Look Homeward, Angel Critical Overview - Essay

Thomas Wolfe

Critical Overview

Although it sparked some resentment in Asheville, North Carolina, Look Homeward, Angel received a considerable amount of praise in the both the North and the South when it was published in 1929. As John Earl Bassett writes in his essay "The Critical Reception of Look Homeward, Angel": "Four favorable articles in important New York newspapers were instrumental to the success that Look Homeward, Angel did have."

Some critics, most notably Bernard DeVoto in his 1936 article from the Saturday Review, argued that Wolfe has a tendency towards "bombast, and apocalyptic delirium." This group tends to disparage "romantic" American novels generally. But even DeVoto writes that parts of Look Homeward, Angel show "intuition, understanding, and ecstasy, and an ability to realize all three in character and scene, whose equal it would have been hard to point out anywhere in the fiction of the time." In 1951, William Faulkner rated Wolfe the highest (the only person above himself) among contemporary American writers.

Look Homeward, Angel remains Wolfe's most popular and respected work, but it has gone through a significant decrease in critical attention. This is partly due to the novel's views on race and gender and partly due to what John Hagan calls "the still prevailing notion that Wolfe's first novel, though undeniably powerful in some respects, is mere 'formless autobiography,' the product of a naïf who had no...

(The entire section is 332 words.)