A Separate Peace

how does shoveling the snow from the railroad tracks bring the war closer to the boys?

chapter 7

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The war finally intrudes with the boys' first experience with hard physical labor at the railroad depot in Boston. The once-white snow is now "drab and sooted, wet and heavy," quite a dramatic contrast with the pure white snow that had covered Devon; the image conveys how reality has become more pressing and more bleak for the boys. They gradually drop their "fresh volunteer look" as the day's work goes on; the change from boisterous young men to strained-looking laborers ushers in the influence of war, and foreshadows the change that will come upon them when they finally go to war.