- Gene Forrester: A Separate Peace is told from Gene's point of view. Gene focuses on, and succeeds at, academics. He envies his roommate Finny's graceful, easy athleticism and social prowess. Gene is from "three states from Texas", and is therefore somewhat unaccustomed to Northeastern culture. Gene causes his best friend's fall in his suppressed envy, by making a small but deliberate quick move on a tree branch from which Phineas would not otherwise have fallen. He is the main character.
- Phineas (Finny): Gene's best friend and roommate; an incorrigible, good natured, athletic, daredevil type. In Gene's opinion, he can never leave anything well enough alone, and could always get away with anything. He always sees the best in others, seeks internal fulfillment free of accolades, and shapes the world around himself to fit his desires. He is a prodigious athlete, succeeding in every sport until his leg is shattered in his fall from the tree.
- Brinker Hadley: Brinker is a classmate and friend of Gene and Finny's. He ceaselessly strives for order during the Winter Session at Devon. The main antagonist, Brinker wants to get to the bottom of Finny's accident, but it is unclear if he intended for the investigation to be a practical joke. He organizes the "midnight trial" to confront and accuse Gene of causing Finny's accident. During the questioning of Finny by Brinker, Finny changes the story to make Gene appear innocent of his actions in the tree. Finny cites Lepellier as an unreachable witness. Brinker ultimately reconciles with Gene, who appears to forgive him both for his part in Finny's injury and for the trial.
- Elwin 'Leper' Lepellier: Leper is Finny and Gene's friend, and a key member of the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. He is the first student in his class to enlist in the military. Late in the novel, Leper goes insane from the stress of his enlistment in the army. He is a witness at Gene's "trial," testifying that Gene was responsible for Finny's fall.
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