What are three settings within Devon School that have important events in A Separate Peace?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Three settings that have significant settings at Devon are the tree at the Devon river, the Butt Room, and the Assembly Room.

  • The river (Chapter 4)

In contrast to Gene, Phineas is an irrepressible force who represents the impulsiveness of youth, the imagination, and the belief in the ideal. He convinces Gene to go to the river where they will be daredevils in order to feel the exuberance of life. They jump off the tree limb into the water in a baptism of friendship. However, when Finny pulls Gene away from his studies a number of times, Gene begins to believe that Finny wants him to fail out of "jealous envy."

So, one time when they are on limb, Gene realizes that Finny has, in fact, not been envious of him at all; nevertheless, because this realization makes Gene aware of his spiritual inferiority to Finny, out of pettiness, he jounces the limb, causing Finny to fall and break his leg.

  • The Butt Room (Chapter 7)

After the Summer Session, Gene returns to school, but Finny does not. When Brinker sees Gene alone in the big room, he teases him about knowing that Finny would not be back. "Rest assured," he tells Gene, "In our free democracy,...the truth will out." Then, he lures Gene to the Butt Room on the pretext of their smoking some cigarettes. Once inside, Brinker announces, "Here's your prisoner, gentlemen." A slumped figure asks what is the charge, and Brinker replies, "Doing away with his roommate so he could have a whole room to himself....Practically fratricide." The other boys play along, believing Brinker is just having fun with Gene. One of them asks him, "So, you killed him, did you?" Gene says he just put arsenic in his coffee.

"Liar!" Brinker shouts. "Trying to weasel out of it with a false confession, eh?" Soon, the others become genuinely suspicious of something, and Gene finds his throat tightening. But, he fabricates a tale and when he is almost finished, he feels his throat closing, so he turns on a younger boy, "I'll bet you've got a lot of theories." The boy then says, ironically, "Then you pushed him off, I'll bet." Gene flippantly teases him about being Mr. Watson of the Sherlock Holmes stories; however, his remark backfires as the others regard him strangely.

  • The Assembly Room (Chapter 11)

Brinker and others compel Gene and Finny to the Assembly Room; this room has an ominous appearance as Gene describes its windows as having a "deadened look about them, a look of being blind or deaf." There Brinker conducts a formal investigation in order to end all "rumors and suspicions" about what actually happened to Finny. Finny at first says that Gene was at the bottom of the tree, but then recalls that Gene was also on the limb, even though Gene has just confirmed what Finny first said. Because of this confusion, Brinker asks, "Who else was there? Leper was there, wasn't he?" A boy affirms that Leper was, indeed, there.

When Leper enters, his eyes appear clear, his thoughts lucid. Brinker asks him where he was standing and if he could see what went on. He replies that he could see them well because the sun was "blazing all around them," but he only saw silhouettes. He states that one of the two was out on the limb and the other holding onto the trunk of the tree; then, they "moved like an engine....The one who moved first shook the other one's balance." Brinker presses him to identify the one who fell as Finny, but Leper will not do so, worried about protecting himself. Hearing Leper, Finny experiences the terrible truth that he has hidden from himself and jumps up, crying, "You get all your facts!" and he "plunges" out the door, only to fall on the step of the marble stairway, bouncing clumsily down and down, re-breaking his leg.

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