Literary Analysis Essay

Mysterious Symbolic Meaning of Angels in Thomas Wolfe’s Novel

Look Homeward, Angel is the first and the most famous novel by Thomas Wolf, which was published in 1929 in New York. It is considered as an autobiographical American Bildungsroman, which is a “class of novel that deals with the maturation process”  (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). Through the whole novel we see a presence of angels. We meet with them for the first time when Eugene’s father, as a 15-year-old boy, walked past the shop and saw “granite slabs of death, carved lambs and cherubim, and an angel poised upon phthisic feet” (Wolf, p. 2).

Usually, when we hear the word “angel”, we think about something good, white and pleasant, but in this novel it is different. Angels are associated with death, because first of all their statues were used as tombstones. There are used such words as “dark miracle” (Wolf, p. 1), “wild” (Wolf,p. 268), “stupid white face” (Wolf, p. 282) to describe them. Angels are mysterious and symbolic and there are many different interpretations of their presence in the novel. They might represent hope and be a symbolic reminder of the world which we cannot see, as the angel had stood on the porch for six years, it saw everything and, on the one hand it seems like it was a symbol of protection of the family, it was their guardian, but on the other hand, it might seem that their house was like a grave, everything was falling apart there and the angel was their tombstone. Or maybe Thomas Wolf wanted to say that we are all angels, who have fallen in the “gravity of life” (Literary Traveler, 1997) and living a life means to struggle for wings, struggle to come back home.

Maybe Sartre was wrong saying that hell is other people, maybe in is vise versa and we are each other’s angels. So if you see a fallen angel, go and help him, because we will all meet when it is time.


  1. Literary Traveler. (1997). Thomas Wolfe: Look Homeward Angel.
  2. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. Bildungsroman. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  3. Wolfe, Thomas. (1952). A Story Of The Buried Life Look Homeward Angel. Charles Scribners Sons.

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