Comprehensive Summary and Review of Chapters
1 - 3
The story begins as Gene Forrester, a former student, returns to the Devon
School in New Hampshire. Fifteen years have passed since he has been on the
campus and he notices that most things have remained fairly much the same.
He makes it a point to visit two places that hold significant memories for
him; a marble staircase inside the First Academy Building and a particular
tree near the Devon River.
As he looks at these sites, he reflects on the past and begins to think of
the time when he attended school in the summer of 1942. He remembers standing
at the foot of the tree with his friends, Phinea, called Finny, Elwin "Leper"
Lepellier, Chet Douglas, and Bobby Zane. Finny was daring them to climb the
tree and dive from it. When the boys don't accept the dare, Finny climbs it
alone. After reaching a particular branch, he jumps off and lands in the river.
Gene reluctantly agrees to be the next one to climb the tree. He too lands
safely and receives high praise from Finny. When it is the other boys' turn,
they refuse to take the dare. Gene's fete seems to solidify his friendship
with Finny. As they had back, they realize that they are too late for dinner
and decide to skip the meal.
The next morning, the boys have to explain their absence from dinner to Mr.
Prud'homme, one of the teachers, and Finny does so very eloquently. Seeing
how easy its is to get away with things, Finny decides to put on a pink shirt,
contrary to school regulations and uses the school tie as a belt. When the
substitute Headmaster, Mr. Patch-Withers confronts him about this misdemeanor,
Finny begins to explain the act by telling him how the color pink and wearing
the shirt are significant and in celebration of the first Allied bombing of
central Europe. To everyone's surprise, his reasoning is accepted and he is
permitted to wear it.
Afterwards, the boys decide to go to the river for a swim and another jump
from the tree. They both climb the tree but this time Gene loses his balance
and is caught by Finny before they both make the jump together. Gene realizes
that Finny probably saved his life by grabbing him. It is also at this time
that the boys form a secret society called the "Super Suicide Society
of the Summer Session."
That night, Finny allows six other boys to join the Suicide Society. He establishes
certain rules, one of them being that before each meeting, he and Gene have
to jump from the tree.
Finny, being a very fine athlete and being dissatisfied with the sport program
at the school, creates a new sport called blitzball. The game catches on quickly
and becomes very popular with the other boys. Another time when Gene was alone
with Finny at the pool, Finny beats the swimming record of the school but
makes Gene promise not to tell anyone about it. This confuses Gene and makes
Finny seem very special and different than the average person.
The boys have many exciting adventures together. One in particular occurs
when they secretly bicycle to the beach and go swimming in the ocean. It is
here that Finny tells Gene that he is his best Friend. Gene remains silent
because he does not feel the same way towards Finny.
The story is told by one of the main characters and reflects his point of
view. The narrator seeks out different places that are of importance to him
such as the tree by the river and the marble stairs.
The novel begins with the main character, Gene and Finny, at Devon for a
summer session. The school hopes that this session will allow the students
to receive a diploma before they are drafted on their eighteenth birthday.
Gene and Finny are roommates and friends at the school. Finny is a natural
athlete who also acts as a leader for the other boys in the school; devising
games like Blitzball, and organizing the Winter Carnival. However, Gene is
more academically oriented in his interests and is jealous of Finny's natural
ability in sports, a quality he lacks in academics.
The rivalry between the two boys is immediately evident.