,

shielded within their private version of world events. During a winter

carnival Finny has organized, a telegram arrives for Gene from Leper,

saying he has escaped and desperately needs him to come to his home in

Vermont. Gene goes and finds that Leper has gone slightly mad. Leper,

who was present at Finny's accident, reveals that he knows the truth

about what happened. Gene becomes frightened by Leper's ranting because

of its possible implications for his own reactions to military life, and

he runs away back to Devon. When Brinker hears of what has happened to

Leper, he laments in front of Finny that Devon has already lost two of

its potential soldiers. Gene, afraid that Finny will be hurt by this

remark, tries to get him to launch into his hoax story again, but Finny

lays it to rest.

Brinker has always harbored suspicions that Gene had something to do

with Finny's accident, and in an attempt to dispel them once and for

all, he organizes a midnight tribunal of schoolboys and has Gene and

Finny summoned without warning. They question the two about what

happened, but Finny is too confused about the whole thing to speak

conclusively, and Gene maintains he does not remember. They bring in

Leper, who was seen earlier that day skulking about the bushes, and he

begins to implicate Gene in causing the accident. Finny declares he does...
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