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October 3, 1900 - September 15, 1938

Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900. In public schools and later in a private academy, he observed carefully the life around him. He stored away in his mind the ten thousand  impressions later to be used in the most impressive books ever written by a North Carolinian. The town of Asheville was just then expanding into a bustling resort. But young, tall Tom Wolfe was not satisfied. He was always looking out beyond the hills which he said "hemmed" him in. Thomas attended North State Fitting School, a private prep school, until age fifteen when he entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and, before his graduation, became one of the most important figures on the campus. Active in the Dialectic Literary Society, the campus newspaper, and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. Besides majoring in English, he was also one of the first members of Carolina Playmakers, a theatrical course taught by Frederick Koch.

Determined on a career as a professional dramatist, he went to Harvard, completing a Master of Dramatic Arts in 1922. When his plays were not accepted immediately by Broadway producers he began teaching English at Washington Square College. On a trip abroad he suddenly started writing out the vivid recollections of his boyhood in Asheville, which he called Atlamont. The result was Look Homeward, Angel (1929), a novel that is one of the high marks of American fiction, one later made into a successful Broadway play. It tells of the experiences of a sensitive lad in a mountain town and later in college at Pulpit Hill (his name for Chapel Hill). Other long novels pursuing their career of the autobiographical hero are Of Time and the River (1935), The Web and the Rock (1939), and You Can't Go Home Again (1940). There are numerous books of short stories, plays, essays, poetic passages, and letters.

Look Homeward, Angel was quite successful on publication; so Wolfe, with the aid of a Guggenheim Fellowship, gave up his teaching post and went off to Europe to write. Thereafter, he lived for the most part in New York. He was never married. Particularly he wished to see all of the America he wrote about. On a trip to the Northwest he became ill and died of a brain operation in Baltimore on September 15, 1938.

The Thomas Wolfe Memorial is located in Asheville, NC.

References and Additional Resources:

North Carolina Digital Collections


Walser, Richard Gaither, and Mary Reynolds Peacock. 1981. Young reader's picturebook of Tar Heel authors. Raleigh: North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History.

WorldCat (Searches numerous library catalogs)

"Thomas," Our State, October 2000.

Image credit:

Van Vechten, Carl, Portrait of Thomas Wolfe, 1937. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Image accessed here.

Origin - location: 





Wolfe's sister Mabel, some ten years the author's senior, married Ralph Wheaton, a salesman for NCR, under J.E. O'Donnell, Agent for "The Company's" SE District. While a student @ UNC, Thomas Wolfe attended social gatherings @ his brother in law's employer's home in Raleigh & fictionalized that family as the "O'Tooles " in his novel, Look Homeward, Angel.


Dear John,

Thank you so much for visiting NCpedia and especially for taking time to post this additional information!

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library


what was his greatest acomplishment?


His book O Lost is an important milestone in American Literature (and its Max Perkins edited version Look Homeward Angel). In O Lost (the original manuscript), Thomas Wolfe uses words like paint to create images of life in Asheville NC. He is, in turns, an Impressionist, an Expressionist, a Realist & a humorist. His words flow like the Niagra, gathering water from tributaries: creeks, rivers, streams (even mud puddles played in by little children). He is a True Genius of literature. There is no one to compare him with.
Although James Joyce wrote in stream-of-consciousness as did Wolfe, Wolfe went Far beyond that method of writing. His stories & images so overwhelm the reader with emotion that it is necessary to read with breaks. Get up. Walk around the block. Take deep breaths. A person could nearly die of an OD of Thomas Wolfe's genius writing!!
So his greatest achievement? Inventing a new style of writing.
(I am a mad reader. By age 18 I had read ALL of Dostoyevsky, Fitzgerald (both of them), Hemingway, Tolstoy et alia. NONE compare to Wolfe. None.)


His acomplishment was how his book changed the history of plays forever.


It was a great story and I like how you put a lot of facts in it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


That is alot of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I AGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!............YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE SO EXAGGERATED!


That was the best story ever that i have ever heard about him i will make sure I tell all my friends about them

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