Look Homeward, Angel

by Thomas Wolfe

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What makes Eugene Gant's journey in Look Homeward, Angel romantic?

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In Look Homeward Angel, Eugene Gant's journey is romantic because he is prompted by a questing spirit to seek a greater destiny, even though he idealizes the natural world and traditional values of his Southern home environment. His emotional and spiritual journey is also motivated by the desire to put behind him the tragic memory of his brother’s death.

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Look Homeward, Angel traces the romantic journey of Eugene Gant from his early childhood, when he realizes that his thirst for knowledge sets him apart from his family and peers. Even from a young age, Eugene is cast in the mold of a romantic hero, enchanted by the rural, natural environment surrounding his town. Driven to satisfy his tremendous curiosity, he hopes to find answers in books. Gradually he comes to understand that he must physically move away from home. Following the heartbreaking loss of his brother, Eugene increasingly seeks escape and searches for new horizons.

The elements of Eugene’s journey are equally distributed between his physical journey, which takes him from Southern traditions and rural ways, and his inner or spiritual journey. The latter is a pilgrimage (such as that of Lord Byron’s nineteenth-century Childe Harold) in which Eugene seeks deeper meanings, not just the experiences and information that his college years and even his sexual adventures provide. Rather than being presented as completed in the novel, the quest for self-knowledge is shown as an ongoing affair, in which each new insight will help illuminate his way on the longer journey. A key element of his discovery is the deep pull that home—including both family and the Southern way of life—continues to exert on him.

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