61 pages 2 hours read

Thomas Wolfe

Look Homeward, Angel

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1929

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Symbols & Motifs


From the title to the physical angels stored in Gant’s stone-cutting shop, angels pervade the novel as symbols of unrealized desires. Gant is first drawn to the art of stone-cutting by the face of an angel, which awakens within him a desire to express himself through creation. When he is unable to realize his dream of carving an angel’s face, the most human quality of the angel statue, Gant falls into cycles of self-destruction. Angels are connected to Ben, who communicates with his angel throughout his life and is often caught commiserating with his angel about the futility and frivolity of life around him. Born a twin, Ben is left without his brother Grover after his death in childhood; the angel seems to take Grover’s place as Ben enters adulthood. The abrupt disruption of the twins’ bond leaves Ben empty and without purpose until they are reunited in death, as evidenced when Ben opens his eyes wearing an expression of recognition just before dying. Angels also prove significant to Eugene, who observes their movements in the final chapter and realizes that he, too, has a right to live and move in the current moment, and that his journey to find himself will remain unfulfilled until he leaves Altamont forever.