In "A Separate Peace" how many years has Gene been away from the school?
"A Separate Peace" by John Knowles, is the first person narrative of Gene Forrester. Gene has returned to Devon School after a fifteen-year absence.
"I went back to the Devon school not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there fifteen years before." (pg 1)
Phineas and Gene were best friends. This novel is a memoir of Gene's years at Devon and coming to grips with the tragedy that occurred there. He uses this vehicle to do away with the ghosts and guilt that has haunted him throughout his life.
The story began in 1942. The war was on and young men everywhere wanted to get in the war and go kill Germans. This was never more true than for the boys at Devon School. We meet Chet, the school "politician," Leper, the school scientist and quirky kid, and Brinker, Gene's antagonist and judge. lFinny and Gene were friends and experienced those years at Devon together until the accident, the injury, and the loss of innocence.
This question can be answered by a close reading of the text. If you open up your book, and read the first sentence, it states,
"I went back to the Devon school not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there fifteen years before."
So, 15 years after he had been there as a student, he went back to visit, and it is through this visit that we hear the tale of the past. The narrator of the book is actually the grown-up Gene, relating events as he remembered them in his mind. Even though we read about him and Finny as high-schoolers, the story is told with the maturity and perspective of Gene as an adult. It is a unique way to relate the tale, and opening up with that sentence sets the scene. I hope that helps; good luck!