Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Miracle’s Boys grapples with the myriad emotions involved with experiences of profound loss, emphasizing that only through family and brotherhood can the boys survive the hand they have been dealt. Each of the brothers deals with feelings of guilt over their parents’ deaths: Ty’ree because he urged their father to dive in after the woman in the lake, Lafayette because he failed to get help in time to save their mother, and Charlie because the last time he saw their mother he was in handcuffs. Just as these varied sources and shades of guilt have different origins, they also have different consequences. Ty’ree gives up his education to become the father figure his brothers have never had. Lafayette retreats inside himself to talk to his mother’s memory. Charlie’s guilt churns itself into anger, and he looks to the street to soothe his inner pain.

By depicting these various types of guilt and their effects both on each individual brother and on the family group, Woodson creates a truthful and affecting portrait. Ty’ree knows all along that he and Lafayette are the ones who can get through to Charlie, and he hopes they can accomplish it before Charlie does anything reckless. Ty’ree has taught Charlie and Lafayette to say “brother to brother” when they want to say “I love you.” In this way, he emphasizes the bond of blood that has driven him to give up—or at least postpone—his own dreams of personal achievement.