Rocket Boys

by Homer Hickam

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How is the setting of Coalwood significant in Rocket Boys?

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Coalwood can be seen as an important character in Hickam's work because it represents Homer's antipathy. Homer recognizes the fate of those who remain in Coalwood as one he wishes to avoid. Almost like how an antagonist of a work functions, Coalwood represents the end to which Homer wishes to avoid.  It is not merely a setting.  Homer constructs Coalwood to be a state of mind, a form of being in which one no longer pursues their dreams but finds them captive and dulled by the present.  Coalwood represents what is while Homer's dreams of space flight represent what can be.  In this, Coalwood operates as more than a setting.  It is a condition that represents Homer's base fear.  It is a prominent character because it compels him to continue to believe in his dream, even when failure and futility are evident.  For Homer, Coalwood is the embodiment of everything he fears and dreads.  This is where the setting becomes more than a mere location.  It is a state of mind.  It is a point in which Homer defines himself against it, operating as a character would in such a condition.

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