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A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Essay by   •  May 19, 2011  •  Essay  •  475 Words (2 Pages)  •  1,549 Views

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Every story or novel uses at least one symbol. Sometimes they are obvious. Other times you have to really think about them. Symbols can be many different things from a shell to shoes to a house. A Separate Peace by John Knowles is just one novel that uses symbols.

The first symbols in the novel are the Devon River and the Naguamsett River. The Devon River is the river that Gene and Finny jump into from the tree. To Gene, the Devon River symbolizes "the carefree summer days" (Telger 248). It has been said to also symbolize "serenity and peace" (Telger 248). It has fresh water and farms and forests. It is very relaxing. On the other hand, the Naguamsett River is and "ugly, marshy, saline fringed with marsh mud and sea weed" (Knowles 76). Gene says that it represents "war and winter" (Telger 248). The water is very murky and salty. It is not beautiful in any way.

While at Devon, as a student gene sees the tree as, "tremendous, an irate, steely black steeple beside the river" (Knowles 14). The tree represents "fear it's self, dear that he must climb and conquer..." (Novel npag). As an adult, when Gene goes back to Devon, 15 years after he leaves, he goes to see the tree and says that it represents "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 absolutely smaller, shrunken by age" (Knowles 14). To Gene as an adult, "the tree is not significant because of the fear it instills in our narrator, but rather because of the change it represents" (Novels npag).

Another symbol in A Separate Peace is the comparison between the calmness of Devon and the war being fought over seas, especially during the summer session. In genes eyes, the war is actually going on. "If the war represents a harsh reality, then Gene and Finny's "gypsy" summer denotes illusion" (Telger npag). The summer that Gene and Finny had at Devon was a carefree summer. They did pretty much whatever they wanted. "The bombs in central Europe were completely unreal to us here, not because we couldn't imagine it but because our place here was too fair for us to accept something like that" (Knowles, 30). The students at Devon were pretty close to oblivious when it came to the war. They knew it was going on but they were not a part of it yet so they do not completely know what is going on.

Symbols get used in A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The tree represents fear when Gene is a student at Devon. The Devon River symbolizes the summer session and how they could be carefree. The Naguamsett River symbolizes war. The war represents a harsh reality.

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