Look Homeward, Angel
Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life is a 1929
1929 in literature
The year 1929 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Candide by Voltaire is declared obscene by the United States Customs and seized in 1930....

A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Thomas Wolfe
Thomas Wolfe
Thomas Clayton Wolfe was a major American novelist of the early 20th century.Wolfe wrote four lengthy novels, plus many short stories, dramatic works and novellas. He is known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing...

. It is Wolfe's first novel, and is considered a highly autobiographical
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

In literary criticism, bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood , and in which character change is thus extremely important...

. The character of Eugene Gant is generally believed to be a depiction of Wolfe himself. The novel covers the span of time from Gant's birth to the age of 19. The setting is the fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

al town and state of Altamont, Catawba, a fictionalization of his home town, Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a city in and the county seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States. It is the largest city in Western North Carolina, and the 11th largest city in North Carolina. The City is home to the United States National Climatic Data Center , which is the world's largest active...

. Playwright Ketti Frings
Ketti Frings
Ketti Frings was an American author, playwright, and screenwriter.-Early years:Born Katherine Hartley in Columbus, Ohio, Frings attended Principia College, began her career as a copywriter, and went on to work as a feature writer for United Press International.-Career:In 1941 her novel Hold Back...

 wrote a theatrical adaptation of Wolfe's work in a 1957 play of the same title
Look Homeward, Angel (play)
Look Homeward, Angel is an acclaimed 1957 stage play by the playwright Ketti Frings. It opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre November 28, 1957, and ran for a total of 564 performances, closing on April 4, 1959....



It is believed that a stone statue of an angel, found in a Hendersonville, North Carolina
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Hendersonville is a city in Henderson County, North Carolina, USA, southeast of Asheville. In 1900, 1,917 persons lived in Hendersonville; in 1910, 2,818; and in 1940, 5,381 people lived here. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 12,223, up fivefold in one century. It is the county...

, cemetery, looking to the east was the partial inspiration for the novel. A historic marker located on Highway 64, or 6th Avenue West in Hendersonville, at an entrance to Oakdale Cemetery, contains this information.

The title comes from the John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

"Lycidas" is a poem by John Milton, written in 1637 as a pastoral elegy. It first appeared in a 1638 collection of elegies, entitled Justa Edouardo King Naufrago, dedicated to the memory of Edward King, a collegemate of Milton's at Cambridge who drowned when his ship sank in the Irish Sea off the...


"Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth:
And, O ye Dolphins, waft the hapless youth."


Wolfe's original title was The Building of a Wall, which he later changed to O Lost.

Wolfe began the novel in 1926, intending to delve into "the strange and bitter magic of life." The novel was written over 20 months. On the novel's completion, Wolfe gave the vast manuscript to Scribner
Charles Scribner's Sons
Charles Scribner's Sons, or simply Scribner, is an American publisher based in New York City, known for publishing a number of American authors including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Robert A. Heinlein, Thomas Wolfe, George Santayana, John Clellon...

 editor Maxwell Perkins
Maxwell Perkins
William Maxwell Evarts Perkins , was the editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. He has been described as the most famous literary editor.-Career:...

. Though Perkins was impressed with the young author's talent, he demanded that the novel be revised and condensed to a publishable size. The two sat down and worked through it together. After being trimmed by 60,000 words, the novel was published in 1929. Wolfe became insecure about the editing process, feeling that the novel was Perkins' almost as much as his own. This led to an estrangement between the two, resulting in Wolfe leaving Scribner. Wolfe later made amends with Perkins, prior to the former's death in 1938. The original unedited version was published in 2000.

Descriptions of Altamont, Catawba, in Wolfe's autobiographical novel
Autobiographical novel
An autobiographical novel is a form of novel using autofiction techniques, or the merging of autobiographical and fiction elements. The literary technique is distinguished from an autobiography or memoir by the stipulation of being fiction...

 are based on Asheville, North Carolina,http://ai.stanford.edu/~csewell/culture/uslit.htm and the descriptions of people and family led to further estrangement, this time between Wolfe and many in his hometown of Asheville. He has even been reported to have received some death threats from residents of Asheville.

The boarding house run by Eugene Gant's mother, based on one run by Wolfe's mother, has been called "the most famous boardinghouse in American fiction."


Wolfe is often characterized as a romantic
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 due to the power of his emotionally charged, sprawling style. Look Homeward, Angel is written in a "stream of consciousness" narrative reminiscent of James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...



The book is divided into three parts, with a total of forty chapters. The first 90 pages of the book deal with an early biography of Gant's parents, very closely based on the actual history of Wolfe's own mother and father. It begins with his father, Oliver's decision to become a stone cutter after seeing a statue of a stone angel.

Part one

Oliver Gant's first marriage ends in tragedy, and he becomes a raging alcoholic
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

 afterwards, which becomes his major struggle throughout his life. He eventually remarries after roaming the countryside, builds his new wife a house, and commences to start a family. The couple is beset with tragedy, as their first daughter dies of cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 at two months old, while two more die during childbirth
Childbirth is the culmination of a human pregnancy or gestation period with the birth of one or more newborn infants from a woman's uterus...

. In the wake of these losses, Oliver is sent to Richmond for a "cure," to little success and becomes abusive to his family at times, threatening to kill his second wife Eliza (Eugene Gant's mother) in one drunken incident. The two remain together, however, and have a total of six surviving children, with the oldest, Steve, born in 1894.

Eugene's father is drunk downstairs while his mother gives birth to him in a difficult labor. Oliver Gant forms a special bond with his son from early on. He begins to get his drinking under control, save for occasional binges, though his marriage becomes strained as Eliza's patience with him grows thinner. By the fifth chapter they are no longer sleeping in the same bedroom. Though, during all this time he is especially fond of his youngest son, Eugene, with whom he makes a special bond.

Despite his flaws, Oliver Gant is the family's keystone, reading Shakespeare, having his daughter Helen read poetry, and keeping great fires burning in the house, symbolic of him as a source of warmth for the family. His gusto is the source of energy and strength for the family. Shortly after this, he journeys to California for the last time, returning home to the joy of his family. At this point Eugene is six years old and begins to attend school. His early education takes place, including several incidents of trouble with some of his teachers. He has a love of books and is a bright young boy, much to the pride of both his parents. His mother continues to baby him, unwilling to see him grow up; she does not cut his hair, even though he is teased about its length by the other boys.

Critical reputation

Look Homeward, Angel was published in 1929 to generally positive reviews in North America, most praising the author's brilliance and emotional power.http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-lookhomewardangel/crit.html One review called it a "sensation", and described it as having struck the literary world by storm http://books.google.com/books?id=zp7ytP1tEisC&pg=PA1&dq=Thomas+Wolfe+Look+homeward,+Angel+critical+look&ei=-hPsSJ-NK4quywS2p5HpCw&sig=ACfU3U368eJyB-VO1hJNI6e9vgt7Clceww#PPA1,M1. Despite the novel's enduring popularity, Wolfe's work has since come to be viewed by many literary critics (Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

 and James Wood
James Wood (critic)
James Wood is a literary critic, essayist and novelist. he is Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine.-Background and education:...

 among them) as undisciplined and largely "formless autobiography".http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-lookhomewardangel/essay1.html According to Jonathan W. Daniels
Jonathan W. Daniels
Jonathan Worth Daniels was an American author, editor, and White House Press Secretary. Daniels' term serving as White House Press Secretary was the shortest since the inception of the position in 1937. He held the position in 1945 under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman...

, those critics wished that "Tom Wolfe's big sprawling powerful pouring prose would have been served in neater packages of sweeter stuff."

Stage adaptation

Playwright Ketti Frings
Ketti Frings
Ketti Frings was an American author, playwright, and screenwriter.-Early years:Born Katherine Hartley in Columbus, Ohio, Frings attended Principia College, began her career as a copywriter, and went on to work as a feature writer for United Press International.-Career:In 1941 her novel Hold Back...

 adapted the novel as a play of the same name. The play opened on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
The Ethel Barrymore Theatre is a legitimate Broadway theatre located at 243 West 47th Street in midtown-Manhattan, named for actress Ethel Barrymore....

 November 28, 1957, and ran for a total of 564 performance
A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience. Choral music and ballet are examples. Usually the performers participate in rehearsals beforehand. Afterwards audience...

s, closing on April 4, 1959.

In 1958, Frings won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Pulitzer Prize for Drama
The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was first awarded in 1918.From 1918 to 2006, the Drama Prize was unlike the majority of the other Pulitzer Prizes: during these years, the eligibility period for the drama prize ran from March 2 to March 1, to reflect the Broadway 'season' rather than the calendar year...

 and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for her adaptation of Wolfe's novel. The production received Tony Award
Tony Award
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

 nominations for Best Play
Tony Award for Best Play
The Tony Award for Best Play is an annual award celebrating achievements in live American theatre, including musical theatre, honoring productions on Broadway in New York. It currently takes place in mid-June each year.There was no award in the Tony's first year...

; Best Actor in a Play
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
The Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play presented since 1947, is awarded to actors in productions of new or revival plays.-1940s:*1947 - José Ferrer – Cyrano de Bergerac / Fredric March – Years Ago...

 (Hugh Griffith
Hugh Griffith
Hugh Emrys Griffith was a Welsh film, stage and television actor.-Early life:Griffith was born in Marianglas, Anglesey, Wales, the son of Mary and William Griffith. He was educated at Llangefni County School and attempted to gain entrance to university, but failed the English examination...

 and Anthony Perkins
Anthony Perkins
Anthony Perkins was an American actor, best known for his Oscar-nominated role in Friendly Persuasion and as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho , and its three sequels.-Early life:...

); Best Actress in a Play
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
This is a list of the winners and nominations of Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. The award has been presented since 1947, and is for performance in new productions or revivals.-1940s:...

 (Jo Van Fleet
Jo Van Fleet
Jo Van Fleet was an American theatre and film actress.-Career:Van Fleet established herself as a notable dramatic actress on Broadway over several years, winning a Tony Award in 1954 for her skill in a difficult role, playing an unsympathetic, even abusive character, in Horton Foote's The Trip to...

); Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner
Jo Mielziner
Joseph "Jo" Mielziner was an American theatrical scenic, and lighting designer born in Paris, France. He is "the most successful set designer of the Golden era of Broadway", and worked on both stage plays and musicals.-Career:He was the son of artist Leo Mielziner, Sr...

); Best Costume Design
Tony Award for Best Costume Design
These are the winners and nominees for the Tony Award for Best Costume Design. The award was first presented in 1947 and included both plays and musicals...

Motley Theatre Design Group
Motley was the name of the theatre design firm made up of three English designers, sisters Margaret Harris and Sophie Harris , and Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot . The name derives from the word 'Motley' as used by Shakespeare...

); and Best Director
Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play
The Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play has been given since 1960. Before 1960 there was only one award for both play direction and musical direction, then in 1960 the award was split into two categories: Dramatic and Musical. In 1976 the Dramatic category was renamed to Play...

 (George Roy Hill
George Roy Hill
George Roy Hill was an American film director. He is most noted for directing such films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, which both starred the acting duo Paul Newman and Robert Redford...


Musical adaptation

Frings' adaptation of Look Homeward, Angel was readapted as a Broadway musical
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

, Angel
Angel (musical)
Angel is a Broadway musical that opened at the Minskoff Theatre in New York on May 4th 1978.It was based on Ketti Frings’ theatrical adaptation of the best-selling Thomas Wolfe novel Look Homeward, Angel...

which opened at the Minskoff Theatre
Minskoff Theatre
The Minskoff Theatre is a legitimate Broadway theatre, located at 1515 Broadway in midtown-Manhattan. It is now showing the musical The Lion King, based on the Disney animated film of the same name....

 in New York on May 4, 1978, and closed May 13 after five performances and poor reviews. Frings co-wrote the book with the show's lyricist, Peter Udell, whose lyrics were set to music by Gary Geld. This songwriting team had created the musicals Shenandoah
Shenandoah (musical)
Shenandoah is a musical that was written in 1975 with music by Gary Geld, lyrics by Peter Udell, and a book by Udell, Philip Rose and James Lee Barrett, based on Barrett's original screenplay for the 1965 film Shenandoah.-Productions:...

and Purlie
Purlie is a musical with a book by Ossie Davis, Philip Rose, and Peter Udell, lyrics by Udell, and music by Gary Geld. It is based on Davis' 1961 play Purlie Victorious, which was later made into the 1963 film Gone Are the Days! and which included all of the original Broadway cast, including Ruby...

and penned the hit song "Sealed With a Kiss
Sealed with a Kiss
"Sealed with a Kiss" is the title of a song written by Peter Udell and Gary Geld. It was first recorded by The Four Voices in 1960 as a single, but their recording was not a hit....


Angel (musical)
Angel is a Broadway musical that opened at the Minskoff Theatre in New York on May 4th 1978.It was based on Ketti Frings’ theatrical adaptation of the best-selling Thomas Wolfe novel Look Homeward, Angel...

was directed by Philip Rose and choreographed by Robert Tucker. The production featured costumes by Pearl Somner, lighting design by John Gleason and scenery by Ming Cho Lee.

For her performance in the show, Frances Sternhagen
Frances Sternhagen
Frances Hussey Sternhagen is an American actress. Sternhagen has appeared on and off Broadway, in movies, and on TV since the 1950s.-Personal life:...

 received a 1978 Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
The Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical is the Tony Awards award given to the actress who was voted as the best leading actress in a musical, whether a new production or a revival...

. Additionally, Joel Higgins
Joel Higgins
Joel Franklin Higgins is an American actors and singer with a stage career spanning over 30 years.- Life and Career :...

 was nominated for a 1978 Drama Desk Award
Drama Desk Award
The Drama Desk Awards, which are given annually in a number of categories, are the only major New York theater honors for which productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway compete against each other in the same category...

for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.