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There are two rivers in A Separate Peace, the Naguamsett and the Devon. In Chapter 6, the Naguamsett River is described, in part, as "...ugly, saline, fringed with marsh, mud and seaweed. A few miles away it was joined to the ocean, so that its movements were governed by unimaginable factors like the Gulf Stream, the Polar Ice Cap, and the moon." The Devon River is quite the opposite. "The Devon's course was determined by some familiar hills a little inland; it rose among highland farms and forests which we knew, passed at the end of its course through the school grounds..." Furthermore, it is the river where the boys had "so much fun, all the summer."
At the beginning of Chapter 7, Gene states that "the Devon was like taking a refreshing shower itself, you never had to clean up after it, but the Naguamsett was something else entirely." He further says, "...it seemed appropriate that my baptism there had taken place on the first day of this winter session, and that I had been thrown into it, in the middle of the fight." Gene is referring to the fight he has with Quackenbush when Gene starts working as the assistant senior crew manager.
Gene believes it is appropriate that he is thrown into the ugly Nagaumsett River because it is the river whose movements are decided by "unimaginable factors." This is similar to what has happened to Finny. It is unimaginable to Gene that Finny is injured and not at the winter session. Gene also feels guilt for jouncing the limb and therefore, feels dirty, much like the river. Both Gene and Finny's plans for their lives have been affected by Finny's injury and the war, both "unimaginable" events.
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