A symbol is a person, place, or object that represents something beyond itself.
This is clearly shown in A Separate Peace by John Knowles.
One example of a symbol in the novel is when Finny wears a pink shirt and a tie as a belt. This symbolizes Finny's outlook on authority, how he has lack of respect for it and tests it. When Finny wears the pink shirt and the tie as a belt proves how Finny can get away with anything. The Headmaster for violating the dress code at the luncheon questions him. Finny manages to talk his way out of getting in trouble for being out of dress code. His excuse was his patriotism for the bombing in Central America.
Another example of symbolism is the two rivers, the Devon and the Naguamsett River. The Devon represents Finny and the Naguamsett River describes Gene. Both rivers are symbolisms of their personalities.
The Devon River is described as fresh and pure. On the other hand, the Naguamsett River or is described as ugly, saline, and muddy with seaweed. Finny's personality is linked with the purity of the Devon River while Gene's is corroded like the Naguamsett River.
Gene plans to be assistant crew manager because he feels guilty for Finny's Accident. The significance of having a job as an assistant crew manager is that it is offered to physically disabled people. Gene is disabled, but emotionally not physically.
He feels it is his burdens for his actions that occurred on the tree.
These are only three of many symbols that have far more meaning than what is blatantly told in the novel A Separate Peace.