The narrator of the book, a student at Devon during World War II. His best friend at school was Phineas, a superior athlete, while Gene was better known for his academic skills. Phineas and Gene spend a lovely summer together at Devon, which is ended when Phineas fell from a tree, an accident which Gene, either consciously or unconsciously, caused. Gene has a definite dark side lurking beneath the surface, though he appears to be a good, honest person in his everyday life. The book is spawned by a later visit to Devon, and of his strong memories and lingering feelings about what happened in 1942 at Devon.
Gene's best friend and roommate, a remarkable athlete with a disregard for the rules and an innate ability to win people over. He gets Gene in quite a bit of trouble via his impulsive nature and instinctive disobedience, but he is very good at heart, and thinks the world of his best friend. After his accident, he is unable to play sports, which crushes him; but, he decides that Gene shall take over his old place, and become the wonderful athlete that he was before he shattered his leg.
One of Gene's friends, and his main rival for the top academic spot in the class. Brinker is rather strangehe makes long-running jokes with rather sinister undertones, seems very independent and determined, and seems like he's his own person. He is the one who starts enlistment fever on campus, and then stops it dead by chickening out since Gene won't go with him. He's a bit of a paradoxical character, and a kind of foil to the rebellious, free-spirited Finny.
One of Gene and Finny's friends; he is a soft-spoken, nature-loving boy, with an old soul and ways that are quite idiosyncratic compared with the other boys. He is an avid skier and naturalist, but, rather uncharacteristically, he decides to enlist, and is the first boy from Devon to do so. He becomes, for a short while, the symbol of American victories abroad; but this is dashed when he deserts the service in a panic.
Another of Gene and Finny's friends, and part of the Super Suicide Society. He is not quite as brave with Finny's little stunts, and is a good trumpet player too. He's also one of the top students at the school, though Gene outpaces him because Chet's genuine curiosity for everything keeps him a little behind in class.
Another member of the Super Suicide Society, also not terribly adventurous. He likes to follow Finny around and go along with his inventions, but is a very minor character in the book.
Gene and Finny's substitute house master for the summer. He is usually rather stern, although Finny is able to get the better of him and get out of trouble for skipping various events.
Mr. And Mrs. Patch-Withers
Other substitute masters for the summer, whom Gene describes as being especially stern and conventional. Nevertheless, Finny is able to weasel his way out of wearing the school tie as a belt during one of their teas, and also gets little moments of friendliness out of this otherwise rule-bent couple.
The head of the school's infirmary. He is a friendly man who takes care of Finny when he breaks his leg, and Gene seems to know and like him.
The captain of the crew team, also a generally disliked figure on campus. He and Gene get into a fight, which means the end of Gene's days as assistant captain, though it is no loss. He is rather awkward and humorless, and no one seems to have special regard for him.
Gene and Finny's term-time house master, a very stern and straight-laced rule monger who berates Gene for taking advantage of the summer masters, which he really didn't. Not a pleasant sort of fellow, and also not susceptible to Finny's vast charm.
Brinker's roommate, a rather timid boy who is scared of Brinker and is easily bossed around by him. He tries to keep a low profile, and is not terribly involved at the school.
The school wrestling coach, also an expert in first aid. He helps Finny after his second fall, and stays with him until the doctor arrives.
The buffoon-like, odd-looking captain of the football team.
A Separate Peace Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Separate Peace is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
To Gene the tree seemed "tremendous". It was a "steely black steeple" on the riverbank. The tree symbolises risk and adventure. It is larger than life. It embodied his time at Devon and, in particular, his relationship with Finny. The tree changes...