Innocence In John Knowles 'Garden Of Eden'

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In the story of Adam and Eve they both fall out of God’s graces when they choose to disobey Him. Both individuals are cast away from the garden and condemn the human race to the evils beyond the Garden of Eden. Similar to this, the Devon School represents the Garden of Eden which the boys will be cast from in order to enlist for the war. Likewise to the story of Genesis, Gene Forrester chooses to envy his friend which causes him to cast away his innocence and friendship with Phineas. Throughout the novel, Knowles develops the theme of loss of innocence through the use of motifs such as the tree, water, and the Devon School. The first motif Knowles introduces is the tree, a representation of Gene’s jealousy of Finny which consumes Gene throughout…show more content…
Knowles makes it inherently clear to the reader that Naguamsett River represents Gene’s corrupt soul, and the Devon River represents Finny’s pure soul. The author displays the desirability of the Naguamsett River by describing it as “…ugly, saline, fringed with marsh, mud and seaweed” (Knowles 76). The river parallels Gene’s soul because after he pushes Finny from the tree, he is introduced to the evils that every man is capable of. Similarly to the Naguamsett, Gene is less desirable than Finny because Phineas is charming and athletic, but Gene has nothing to offer in comparison. Phineas personifies the Devon River because he is pure and jovial just like the “…fresh-water Devon above the dam where [they have] so much fun all summer” (Knowles 76). Finny creates The Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session in order to provide his friends with something entertaining to do during the dull summer. While Finny wants everybody to enjoy themselves and have fun, Gene is preoccupied on the false impression that his best friend wants to sabotage him. After Gene pushes Finny off of the tree, Gene tries to deny that he is capable of so much evil. He finally begins to accept what he has done when he enters the Naguamsett, and reveals to the reader that he has never been into that body of water before. Gene states, “I had never been in [the Naguamsett] before; it seemed appropriate that my baptism there [take] place on the first day of the winter session…” (Knowles 86). Once Gene exits the river he wants to “… [wash] the traces off…”, but he is unable since the mucky water is so sticky and potent; this is parallel to his attempts to make amends with Finny and redeem his integrity, but Gene is unsuccessful because his past actions are as hard to erase as the particles of the Naguamsett (Knowles 86).

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