narrator and protagonist of the novel. When A Separate Peace
Gene is in his early thirties, visiting the Devon School for the
first time in years. He is thoughtful and intelligent, with a competitive
nature and a tendency to brood. He develops a love-hate relationship
with his best friend, Finny, whom he alternately adores and envies.
He often seems to want to lose hold of his own identity and live
as a part of Finny, a tendency suggesting that he is strongly uncomfortable
with his own personality. Yet the reader must infer this aspect
of Gene, like much of his character, from the actions that he recounts
rather than from any explicit statements regarding his mindset: Gene
often proves a reticent and unreliable narrator when it comes to
his own emotions.
in-depth analysis of Gene Forrester.
classmate and best friend. Finny is honest, handsome, self-confident,
disarming, extremely likable, and the best athlete in the school;
in short, he seems perfect in almost every way. He has a talent
for engaging others with his spontaneity and sheer joy of living,
and, while he frequently gets into trouble, he has the ability to
talk his way out of almost any predicament. According to Gene, he
is rare among human beings in that he never perceives anyone as
an enemy, and never strives to defeat others. Finny’s behaviors
also suggest that he relishes pure achievement rather than competition.
His fatal flaw is that he assumes that everyone is like him—that everyone
shares his enthusiastic and good-natured spirit.
in-depth analysis of Finny.
A classmate of Gene and Finny. Leper is a mild, gentle
boy from Vermont who adores nature and engages in peaceful, outdoor-oriented
hobbies, like cross-country skiing. He is not popular at Devon but seems
to pay no attention to such things; only later does the text hint
at his desire to be closer to Gene and his jealousy of Finny’s position
as Gene’s best friend. He is the first boy from Gene’s class to
enlist in the army, but military life proves too much for him, and
he suffers hallucinations and a breakdown.
charismatic class politician with an inclination for orderliness
and organization. Brinker is very straight-laced and conservative.
He has complete confidence in his own abilities and has a tendency
to carry his ideas through with startling efficiency—at times even
ruthlessness. Manifesting a mindset opposite to that of Finny, who
delights in innocent anarchy, Brinker believes in justice and order
and goes to great lengths to discover the truth when he feels that it
is being hidden from him.
in-depth analysis of Brinker Hadley.
The manager of the crew team. Quackenbush briefly
assumes a position of power over Gene when Gene volunteers to be
assistant crew manager. The boys at Devon have never liked Quackenbush;
thus, he frequently takes out his frustrations on anyone whom he
considers his inferior.
main rival for the position of class valedictorian. Chet is an excellent
tennis and trumpet player and possesses a sincere love of learning.
master in charge of Gene’s dormitory. A stern disciplinarian, Mr.
Ludsbury thrives on the unquestioning obedience of schoolboys and
works hard to restore order after the anarchic summer session.
resident doctor. Dr. Stanpole operates on Finny after both of Finny’s
accidents. He is a caring man who laments the troubles that afflict
the youth of Gene’s generation.
The substitute headmaster of Devon during the summer
session. Mr. Patch-Withers runs the school with a lenient hand.