Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe chronicles the first twenty years of Eugene Gant, beginning with sketches of his ancestors to his decision to attend Harvard following his graduation from college. His father, simply called Gant, was an alcoholic and a carver of grave monuments. His mother, Eliza Pentland Gant, ran a boarding house and invested in real estate.
Her vision of land and population was clear, crude, focal - there was nothing technical about it; it was extraordinary for its direct intensity. Her instinct was to buy cheaply where people would come.
Eugene was the youngest child in a large family. The story shows Gene's struggle to escape from the history of his families (The Pentlands are obsessed with settling down and making money and the Gants are unsettled alcoholics.)
The seeds of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin for our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung.
The style is poetic and pedantic.
And he knew suddenly the joy of obedience: the wild ignorant groping, the bling hunt, the deparate baffled desire that was now to be ruddered, guided, controlled. The way through the passage to India, that he had never been able to find, now would be charted for him. Before he went away she had given him a fat volume... He was drowned deep at midnight in the destiny of a man who killed a bear, the burner of windmills and the scourge of banditry.
The is not a story of optimism and uplift. Though Eliza is successful in her real estate investments, nothing good comes of it, aside from the acquisition of more property - the family lives in poverty with little fodd on the table and less heat in the winter. Though Gant comes down with cancer, there is no resolution here either. Thus, the book ends as it begins.

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