The book, "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles opens with Gene Forrester, the narrator who is in New Hampshire where he recounts events of his days at Devon School. At this, A Separate Peace by John Knowles analysis centers on the lives of sixteen-year-old Americans during World War II.
It is fifteen years ago at the start of A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Gene Forester is a gentle and intellectual boy in school and in the summer of 1942, he attempts to jump off a huge tree into the river with Phineas, a risk-taker who becomes his friend. Phineas, also known as Finny, is his roommate and his charisma makes him get away with the rules he breaks and the mischief he makes.
With the ritual of jumping over a tree into a river, a kind of secret society was created and Gene envies Phineas who was a handsome student and an athlete. Finny is also a rule-breaker but it makes him more fascinating and smart.
Headmaster Mr. Patch-Withers invites students for tea and Finny uses the school tie as his belt. When he gets to Mr. Path-Wither's house, and he begins a conversation about World War II with Mrs. Path-Withers, he loosens his shirt, and Mrs. Path-Withers is shocked to see the school tie as his belt. He should’ve been punished, but he gives a smart and nonsense excuse which makes Mr. Path-Withers laugh surprisingly. Even Gene had thought he would be punished but smart Finny got away with it.
Finny and Gene created a Super Suicide of the Summer Session, an association of dangerous yet exciting activities. Danger excites people. He and Finny soon went diving limb where Gene loses balance and could’ve fallen on the river bank and break his back but Finny saves him, and he is happy that Finny saved his life.
Later, Finny creates a game called Blitzball which became the “surprise of the summer” which everyone played. It was a variation of rugby and football. Later, Finny unintentionally breaks the swimming record although it was without an official timer or an official sport. Finny later suggests that Gene follows him to the beach. They could get into trouble but Gene assents and follows him. Finny later confesses that Gene is his best pal and Gene could not say a word in response.
One day, Finny gave derisive comments about Gene’s academic ambitions and Gene begins to suspect that Finny is jealous of his academic achievements and is hell-bent on distracting him. This turns into hate and resentment although he hides this behind the veneer of friendship.
He wants to compete with Finny, and he follows him to the ritual of jumping the tree. It was the night before the exams. Gene agreed to follow him because Finny said he is good and doesn’t need to study.
At the tree, Gene and Finny attempt to jump the tree, and at the reaches the verge of the branch, Gene jostles the limb, his knees bend and Finny falls to the bank of the river as the branch is shaken. He shatters his leg.
Gene seems unconcerned at the event regarded as an accident but feels very guilty when he hears that Finny cannot regain his athletic ability. He eventually visits Finny in the infirmary and when he wants to speak to him about his guilt, the doctor interrupts. Finny was eventually sent home.
The summer session ends quickly and Gene returns home. When he is to resume school, he visits Finny who seems weak. He confesses that he caused the accident but Finny doesn’t believe him. Because of this, Gene wants to avoid sport by becoming the assistant manager of the crew team. He has no roommate now since Finny hasn’t resumed. To become the assistant manager of the sports crew, he is challenged by Quackenbush who is the current assistant manager, and they both tumble to water in a fight. Gene quits.
Later, Finny persuades Gene to do sports and Gene promises that he will. Brinker Hadley, however, accuses Gene of Finny’s accident which makes Gene troubled. Fall passes and the first snow paralyzed the railroad and about 200 people volunteer to shovel it. It was a miserable day for Gene and other students except for Leper.
World War II draws near with active combat and Gene thinks about enlisting to have a purpose in his life. When he gets to his room, he meets Finny with surprise and shock, and he changes his mind to stay in school.
With Finny’s return, Brinker Hadley rants again, accusing Gene of the plot in Finny’s accident. Finny ignores it, but he’s upset that Gene didn’t engage himself in sport as he’d promised. Gene says sport doesn’t matter and the Olympics of 1944 will not hold because of the war but Finny holds that the war is a conspiracy.
He rants about the conspiracy of the war to keep young people from eclipsing the authorities and Gene challenges how he knows so much. Finny retorts, “Because I have suffered!” Finny then begins to coach him for the Olympics and after the fourth round of long-distance running one morning, he speeds past Finny and says it came naturally to him. He is amazed at his speed.
Leper Lepellier, a gentle lad, declares that he’ll enlist into the troops after being convinced by a video of American ski troops. Leper enlists and leaves school after a week. Finny and Gene trains, shielding every assertion of the state of war. Finny plans a winter carnival and Gene helps. During this, Leper writes to Gene that he has escaped from the military, and he desperately needs Gene to visit.
Gene visits Leper in Vermont and resolves that he’s different. Leper takes a walk with him. They talk about a lot of things, and he later accuses him of Finny’s accident. He reveals the truth and rant about Devon school losing two prospective soldiers in Leper and Finny. This made Gene afraid and anxious, and he runs back to school.
Brinker heard what happened and his suspicion that Gene caused Finny’s accident to have the big room to himself became true. He invites Finny and Gene hurriedly for a tribunal at the First Building. The tribunal questions Finny and Gene about the accident but Finny has a vague knowledge about it. Gene refuses to speak, says he cannot remember the details. Leper appears in the room and implicates Gene.
Finny freaks out, storms out, and breaks his leg again. He fell on the marble steps outside and Dr. Stanpole was fetched. Later, Gene sneaks into the infirmary where he meets Finny. In Finny’s anger, he falls again from his bed but Gene apologizes and leaves.
Gene goes to the stadium, walks around, and feels everything vibrant and cheerful around him. He falls asleep in the stadium and visits Finny the next day. Finny asks if Gene caused his accident and Gene takes full responsibility, but he said it wasn’t out of hatred as Finny had thought. Finny says he believes him and they reconcile.
When Gene later returns to the infirmary, he meets Dr. Stanpole who explains that Finny died during surgery. Gene is shocked and he feels dead with his friend. He believes that Finny will always be with him.
In June, some of Devon students enlist into the army and Brinker and Gene to watch the jeeps. Brinker comes with Leper but Gene says he doesn’t blame him for what happened to Finny, but he blames himself.
Brinker introduces Gene to his dad who enlisted into the Navy while Brinker, the Coast Guard. Brinker’s dad gives a speech about having a military record to gain respect; a speech that Brinker doesn’t agree with. Gene later reflects on Finny’s war experience. He adopts his intelligence, perspectives at things, his personality, and his rebellious nature. He confesses of his influence on him. He appreciates him and makes peace with his death.
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