Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Altamont. North Carolina town in which most of the action takes place. Modeled on Thomas Wolfe’s own hometown, Asheville, in western North Carolina, Altamont is a mountain resort town that serves as a frequent stopover for travelers commuting between eastern Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina.

Gant often visits his sister at her home in the state capital of North Carolina. Eventually, she returns to Altamont to care for their dying father. Her experiences serve as a vivid reminder of how Altamont retains a hold on all of its inhabitants—a hold that author Thomas Wolfe—in the fictional guise of Eugene Gant—was determined to escape.


Dixieland. Altamont boardinghouse owned by Eliza Gant, protagonist Eugene Gant’s mother, in which Gant spends most of his childhood. There he develops a deep disdain for boarders. Described as “America’s Switzerland” by his mother, Eliza, who owns the house, it is situated in a bustling and growing section of Altamont. The house contains at least twenty rooms; throughout the novel, additions are made to include additional living and dining spaces for the family, bathrooms, a sleeping porch, and a larger dining room for the boarders.

As in many family-owned boardinghouses, members of the Gant family are relegated to small, often damp and dark, living quarters, leaving the finest rooms for paying guests. The house is often not used in winter seasons, and the young Gant prefers to spend time at his father’s home because it is smaller, more intimate, and always has a roaring fireplace. Throughout the entire novel, Eliza Gant is obsessed with the acquisition of property, and while she continues to reside at Dixieland, several scenes unfold...

(The entire section is 725 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

By the beginning of the twentieth century, America was rapidly developing into a modernized country with a consumer economy. Southern towns,...

(The entire section is 378 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Wolfe's style has often been called "romantic," both because of the emotional extremes of its sprawling style and...

(The entire section is 232 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Persistently autobiographical in substance and form, both Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River nonetheless share...

(The entire section is 563 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Within the framework of these autobiographical novels, Wolfe places Eugene Gant as the central character and traces his development from...

(The entire section is 774 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1900-1920: The infant mortality rate in the United States is 140 per 1,000 live births.

Today: Infant mortality has...

(The entire section is 162 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Thomas Wolfe was a legendary figure in his time. Read some primary source historical material to examine how his contemporaries viewed him....

(The entire section is 219 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As noted in the preceding section, Wolfe's forthrightly acknowledged model was Joyce's Ulysses (1922). Although unacknowledged,...

(The entire section is 188 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A truism in Wolfe criticism is that he wrote essentially one big book. If his plays are largely set aside, the claim has merit, for whether...

(The entire section is 547 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The stage play of Look Homeward, Angel by Ketti Frings had a run of 554 performances on Broadway. It won both the New York Drama...

(The entire section is 166 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Look Homeward, Angel was adapted as a three-act comedy/drama by Ketti Frings, first produced in New York at the Ethel Barrymore...

(The entire section is 91 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (1929) is perhaps the most well-known book by this famous Southern novelist. Its...

(The entire section is 169 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Bassett, John Earl, "The Critical Reception of Look Homeward, Angel," in Critical Essays on Thomas Wolfe,...

(The entire section is 331 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Thomas Wolfe. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Bloom, himself a distinguished critic, gathers in his book eight essays by seven different writers, suggesting that the collection is what he considers “the most useful criticism of Thomas Wolfe’s fiction.” A bibliography of critical pieces on Wolfe is included.

Donald, David Herbert. Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe. Boston: Little, Brown, 1987. Donald prepared this admired biography of Wolfe with the aid of the novelist’s voluminous papers, lodged at Harvard University. The preface announces that, in addition to Wolfe’s biography, an attempt is made to...

(The entire section is 267 words.)