Forrester returns to his alma mater, Devon School, and recollects the story of his friend Finny. He is intelligent, yet obsessive and worrisome, and eventually develops a love-hate relationship with his friend whom he admires yet envies.
Confident, honest, good-looking, Finny is a very likeable person and the best athlete in the school. He connects with others by his thrill for life, and all though he is quick to transgress, he can talk his way out of any predicament. Finny sees no other human as an enemy and does not have the capacity to defeat them.
With a proclivity for organization, Hadley is an avid, charismatic politician at Dover School. A foil of Finny, Brinker executes his ideas with efficiency and ruthlessness. He feels that the truth is being hidden and goes to all ends to discover it.
Lepellier is a nature-loving student and a classmate of the other boys.
A peaceful, outdoor-oriented person, he is also jealous of Finny and desires to be closer to Forrester. He is the first student to enlist in World War 2, and suffers from a mental breakdown later.
Quackenbush is never really liked at Dover, and he releases his anger on the other students. He briefly has control over Forrester when he volunteers to be the assistant crew manager.
In the summer of 1942 at Devon School, New Hampshire, Gene Forrester attends summer school. He quickly makes friends with his roommate, Finny. Finny is extremely charismatic and can get away with anything. One day, he pressures Gene to jump from a tree into a river. Based on this ritual, the two start a secret society.
Gene begins to envy Finny. He is amazed at his awesome athletic skills. In turn,