In Chapter Five of John Knowles's A Separate Peace, the Summer Session has ended, a session in which some rules were suspended and forgotten and the atmosphere was more relaxed. Now it is the Winter Session and Gene mentions, "Still it had come to an end" in reference to the summer term. The Summer Session symbolizes the carefree youth of the boys while the Winter Session represents the reposibilities of adulthood and the encroaching war. Reinforcing this symbolism, Gene hears the hymn "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind Forgive Our Foolish Ways," a song suggestive of the harm that Gene has caused Phineas. A few of the teachers are missing, but Mr. Pike returns for the day in his Naval ensign's uniform, symbolizing the reality of the war, always a symbol of conflict and enmity.
Later, Gene stops at the footbridge to the two rivers at Devon; looking upstream, Gene remembers Finny's accident. But, he remembers Finny in one of his "favorite tricks" with the canoe. "Feeling refreshed," Gene goes on tothe Crew House beside the tidewater river below the dam. The second river, unlike the one in which the boys played, suggests the change to a darker time:
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....
Now in this chapter and the subsequent ones such as Chapter Seven, Gene feels himself symbolically out of the freshness and innocence of the water and the Summer Session. Instead, he has encountered the ugliness of jealousy and conflict, symbolized the the dirty river; he finds himself in an uncomfortable position with Quakenbush, who knows nothing about him, but accuses him of maiming Finny. Quakenbush's name seems symbolic of what he is, a repugnant clod, disliked by all.
The heavy snow in Chapter Seven that "paralyzed the railroad yards, symbolizes the personality problems of Leper, who himself says, "Well, I'm not going anywhere." Also, Leper searches for a beaver dam, symbolizing a search for a desperate attempt to dam the war and its effect from encroaching into their world.
When Gene talks with Finny, Finny insists that he play sports, but Gene perceives the rough, agressive game of football as symbolic of the actions of war.