In Chapter 8 of A Separate Peace, what does the dual nature of Devon's architecture reflect?
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The dual nature of Devon's architecture reflects the divided nature of the school itself. The author explains,
"The school had been largely rebuilt with a massive bequest from an oil family some years before in a peculiar style of Puritan grandeur, as though Versailles had been modified for the needs of a Sunday school. This opulent sobriety betrayed the divided nature of the school...from the outside the buildings were reticent, severe straight lines of red brick or white clapboard, with shutters standing sentinel beside each window, and a few unassuming white cupolas placed here and there on the roofs because they were expected and not pretty, like Pilgrim bonnets. But once you passed through the colonial doorways, with only an occasional fan window or low relief pillar to suggest that a certain muted adornment was permissible, you entered an extravaganze of Pompadour splendor. Pink arched and valuted ceilings; an assembly room had been done in the manner of the High Italian Renaissance, another was illuminated by chandeliers flashing with crystal teardrops; there was a wall of fragile French windows overlooking an Italian garden of marble bric-a-brac; the library was Provencal on the first floor, rococo on the second".
The building, like the school is influenced by Puritan discipline and Renaissance extravagance, and values rooted in both American and European traditions. The result is ambiguity and confusion, reflected in the ethical dilemmas the students, and especially Gene, must reconcile. It is no accident that the description of the school's architecture ends with the observation that
"...everywhere...the floors and stairs were of smooth, slick marble, more treacherous even than the icy walks".
The "divided nature" of Devon School, especially as it exists within the turbulence of the war years, creates a moral landscape that is unclear and fraught with pitfalls, "smooth, slick...(and) treacherous" (Chapter 8).
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