November 26, 2011 A Separate Peace Symbolism In John Knowles’ novel, A Separate Peace, symbolism is used throughout the story especially in chapter 6. In Ch. 6, Finny, the main character of the novel is describing both of the rivers that are in the environs of the Devon School, the Nagumsett and the Devon River. These descriptions of the two rivers do not just expand our knowledge of the surrounding geography of the Dxevon School, but also symbolize the different stages of Gene and Finny’s lives. The Devon River is described as being clean, pure, and peaceful.
The Devon boys know that the river’s source is up in the foothills, and they are familiar with many of its subtle distinctions, which can also be said about how they know the Devon school itself. From Gene’s description of the Devon River, we know that it is not choppy or unsafe. The fact that it is not choppy or unsafe can relate to their lives at Devon because at the school they are for the most part protected from the crime that people in the outside world would face. The Naguamsett on the other hand, is salty, muddy, and turbulent river, which symbolizes the confusing, and stressful times of adulthood.
In the novel it is described as being “governed by unimaginable factors” which is symbolic of many of the surprising twists and turns of having a job and being an adult. When Gene was pushed into the Naguamsett while fighting with Cliff Quakenbush he found the river to be so squalid that he ended up taking a shower after and saying falling into the river was “a reverse baptism” which symbolizes the loss of innocence when you become an adult. The last symbol is the dam that separates the two rivers.
The dam represents graduation from Devon school because of fact the Devon River ends quite abruptly and tumbles from the dam to the filthy Naguamsett shows that teenage years end abruptly especially when they are pressured about the approaching draft for military service. The Devon, which symbolizes innocence, creativity, clarity, and fun does not really end at the Nagaumsett, but instead dumps it into the other river thus making it one big river. This symbolizes the fact that innocence and creativity are not lost once one hits adulthood but rather mixed out off to the side.