“A Separate Peace” is a novel by author John Knowles. It was published the year 1959. The story is focused on the teenage life of a boy in New England Boarding school for boys. It is based on the last years of WWII. The main ideas explored are conflict and peace.
The Short Plot Overview
The narrator, Gene Forrester, describes events that occurred in his senior years at Devon school. Fifteen years after graduation, he has returned to see the traumatic place he used to be part of. Gene has a friend named Phineas, and they are roommates. They are only 16 and hence cannot be drafted to the military or enlist. In the final year, their school starts training boys for military, and this complicates the friendship since Finny and Gene start competing.
Finny is athletic, charming and reckless. He challenges Gene to risky competitions. As part of their training, they are made to climb a tall tree and then jump from a branch into a nearby river. Gene and Finny succeed at this and even go further as to create a suicide society, where they could jump from the tree at night. Gene gets jealous of his friend and causes him to fall and break his leg.
Gene is guilty since Finny, the best athlete in the school would be lucky if he ever walked again. Gene attempts to confess, but Finny fails to believe him. They resume friendship after Finny returns. A friend of the two named Brinker suspects Gene caused the accident and even accuses him in a trial that a group of boys creates. Finny storms out angry, but trips on the stairs, re-shattering his leg. Gene confesses to Finny on the hospital bed and is being forgiven.
Finny dies, and the doctor reveals that it was because some bone marrow from his leg leaked and got to his heart while the leg was being set. Gene and Binker apply to join the Navy and Coast guard, respectively. Gene does not get shipped, and he realizes that he has acquired Finny’s peaceful nature. Finny never saw rivalry or competition. Gene no longer has animosity to direct to the opposing side.