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White Angel Analysis

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The story White Angel is one of a defining moment. Bobby Morrow, the focal character, remembers in great detail his life as a nine year old in the late 1960’s, and how his brother’s death changed his life completely. Bobby and his sixteen-year-old brother Carlton do everything together, and Bobby looks to Carlton as something of a guardian angel or god. In reality though, Carlton leads Bobby to a life of drugs and risk. Eventually, Carlton’s risky behavior catches up with him, and leads him to his death. In “White Angel”, author Michael Cunningham uses both irony and the repetition of symbols to show the theme of escape. Throughout the story, there are various references to music, doors, windows, planes, winged creatures, drugs, and, ultimately, Carlton’s death вЂ" all of which are forms of leaving, or escaping, the world.

The first thing that comes to mind reading the story is the repeated usage of music and drugs. Since the story is set in the sixties, the music was changing вЂ" much like the attitudes and beliefs of the people. Drug use was becoming more common and accepted. Music was filled with lyrics of love, peace, and happiness. In even the second sentence, we see the significance of music as their radios “sang out love all day long” (90). As the story goes on, we learn more about how important to the story the music is. The father is a high-school music teacher and plays the clarinet in the basement, the mother sings to herself as she works in the house, and Bobby plays a harmonica. If someone in the house isn’t making their own music, they are listening to a record. Specific songs are placed strategically to aid the tone and setting of the story. The lyrics support the storyline and set the mood. People in real life use music as a distraction from their problems - it has been shown to decrease stress and calm people down. Drugs provide detachment from reality. They allow the user to feel good even in the harshest of times. This means that music and drugs are a form of escape вЂ" while not literal, they allow people to mentally escape the world for a period of time.

The second element of the story that supports the theme of escape is the repeated use of doors and windows. Doors and windows are both ways of leaving, or escaping, a building. Cunningham first uses a description of the window when the boys are on acid in the beginning of the story. Carlton tells Bobby to come here, and that they “are going to fly, man” (94). They then proceed to “fly” out into the dark sky. At the end of their flying adventure, Carlton pulls down the window, which “reseals itself with a sucking sound” (94). It is as if an exit of their house has sealed itself, sucking them in and preventing them from escaping the confines of the building and returning them to reality. Another significant element is the sliding glass door of the Morrow house. Carlton, intoxicated, ran at full speed into this closed door into the house. An example of irony, Carlton died trying to get back into the place he had been attempting to escape.

Yet another repeated element is that of things that fly, including winged creatures such as birds, angels, or manmade means of flight (such as airplanes). Throughout the story Cunningham frequently mentions the sound of planes flying overhead. This shows the idea of people going places, something that Bobby and Carlton long to do. Planes continue to be heard even after Carlton’s death, proving that life goes on and there is still hope, especially for Bobby, to escape Cleveland. However, in contrast, planes also show the absence of hope. There is first the mention of the plane that fell onto a family’s



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