Anlalyzing Symbolism Between The Two Rivers in “A Separate Peace”


The novel A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, was symbolic for the war that was going during Gene’s time at Devon.John Knowles used the description of many natural elements to describe World War II and its effects on the youth at Devon.Prominently, the two rivers described in the book, the Naguamsett, and the Devon, illustrate the war and how it affected the students living in the Devon institution.The novel showed a dichotomy between both rivers and how the Naguamsett River played the role of the war, and the Devon River, the role of the students at Devon.
The Naguamsett was portrayed as unfamiliar and ugly as the war was to the Devon students.Gene says that they had, “…never used this lower river, the Naguamsett.It was ugly, saline, fringed with marsh, mud and seaweed.”That depicts the Naguamsett River symbolically for sin, guilt of the adult world and the idea of war.Gene also says that the Naguamsett River was “…governed by unimaginable factors like the Gulf Stream, the Polar Ice Cap, and the moon.”This shows that the Naguamsett River was uncontrollable and unpredictable just like the war was.The Naguamsett River was a prime example of how John Knowles used natural elements as symbolism for the war.
The Devon River, however, was the river that most likely described the Devon students.The river was clean and narrow with fresh water.Gene says that the Naguamsett River was, “…nothing like the fresh-water Devon…” The Devon River is pure and innocent just as the students at Devon were.It was innocent of the world’s waste, whereas the Naguamsett was full of it.The Devon River’s course, as described by Gene, “throws itself … over a small waterfall…into the turbid Naguamsett.”
The course of the Devon River is important because it shows how the students, symbolized by the Devon River, end up going to war, as the Devon River trails along, and ends up in the Naguamsett River which is symbolic for…

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