A Separate Peace is told as a flashback by Gene Forrester. He returns to Devon, a private preparatory school that he had attended during World War II. He visits his old alma mater to specifically visit two spots on and near campus: the First Building and a tree beside the Devon River. His visit triggers a flashback to his experiences during the summer session when he was sixteen years old and an Upper Middler. The flashback is his coming of age story and his attempt to come to grips with his experiences at Devon and the world at large. Throughout the flashback, Gene, serving as the first person narrator, fights a war within himself.
Gene remembers how he and Finny, his best friend and roommate, had gone near a large tree by the river one afternoon. Finny, who was by nature daring and spontaneous, suggested that the two of them jump from the tree.
None of the younger boys had ever dared to do this feat before. Although Gene is frightened, he follows his friend's lead; he jumps because he does not want to be ridiculed by Finny. After the jumping incident, Finny organizes the Summer Suicide Society; all of the members of this society must jump from the tree into the river.
Although friends, Gene and Finny are very different. While Gene is a good student, Finny is a good athlete, probably the best at Devon. Where Gene tends to be quiet and studious, Finny has a vibrant, outgoing, and daring personality. Finny is also very clever, always managing to get himself through any situation. It is not surprising that Finny is very well liked by both teachers and student. Gene absolutely idolizes him, considering him a hero; but Gene also is jealous and resentful of him. Gene's...