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Wings

"It's really pretty straightforward: flight is freedom."
page 128 of Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor

I read this chapter after finishing The Time Traveler's Wife, so I couldn't help but to relate this quote back to the angel wings Clare made for Henry towards the end of the novel. This seemed to be symbolic of freedom on so many levels. First and foremost, there is the most obvious connection: wings equal flight, which equals freedom. Henry even comments that he feels free during this scene. Another surface connection is that he no longer has feet. Running used to help him gain a sense of freedom. Since he can't run, he is more or less trapped. He can't actually fly with these wings, but the intended meaning is still behind them. Flying would be an alternative to running. I didn't even think about the other symbolic possibility with the wings and freedom until after reading this chapter in Foster. Angels are associated with the afterlife, at least in part, as they are believed to be messengers from heaven. This scene in the novel takes place after Henry already knows he is going to die--in fact, it's only a matter of months prior to it. Foster wrote about the idea of souls in flight. Henry is trapped by his condition--the CDP more so than the amputation, since he does have a wheel chair. The only true way he can be free of this condition is death. It seems that the wings Clare made allude to this.

Comments (6)

Christopher Dufalla:

Flight and freedom can indeed be supported. The ideas of sprouting wings, be they physical, mental, spiritual, or simply symbolic can have a tremendous impact on the direction that a story takes.

Relating it to Niffeneger's novel, it is interestign to see how Clare is trying to give Henry some sense of hope and freedom; almost a reciprocity of what he tried to do for her when she was having continuous miscarriages.

Carlos Peredo:

Maybe I'm just a guy, but I thought that entire seen was so cliche! "He lost his legs so let me make him a pair of wings!" Sure, it's sweet, and sappy, but it doesn't take much literary brilliance to come up with.

Now if we started connecting Clare's fascination for birds throughout the entire novel, and connected that to flight and freedom, then we might be getting somewhere. That, I think, is a little more subtle and creative on Audrey's part.

There are several connections to flight and freedom to made from the novel: a blue butterfly, a bird book, aviary boxes, and Clare's art. An association with angels as messangers and how that might relate to Henry,however, didn't occur to me.

Alicia Campbell:

I am glad you chose to focus on the angel wings Clare made for Henry. I, too, used Foster's thoughts on flight to make sense of Henry, but I merely considered his time traveling to be a form of flying. I thought the time travels in general are not necessarily freeing. While Henry mentions time traveling to escape stressful situations, he can time travel for other reasons (flashing light, loud noises) and he does not always end up in a less stressful environment. Conversely, I think the wings undoubtedly represent flight and freedom for all of the reasons you mentioned: the recent amputation and the fast-approaching death.

Nikita McClellan:

I never thought about the wings being a prelude to the freedom of Henry's death but you are right, it is the only way that he can become truly free. It is sad to think that death will be his release, but at the same time,he is not completely gone. At least not for Alba since she can travel herself.
Maybe for her, time travel will be more of an enjoyable expierence since she does have some control over it unlike Henry.

Jessica Bitar:

I like how you related this chapter to The Time Traveler's Wife. I too thought of Clare making wings for Henry. I like though how you said that flying could be an alternate for running because running is what gave Henry a sense of freedom.

I took Foster's take on flight to be how writers or readers can use their imagination and "take off" into a piece of literature.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 15, 2009 6:20 PM.

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