Explain what is meant by this phrase from the novel A Separate Peace: "Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence."
This quote appears in chapter 1, right before Gene begins telling the events that occurred at the school. Prior to the quote, Gene is wandering over the grounds at Devon school. He mentally makes comments about how things look the same, yet different. He recognizes all of the places and things that he is looking at, but they all look smaller and less imposing than they once did. This is especially true once Gene finds the tree that plays such a central role throughout the rest of the story:
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.
The quote shows that Gene understands why everything looks different. First, he has gotten bigger. Second, time has passed and he has matured.
So the more things remain the same, the more they change after all—plus c'est la même chose, plus ça change. Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence.
There is a common phrase about time that says, "Time heals all wounds." It doesn't explain how time does this, but emotional wounds tend to fade as time passes. We mature and learn they aren't as big of a deal as they used to be, or time simply passes and releases us from many of the specific painful parts of the memory. Gene's comment has this sentimentality about it. Time has passed and nature has physically changed the tree, but time has also changed and softened his memories of the tree. His feelings about the tree and his love for his friends from that summer have also not endured in exactly the same way as they used to exist.