Symbolism In Michael Cunningham's White Angel

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White Angel “White Angel” is a short story written by author Michael Cunningham. Cunningham is an American author and screenwriter whose best known for his novel The Hours, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1999. “White Angel” is a coming of age story in which the author incorporates point of view and symbolism to bring meaning to the story. The point of view provides knowledgeable and reliable comments of the narrator on events that happened in his past while symbolism is used to show experiences that have an impact on the narrator’s life. Both literary elements of point of view and the repetition of symbols demonstrate how the main character matures into a responsible and independent person from the experiences he encounters …show more content…

In the story, Robert and Carlton spend most of their time in the cemetery where they indulge in partaking drugs, alcohol and sexual activities. The cemetery represents the place where Robert is forced to mature by the experiences he is thrown into. The narrator himself remarks, “I hunch behind the statue. I can see the girl's naked arms, and the familiar bones of Carlton's spine. The two of them moan together in the dry winter grass. Though I can't make out the girl's expression, Carlton's face is twisted and grimacing, the cords of his neck pulled tight. I had never thought the experience might be painful. I watch, trying to learn.” (Cunningham 233). This quote helps us visualize how Robert interprets seeing his brother’s sexual encounter. We realize how an innocent nine year old is forced to mature at such a young age. He is trying to watch and learn without realizing how inappropriate it is for him to be present at this encounter. Another symbol with importance in relation the theme is Carlton’s death. His big brother’s death symbolizes one of the most traumatic events in Robert’s life that helps him wake up and realize the reality of life. At the end of the story Robert observes, “He is buried in the cemetery out back. Years have passed-we are living in the future, and it's turned out differently from what we'd planned” (Cunningham 242). After his brother’s death Robert is able to come to the conclusion that not everything is fun and games because every action has consequences. His big brother took many risks that eventually caught up with him, leading him to his death. Robert is left alone with the responsibility of taking care of his parents who are devastated by the loss of their first born. Through the writer’s use of literary symbolism by associating maturing with life experiences, readers are able to visualize how life

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