A SEPARATE PEACE The theme "rite of passage" was used in the novel A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. This moving from innocence to adulthood was contained within three sets of interconnected symbols: summer and winter, the Devon and Naguamsett Rivers, and peace and war. These symbols served as a backdrop upon which the novel was developed. The loss if Gene Forrester's innocence was examined through these motifs. The summer and winter sessions symbolized Gene's loss of innocence.
During the summer sessions, the boys of Devon were carefree and showed no respect for the rules, while the teachers put no effort into enforcing the rules. "This was the way the masters tended to treat us that summer," (Knowles 23). Together, Gene and Finny formed the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. The Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session represented the freedom and naivet'e of the summer. Unlike the summer, the winter session was defined by rules and discipline; the teachers now enforced the rules unlike the summer. The fight that occurred between Gene and Quackenbush set the tone for the winter session.
"I had never been in it before; it seemed inappropriate that my baptism had taken place in the first day of the winter session and that I had been thrown into it, in the middle of a fight," (Knowles 86). Gene's transformation began with the summer and winter sessions. Equally important to Gene's metamorphosis were the Devon and Naguamsett Rivers. Devon School sat in between these two rivers, the Devon and the Nagumasett. The Devon River was pure. "I had taken a shower to wash off the sticky salt of the Naguamsett River-going into the Devon was like taking a refreshing shower itself, you never had to clean up after it, but the Naguamsett was something else entirely," (Knowles 86).
The Devon represented innocence, and all of the fun times Gene and Finny had together with the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Sessions. When Finny fell because Gene jounced the limb, it was as if the Devon turned in to the Naguamsett. "We had never used the lower river, the Naguamsett, during the summer. It was ugly, saline, fringed with marsh, mud and seaweed," (Knowles 76). The Naguamsett was unfamiliar territory to Gene, unlike the Devon. These rivers figuratively represented a change from adolescence to adulthood.
The final set of symbols, peace and war, served as a backdrop for Gene's adolescence and maturity. The Summer Session was a time of peace, it was fun and relaxed. There were no rules for Gene and Finny to follow. "We reminded them of what peace was like, of lives which were not bound up with destruction,' (Knowles). Unlike the summer session, which was full of peace, the winter session was filled of war. The war came to Devon when Leper enlisted.
It hit Gene even closer when he found out that Finny had tried to enlist into the war but no one would accept him. 'I also wrote the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, I wrote to General de Galle personally, I also wrote Chiang Kai-shek, and I was about ready to write somebody in Russia," (Knowles 190). Gene's rite of passage was examined through these symbols. Summer and winter, the Devon and Naguamsett Rivers, and peace and war are three symbols represented in A Separate Peace. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, is about a teenager at a Prep school in New Hampshire, and his struggle to find out where he belongs in the war.
These symbols exhibited Gene's loss of innocence.