What is the significance of angels in the novel The Watson's Go to Birmingham--1963?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Christianity, angels, derived from a Greek word meaning “messengers”, convey God’s messages to the world. In this novel, the relationship of the Baptist Church to black culture is seen as an important positive force, and events and people are often interpreted as angelic, e.g. the two rural children who deflect bullying from Kenny are described as “savers”.

The angel Mrs. Davidson gives Joey is significant in its relationship to racial issues. Although the angel is made of white clay, Mrs. Davidson claims the angel looks like Joey. Joey interprets this literally and is confused because in outward appearance (especially colour) the angel differs from Joey. On a symbolic level, the similarity is Joey’s angelic nature, suggesting that from God’s point of view, humanity is not divided by skin colour or other surface features, but that what matters is inner nature.

Wooh Pooh can be considered a sort of dark angel, or devil in the story, and perhaps the image of Kenny that appears to Joey another sort of angel. Although they are not `real`in a physical sense, they do act upon the characters in the story, thus suggesting that Christianity itself, whether `true`in a literal sense or not, still has a profound affect on the lives of the black community.

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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

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