Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Cunningham’s approach to “White Angel” is notably visual. The setting in a middle-class suburban neighborhood evokes images of manicured plots with one-and two-story tract homes on them. One can easily visualize the gully behind the Morrow house that separates it from a cemetery whose monuments—particularly the one of the white angel—are visible from the house. After Carlton’s death, the small gray finger of his tombstone rises among the others, within sight of the white angel’s marble eyes, quite visible from the house.

Although Bobby is the narrator, his narration is not that of a nine-year-old. Cunningham makes clear that Bobby is telling the story some years after Carlton’s death. Seemingly his parents still live under one roof but quite apart, his mother in her bedroom, his father in his. Cunningham does not disclose the narrator’s age. Perhaps he is not still living at home.

Just as his parents forced Bobby to go to bed before the party ended on the fateful April night on which Carlton died, one year after Carlton’s death, Bobby finds his father wandering in the kitchen, presumably lost in thought on this anniversary of the tragedy, and has to put him to bed. Bobby, in a notable role reversal, sits nurturingly on the edge of the bed until his father falls asleep. The implication the story leaves is that the Morrows will endure, but that they are very different people from who they were before Carlton’s death.