A Separate Peace Study Guide 1. Before Reading A. What does it mean to be "at peace"? In the world? With yourself? B. Why do people compete with one another? The following questions can be answered by reading "Introducing the Novel" (a class handout). C. During what historical time does the action of the novel take place? D. What decision did boys of that time face? E. The characters discover that the most challenging battles in life are what kind? F. How did the war change American economy and lifestyle? G. Why couldn't John Knowles relate to the faculty at Phillips Exeter? 2. Chapter One A. How many years has it been since Gene has been to Devon? B. What are the two "fearful sites" Gene visits? C. What does the tree resemble? D. To what time does the story flash back? E. Who is eager to jump from the tree? F. Describe the relationship between Gene and Finny. 3. Chapter Two A. Why does Finny decide he will wear his pink shirt? B. What is Gene beginning to realize about Finny? What is Gene's reaction to this realization? C. What does Finny wear as a belt at the tea? Why does he do this? D. What club do Finny and Gene form? E. When Gene and Finny are on the tree limb together, what happens? What does Gene later realize? 4. Chapter Three A. How do Gene and Finny open every meeting of the SSS of the SS? How does Gene feel about this? B. Why does Finny invent "blitzball"? C. After Finny breaks a swimming record, what does he make Gene promise? D. Explain why Gene is shocked about Finny's decision. What does it make him feel about Finny? E. What "courageous" thing does Finny admit to Gene before they go to sleep on the beach? What is Gene's response? Why? 5. Chapter Four A. What does Finny accuse Gene of striving for? B. What does Gene realize his being head of the class would mean? C. When Finny says he would kill himself "out of jealous envy," what is Gene's reaction? D. What does Gene determine that he and Finny are in? Why? E. What second realization does Gene have about Finny? F. Describe the effect Gene's second realization has on his efforts as a student. G. Why does Gene continue to attend the meetings of the Suicide Society? H. Before they reach the tree, what does Gene realize about the rivalry between him and Finny? How does he feel about this? I. Describe what Gene does while he and Finny are on the limb together. J. How is Gene's jump on the limb different form all his others? 6. Chapter Five A. What fact emerges about Finny's condition? B. Describe how Gene feels when he puts on Finny's pink shirt. C. What does Dr. Stanpole tell Gene about Finny and sports. D. What does Finny apologize to Gene for? E. Explain why Gene doesn't tell Finny what he intended to tell him. F. Describe Finny's response when Gene admits he caused Finny's accident. G. What does Gene realize he is doing to Finny by admitting the truth? What does he then know he must do? H. What does Gene determine he will do when Finny returns to Devon? 7. Chapter Six A. What does Gene conclude is the point of the sermon he hears upon his return to Devon? B. Why does Gene hit Quackenbush? C. Why is Finny relieved to find that he and Gene will still be roommates? D. What directive does Finny give Gene about playing sports? E. After hearing Finny's directive to him, what does Gene then feel his (Gene's) purpose have been? 8. Chapter Seven A. What does Brinker accuse Gene of having done in regard to choosing Finny as a roommate? B. Describe how Gene manages to maintain control when he is "accused" in the Butt Room. C. When Gene is recounting the series of "crimes" he had committed against Finny, what words could he not say? D. How does Gene shift the attention from himself? E. What does Leper do while the other boys aid in the "war effort"? F. What is Gene's reaction to Brinker's announcement that he will enlist the following day? What decision does Gene make? G. What effect does Finny's return have on Gene's plans? 9. Chapter Eight A. Why does Gene feel a certain "disapproval" of Finny? B. What does Gene realize about Finny's reaction to the thought of his enlisting? C. Why does Gene feel that peace has come back to Devon for him? D. Summarize Finny's conclusion about the war. E. Why does Finny say he understands the joke about the war? F. What are both Gene and Finny startled by? G. Describe the plan Finny announces he has for Gene. H. After Gene finds his rhythm, what does Finny tell him? I. What does Mr. Ludsbury tell Finny about exercise? What is Finny's response? 10. Chapter Nine A. What does Leper's enlistment make Gene feel about the war? B. What conclusion does Leper come to about "everything" after seeing the war film? C. As the boys joke about Leper's "glories," what do they wonder about themselves and what do they hope about Leper? D. Describe the type of "world" Finny eventually creates for himself and Gene. E. Explain how Gene convinces Brinker to go along with the Winter Carnival. F. Describe how Finny opens the Games of the Winter Carnival. G. What does Gene say Finny's "dance" was? H. To what does Gene attribute his surpassing himself in the Decathlon? I. What occurs that causes the "special and separate" peace of that afternoon to drain away? 11. Chapter Ten A. What does the narrator (the older Gene) reveal about his army career? B. What conclusion does Gene come to about Leper's escape? C. Why does Gene react with fear to Leper's use of the word "psycho"? D. When Leper accuses Gene of being a "savage underneath," what example does he use to make his point? E. For what two reasons does Gene accept Leper's invitation to stay for lunch? F. Explain why Leper thinks maybe it is the army that is psycho. G. Describe how Gene reacts to the "gory details" of Leper's story. H. Why does Gene say he doesn't care about what happened to Leper? 12. Chapter Eleven A. Why does Gene want to see only Phineas when he returns to Devon? B. What happens during the snowball fight? C. Describe Brinker's reaction when he finds out what happened to Leper. D. Why does Brinker believe Gene has put off enlisting? How does Brinker say Finny should be treated? Why? E. What does Brinker say should be done about Finny's accident? F. What does Finny say convinced him the war was real? G. When Brinker and his friends come for Gene and Finny, what does Gene think is happening? H. What does Brinker say they have convened to do? I. When Brinker sends two boys to bring Leper to the Assembly Room, what calculations does Gene make? J. After Leper refuses to say anything more, what does Finny tell the group of boys? What does he tell Brinker in particular? K. What final sound does the group of boys hear? 13. Chapter Twelve A. Why does Gene keep "out of the way" when Phil Latham wraps the blanket around Finny? B. What realization does Gene have about Finny's lack of pride in accepting Gene's help? C. What is Dr. Stanpole's diagnosis of Finny's condition? D. When Finny discovers Gene at the window, what does he accuse Gene of? E. When Gene takes Finny's suitcase to the Infirmary, what does Finny admit he has been doing all winter? F. What does Gene tell Finny about his being in the war? G. What explanation does Gene give Finny about what he had done in the tree? What does Finny tell Gene? H. What does Dr. Stanpole conclude was the cause? I. Why does Gene say he didn't ever cry about Finny? 14. Chapter Thirteen A. Who occupies the Far Common? B. Why does Gene conclude that none of the Devon boys ever accused him of being responsible for what had happened to Finny? C. What does Brinker's father tell Gene and Brinker? D. Restate the conclusion Gene comes to about the cause of wars. E. What, according to Gene, had Phineas alone escaped? Who, then, had inflicted this on Finny? F. What does Gene say had happened to his fury? G. Explain why Gene says his war ended before he ever put on a uniform? H. Describe what, according to Gene, people who "sight" the enemy do. I. Who constructed lines against their enemies, and at what cost? What does Gene wonder about "this enemy"? 15. After Reading A. Who is the protagonist of the novel? B. Who are antagonists in the novel? Of whom? C. How does Leper bring about change with regard to Finny and Gene? D. What is Mr. Hadley's function with regard to the plot? E. Was Gene's act of causing Finny to fall premeditated? F. What impact did WWII have on Gene, Finny, Leper, and Brinker? G. How does the setting further the plot's development? H. What do you think the tree is a symbol for? I. What are the themes explored in the novel?