Finny’s fall from the tree and the seasonal transition from summer to fall mark the novel’s main points of change. During the summer session, the boys enjoy a time of carefree youthful adventure. When the summer session ends and fall and winter come, though, everything changes: Devon returns to its strict disciplinary ways, and the threat of having to fight in World War II darkens everyone’s consciousness. The novel’s other main “fall”—Finny’s fall from the tree—has much the same effect. With that fall, the joy of childhood that Finny himself symbolized disappears, and the boys’ different reactions to the fall help define who they’ll be as adults. In both cases, the characters undergo a loss of innocence and simplicity, one that is embodied by the changing seasons and Finny’s tragic accident.
Fall (Autumn) and Finny's Fall Quotes in A Separate Peace
Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step toward him, and then my knees bent and I jounced the limb. Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around to look at me for an instant with extreme interest, and then he tumbled sideways, broke through the little branches below and hit the bank with a sickening, unnatural thud. It was the first clumsy physical action I had ever seen him make. With unthinking sureness I moved out on the limb and jumped into the river, every trace of my fear of this forgotten.
Across the hall […] where Leper Lepellier had dreamed his way through July and August amid sunshine and dust motes and windows through which the ivy had reached tentatively into the room, here Brinker Hadley had established his headquarters. Emissaries were already dropping in to confer with him.
In the same way the war, beginning almost humorously with announcements about [no more] maids and days spent at apple-picking, commenced its invasion of the school.