What does the title Look Homeward, Angel mean?

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The “angel” in the title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel refers both to a statue and to the idea of the dead observing the living. In the novel, the W. O. Gant family are stonecutters, as was Wolfe’s own father. The statue of the angel is also based on an actual statue that formerly occupied a prominent place at the family business and was later installed in the cemetery. The quotation “Look homeward Angel” is taken from a John Milton poem that was an elegy for a dead friend. The theme of the dead taken too young and their inspiration to the living relates well to the character of Ben, Eugene’s brother, who dies in the novel.

Milton wrote Lycida s (1637) in memory of Edward King, whom he had known at Cambridge; the young man drowned when his ship sank....

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