Below is a quick literary analysis I did for Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it!
Green Angel provides readers with an interesting perspective of grief and how it works. After the fire, every person, plant or animal goes through a type of metamorphosis. While it may be obvious that grief prompts change, what isn’t as obvious is how the grief expressed by the different characters in Green Angel are meant to highlight various aspects of Green’s grief and help her heal.
The fire that took the lives of Green’s family members also had an effect on the identities of each of her animal companions. “What’s a greyhound if it is unable to run, Sparrows if they are unable to fly and a hawk if it is unable to hunt?” Green asks. Much like the animals, Green’s identity is changed due to the fire.
The first of the animals is the greyhound, Ghost, with singed feet. While the fire had no effect on Green’s feet, she weighs herself down by wearing her father’s heavy boots. As the seasons change and as both Green and Ghost heal, Green begins to realize just how heavy her father’s boots are and removes in an attempt to keep up with Ghost on a walk. One could argue that as Green begins to heal the pain, or heaviness, begins to lessen.
While Ghost’s burnt paws mirror Green’s father’s heavy boots, the sparrows singed feathers parallel Green’s singed hair. The hair that was like her mother’s. It is important to note that the sparrows could also represent Green’s relationship with her mother. Initially, Green provides the sparrows with warmth and food. In turn, the sparrows exceed her expectations by quickly learning how to fly and making her a fishing net.
If Ghost is to Green’s father and the sparrows are to Green’s mother, then surely the hawk is supposed to represent Aurora who was “as beautiful as she was wild”. In the fire, the hawk’s beak was burned and Aurora is the only family member who speaks to Green in her dreams. Like the other animals, as the hawk heals, Aurora begins to help Green cry and take the final steps towards healing.
But what of the human characters: Heather, the Old Woman, and Diamond? What role do they play in helping Green heal, if any? Heather is essentially a foil to Green’s character. As Green heals and grows, Heather’s life becomes more chaotic and she wilts. (One should also note the symbolism within their names; Green equals growth and prosperity whereas deriving hearth from Heather isn’t too far of a stretch). The old woman helps Green realize that there are periods in life that are drastically different from one another and one might look like a completely different person after each one. Finally, Diamond, the boy who arrives “with a sheaf of white paper, burned at the edges.” Green saw her future as something she could control. After the fire, she understandably felt a loss of control. Diamond is just one of the many people who shows her that her future is still her own.
So what did everyone think? I’d love to hear about what you thought of Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel in the comments below. Thanks and until next time, which I promise will be sooner than you think!