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Gene Forrester

Satisfactory Essays
Summary

Gene Forrester, the narrator of the story, returns to the Devon School in New Hampshire, fifteen years after being a student there. He walks around the campus and notices that everything seems well preserved, as if a coat of varnish had been applied to the buildings, keeping them just as they were during his time there. He reflects on how fearful he was in those days—the early 1940s, while World War II raged in Europe—and decides to visit the two places that he most closely associates with that fear. The first is a marble staircase in one of the academic buildings, which Gene decides must be made of incredibly hard stone, since the depressions created by students' feet over the years are still shallow. After staring at these steps for a time, he goes back outside, passing the dormitories and the gymnasium, ruining his shoes as he trudges across the soggy playing fields in the rain. He eventually reaches the river and searches for a specific tree on its banks, which he locates with some difficulty in a grove of trees similar to each other. He identifies his tree by a number of scars on its trunk and by the way that one of its branches sticks out over the river. He reflects that this tree now seems so much smaller than it did during his youth, and a French proverb comes to his mind: plus c'est la même chose, plus ça change, meaning "the more things remain the same, the more they change." He turns to go inside out of the rain.

At this point, the narrative flashes back to the summer of 1942, when Gene is sixteen and standing at the foot of the same tree, which looms hugely like a "steely black steeple." Gene is there with his roommate Phineas, or Finny, and three other boys: Elwin "Leper" Lepellier, Chet Douglass, and Bobby Zane. Finny tries to persuade them to jump off a branch of the tree into the river—a feat that no student of their age has ever tried before. The jump is done by the older boys in the school as part of their physical training prior to their graduation and departure for the war.

Finny jumps first to show the others that it is possible, popping up out of the river to declare how fun the jump is. He then sends Gene up the tree for his turn.
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