The giant tree from which Finny falls looms in Gene's memory. As an adult, he imagines it as a "huge lone spike" or an "artillery piece," but when he sees it up close during his return visit to Devon, it looks small and unthreatening. Though the tree stayed the same, Gene realizes he has changed and grown past its ability to define or scare him. The tree is therefore a symbol of both the carefree joy and particular fears of boys growing into men, and a symbol that in time men can leave those fears behind.
The Tree Quotes in A Separate Peace
The A Separate Peace quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Tree. 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: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of A Separate Peace published in 2003.).
Chapter 1 Quotes
"This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are not merely smaller in relation to your growth, but that they are absolutey smaller, shrunken by age....[for] the old giants have become pigmies while you were looking the other way."
"Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence. Changed, I headed back through the mud. I was drenched; anybody could see it was time to come in out of the rain."