A Separate Peace

The Devon School Symbol Icon

In the novel, the Devon School symbolizes both change and resistance to change. An oasis that protects them from change, Gene and Finny’s school insulates them from the outside world. At the same time, though, the boys recognize the ways in which the institution undergoes transformation as a result of World War II. In this capacity, they sense the complexities of the outside world while existing in a protected environment, an environment capable of both admitting and resisting change. Indeed, the institution is over 160 years old, meaning that it has weathered the wars of the past while adapting as necessary to society at large. In keeping with this, one of Gene’s first observations about the school when he returns as an adult is that it can “harmonize” its past with its present, representing the kind of fluid resilience that he himself would like to adopt. As he searches for ways to achieve happiness without completely forgetting the hardships of his past, then, the school becomes a symbol of healthy and natural forms of growth or progress.

The Devon School Quotes in A Separate Peace

The A Separate Peace quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Devon School. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of A Separate Peace published in 2003.
Chapter 1  Quotes

This was the tree, and it seemed to me standing there to resemble 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…[for] the old giants have become pigmies while you were looking the other way.

Related Characters: Gene Forrester (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tree, The Devon School
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence. Changed, I headed back through the mud. I was drenched; anybody could see it was time to come in out of the rain.

Related Characters: Gene Forrester (speaker), Phineas (“Finny”)
Related Symbols: The Tree, The Devon School
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

Across the hall […] where Leper Lepellier had dreamed his way through July and August amid sunshine and dust motes and windows through which the ivy had reached tentatively into the room, here Brinker Hadley had established his headquarters. Emissaries were already dropping in to confer with him.

Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Devon School Symbol Timeline in A Separate Peace

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Devon School appears in A Separate Peace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Gene Forrester visits the Devon School in New Hampshire 15 years after graduating. As he walks through campus, he feels... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
...staircase. Turning, he goes back outside and makes his way through muddy terrain toward the Devon River, thinking as he goes that Devon is both different and the same as it... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
The narrative jumps back to 1942, when Gene is attending the summer session at the Devon School. Looking at the tree, he feels as if it’s enormous and foreboding, and he... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
Mr. Prud’homme, a substitute teacher at Devon for the summer, comes to Finny and Gene’s room the next morning to admonish them... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
...and kind, even if he’s also a rule-breaker. Gene believes that the faculty members at Devon—especially in the summer term—look fondly upon Finny and the rest of the students in their... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...and talks to Mr. Patch-Withers’s wife. At one point, she notices that he’s wearing the Devon school tie as a belt. Finally, Gene thinks, Finny has gotten himself into too much... (full context)
Chapter 3
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
...For him, this period took place during World War II, when he was at the Devon School with Finny and hearing about the war while living out the easy existence of... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...anybody’s—rival. And this, he knows, is significant because most of the relationships between boys at Devon are founded upon a sense of rivalry. (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...is a very brave thing to say, since speaking so emotionally and openly at the Devon School is usually seen as a form of social suicide. Gene wishes he could tell... (full context)
Chapter 4
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...seriously. He then finds himself quite upset, thinking that he doesn’t actually have anyone at Devon (or anywhere, for that matter) whom he can trust, since he now sees Finny as... (full context)
Chapter 5
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...session ends, and Gene goes home for the rest of August before heading back to Devon. His trains are delayed on his return trip, and he suddenly is filled with the... (full context)
Chapter 6
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
When Gene returns to Devon, he feels as if the calm ease of the summer session has fled campus. It... (full context)
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...he has decided to be the assistant crew manager. On his way, he sees the Devon River and thinks of Finny, though he’s actually headed toward the Naguamsett River, which the... (full context)
Chapter 7
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
...railroad lines are blocked because there aren’t enough workers to clear the tracks. Accordingly, the Devon administration asks for student volunteers to shovel away the snow, and nearly everyone signs up—everyone,... (full context)
Chapter 8
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
...day—just the undershirt, which looks good on him. Moving on, Finny laments the fact that Devon has gotten rid of all its maids. When Gene reminds him that this is because... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...which point Gene realizes that Finny is upset that Gene might leave him alone at Devon. Finny, he senses, needs him, and this thought banishes all other considerations from his mind.... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
It is winter at Devon, which means that Finny has to navigate icy walkways and treacherous berms of snow. Of... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...bring up some new development in the war. Gene even suspects that the teachers at Devon are using the war as an excuse to motivate the students to be disciplined and... (full context)
Chapter 9
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
One bleak winter Saturday, Finny declares that the boys should hold “The Devon Winter Carnival.” With Gene, he assembles a crew of collaborators, including Brinker and his mild-mannered... (full context)
Chapter 11
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...this makeshift court. After a moment, though, Finny quietly informs Brinker that Leper is at Devon, and several boys immediately rush off to get him. When Leper arrives, Brinker asks him... (full context)
Chapter 12
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...walking through the New Hampshire dark. As he walks around campus, he feels as if Devon exists separately from him, as if he himself is part of a dream and doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 13
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Optimism, Idealization, and Denial Theme Icon
Gene and his classmates graduate, and Devon lets the military use part of the campus for the summer. All of the students... (full context)
War and Rivalry Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Change and Growing Up Theme Icon
Friendship and Honesty Theme Icon
...Inside the locker room, he encounters a group of soldiers who will be training at Devon for the summer. Gene watches them and thinks about how skinny they look. He notes... (full context)