How does the author use fictional elements to develop a theme in “Look Homeward, Angel”?

A. The author develops the societal outcast theme through characterization.

B. The author develops the small-town gossip theme through setting details.

C. The author develops the marital harmony theme through plot details.

D. The author develops the coming-of-age theme through the point of view.

The answer is A: The author develops the societal outcast theme through characterization.

The lead character in Look Homeward, Angel often feels like an outsider who isn’t able to relate with other people except for the major who really likes him has no faith that the machines will cure him.

Introduction to Look Homeward, Angel

A novel by Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel – A Story of the Buried Life is a coming-of-age story of a boy. It is considered autobiographical, where the main character Eugene Gant is thought to be the depiction of the author himself.

The novel follows the main character himself for almost two decades and is set in the fictional location of Altamont, Catawba. The book has forty chapters and is divided into three parts.

The story begins with Eugene’s parents’ origins. His father had married before, and Eugene was born from his second marriage to Eliza Pentland.

Gant is described as exuberant and wild while being prone to drinking because of tragedies in his past. The circumstances of Eugene’s birth are described, and his early childhood is also depicted in the first part.

Eugene’s father has a special bond with his son, and he controls his drinking to pay more attention to his children. Once Eugene starts reading he is enamored by the tales of adventure and travel and by age 8 had an appreciation for the crude jokes made by older boys.

Eugene could be described as literarily curious while being contemplative and inward-looking. He has a zest for reading and sports, with a vivid imagination that allowed him to spin tales. T

here are comic episodes along with the description of his siblings. At the age of sixteen, Eugene sets out for college where an encounter with a prostitute brings him down with an affliction that is later cured.

When he comes home, he meets a woman, who is five years older than him, to have an intense affair which lasts for a very short period.

The woman Laura James doesn’t keep in touch with him, and that pinches Eugene in some ways. Later on, Eugene’s brother Ben falls ill, and his father complains about the medical costs.

Eugene, who isn’t very religious, begins praying for his brother and reflects that Ben meant more to them at his death than when he was alive.

In the end, when he is preparing for Harvard University, he imagines Ben’s ghost asking him where he is going.

Fictional elements of Look Homeward, Angel


The novel follows the life of Eugene Gant, starting from a time before his birth till age 19 when he begins to leave for Harvard University. It is a story composed of dysfunction, musings and contemplations.

Of recollections, impressions and understanding of Eugene Gant, his parents’ youngest child. The novel begins with Eugene’s parents’ stories then goes on to show his life through childhood, school and then college.


The novel is set in the fictional town of Altamont, in the fictional state of Catawba, but begins in 1837 in Pennsylvania with Eugene’s paternal relations. The story runs through the 1900s with a dysfunctional family in the background.

Eugene stays at UNC for some time while studying, then working in Norfolk for the summer of 1918. Finally, he gets into Harvard, where he seems to be heading, towards the end of the novel.


Eugene Gant

The central character Eugene is a bright but shy boy with a vivid imagination. He is the youngest child and has an insatiable hunger for books. He is contemplative and understands things that are much beyond his years.

He enters state university where others find it difficult to accept him as a normal person. He indulges in a love affair with a woman who is five years older than him and is not happy when she forgets him after their sojourn ends. He likes his brother Ben the most and although not religious, he prays to god when Ben is ill.

Oliver Gant

Oliver Gant, Eugene’s father has been married twice and faced tragedies that pushed him to drink. He hates his wife’s penny-pinching attitude and is often abusive towards his family. When Eugene is younger, Oliver does try to control his drinking and care for his children.

Eliza Pentland Gant

Eugene’s mother is a headstrong woman who manages her family through difficult times. She doesn’t show much affection but loves her children a lot.


Eugene’s parents don’t get along because of his father’s drinking and promiscuity, while his father doesn’t understand and abhors his wife’s miserly, penny-pinching behavior. His father, Oliver is often abusive towards his family.

As a young boy, Eugene wasn’t very popular and ignored or taunted and troubled by his siblings. Similar behavior is noted by his peers at school and college too. Eugene Gant has inner conflicts throughout the story, and he sometimes contemplates over it.


Thomas Wolfe has used racial, romantic and sexual symbolism throughout the novel while depicting the relationships and actions of the characters.

Point of view

The story is, for the most part, from Eugene’s point of view, how he sees the world, what he feels, what he wants and what his thoughts and beliefs are.

Story theme explained

Look Homeward, Angel has many underlying themes, but a central theme of the American experience is constant. Family, interdependence, education, alcoholism and mental health play prominent parts in the story.

Oliver’s alcoholism, Helena’s selflessness, Eugene’ love for books all make a part of the novel’s themes. Thomas Wolfe has added a theme that shows how a person is the sum of all moments in his life, which is the main baseline towards the end of the novel.


Look Homeward; Angel is a largely autobiographical novel which bears similarities to the author’s life. The coming of age story of Eugene Gant shows the ups and downs of his family life, his personal life and his introspections.


  1. Summary of Look Homeward, Angel: Retrieved from
  2. Analysis of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel: Taken from Seymour Rosenberg Rutgers—The State University: Taken from
  3. Fictional Elements of Look Homeward, Angel: Taken from


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