What rites of passage does Triton experience in Reef?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Triton is such an interesting name for a character in a book called Reef, isn't it?  Always known as one of the gods of the sea, Triton lives up to his name in this coming of age story.  Any coming of age story, then, must include rites of passage.  In this case, Triton's rites of passage include his entry into the working world as servant, his success in learning to cook, his rejection of immorality, and his success in business.

Triton experiences rites of passage even in the beginning of the novel.  First, at eleven years of age, he becomes a servant to Ranjan Salgado.  This, in itself, is a rite of passage because Triton is now old enough and able enough to work and educate himself.

He came from a line of people who believed in making their own future. To him, there were no boundaries to knowledge.

In concentrating on his education, Triton not only learns to cook, but learns to cook WELL for his master.  (As you will see, this directly leads to his success in the end.) 

Probably the biggest rite of passage for Triton has to do with his fight against immorality in almost all of its forms.  First, Triton evades a possible rapist.  Next, after mistakenly viewing Salgado's mistress without clothes on, Triton experiences both arousal and fear, leading him far from any immoral behavior.  Third, Triton is able to identify and reject propaganda (especially the political kind).  Next, Triton is repulsed by both betrayal and violence in revolution.  The result, especially after Dias' death, is that he becomes an expatriate himself, a firm rite of passage due to Triton's morals.

In conclusion, perhaps the biggest rite of passage Triton experiences is his ultimate success as a young man.  How does Triton achieve this success?  By fleeing debauchery and opening his own restaurant in England.  The restaurant is a success precisely because of Triton's original rite of passage of learning to cook well.  In this way, Triton's rites of passage come full circle.

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