A Separate Peace

Fall (Autumn) and Finny's Fall Symbol Analysis

Fall (Autumn) and Finny's Fall Symbol Icon

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

The A Separate Peace quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fall (Autumn) and Finny's Fall. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of A Separate Peace published in 2003.
Chapter 4 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Gene Forrester (speaker), Phineas (“Finny”)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

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.

Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Gene Forrester (speaker), Phineas (“Finny”)
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Fall (Autumn) and Finny's Fall Symbol Timeline in A Separate Peace

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fall (Autumn) and Finny's Fall appears in A Separate Peace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...instant as Finny twirls around to look at Gene, wearing an expression of intrigue before falling off the branch and landing on the bank with a gut-wrenching sound. Fearlessly, Gene jumps... (full context)
Chapter 5
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...should have to face such pain and hardship. Though nobody accuses Gene of causing the fall, he wonders if he purposefully made Finny lose his balance by shaking the limb. Alone... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...the two boys before Gene suddenly breaks it, asking if Finny remembers what made him fall. In response, Finny speaks with uncharacteristic confusion, ultimately—in a long, discursive way—implying that Gene may... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...the tree branch move, Gene stands and loudly states that he was responsible for Finny’s fall. Calmly, Finny informs him that he’ll hit him if he doesn’t sit down and stop... (full context)
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
Whether or not Gene meant to cause Finny’s fall, he realizes that it will hurt Finny even more if he knows that this is... (full context)
Chapter 6
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...because he has decided to be the assistant crew manager. On his way, he sees the Devon River and thinks of Finny, though he’s actually headed toward the Naguamsett River, which the Devon... (full context)
Chapter 7
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...everyone understands he’s joking. Just when he’s about to explain how he caused Finny to fall, though, he stops, unable to go on. (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
As Autumn progresses, Gene is relieved that none of his fellow students say anything more about him... (full context)
Chapter 10
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
...been something ugly lurking at his core. This, Leper says, is why Gene caused Finny’s fall. (full context)
Chapter 11
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...strong as it was before, though he mentions that Dr. Stanpole emphasized the importance not falling again. Still, he says he’s quite careful.  (full context)
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...When Leper arrives, Brinker asks him to describe what he saw the day of Finny’s fall, and Leper states that, though the sun was in his eyes, he knows for a... (full context)