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Literature / Green Angel

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Green Angel is a Young Adult work written in 2003 by Alice Hoffman. It tells the story of Green, a fifteen-year-old who struggles to survive after a fire burns through the city across the river. Her sister Aurora and their parents are among the numerous casualties, and the story is her journey through loss.

Officially, Green Angel is a post-apocalyptic and dystopian tale, with many similarities to the real-life events of September 11, 2001. However, it is also firmly Magical Realism and many events would be impossible in the real world. Stylistically, it verges on prose-poetry and is very brief (128 pages), along with having surprisingly little dialogue. It was followed by a sequel in 2010 called Green Witch.


Tropes in Green Angel:

  • Adult Fear: A fifteen-year-old girl is left devastated with grief after the neighboring city is blown up, with her family visiting.
  • Androcles' Lion: Green cares for orphaned birds and an injured greyhound. Once the birds are back to full health, she discovers later that they used her chopped hair to make a rough fishing net.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0, since it focuses on a city's bombing.
  • But Now I Must Go: Diamond eventually has to leave to continue searching for his mother. Similarly, the greyhound Ghost and the birds leave shortly after recovering.
  • Cathartic Crying: Green doesn't allow herself to cry because she thinks it would mean accepting that her family is truly gone. After some time, she receives a dream involving Aurora, who comforts her. When Green wakes up, she cries so much that the tears wash all of the embers out of her eyes.
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  • Drowning My Sorrows: Right after the shock of the fire sinks in, Green drinks nonstop to deal with her grief. Definitely Played for Drama since she's fifteen and lost her entire family in the destruction. Another example is the Forgetting Shack, where people go to drink themselves blind and dance to exhaustion because they can't cope with their grief.
  • Evil Luddite: The Horde blew up the city across the river, intending for society to regress after they witnessed the explosion (women should be lesser than men, technology should be medieval/pre-industrial).
  • Genre-Busting: A dystopian/post-apocalyptic coming-of-age novel with Magic Realism.
  • Green Thumb: Her name is literally Green. It overlaps with Nature Hero (the shy and withdrawn form).
  • Harmful to Minors: Both physically and emotionally.
  • The Hermit: Green becomes this out of grief, and many people think she's a witch.
  • Ill Boy: Half of Diamond's face is heavily burned, and he can't talk for a long time. It's part of the reason that Green takes him in.
  • Important Haircut: The first thing she does after giving up the alcohol is to chop off her long, black Rapunzel Hair. It's partly to be practical, and partly because it reminded her of her mother (see Rapunzel Hair below).
  • Lonely Together / Sacred Hospitality: She and Heather, one of her schoolmates, bond over their shared loss—Heather lives under a bridge and Green doesn't leave her cottage except to bring her food and spare clothes. Then a lone boy with a heavily injured face shows up on Green's doorstep. She takes him in, learns that he's looking for his mother, and calls him Diamond since his face injury is too severe for quite a while for him to talk. Eventually they fall in love.
  • Magical Realism: Green gets hot ash and embers in her eyes, but can still see (dimly). By the end of the story, her cathartic crying over her dead family restores her vision in a subtle form of Swiss Army Tears. Other things are how the ink in her tattoos changes color from black to green and red.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Green (chopped hair, tattoos, leather jacket) and Diamond (a dutiful and injured boy who paints).
  • Never Found the Body: Heather goes missing, aside from a few scraps of her dress in the Forgetting Shack. Everyone understandably assumes she's dead.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: When her parents and Aurora leave for the fateful trip to sell their garden's produce, Green sulks because she really wanted to go to the city, but someone had to mind the garden.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Green's very attached to her long black hair, which was like her mother's. She chops it off out of grief after the fire.
  • Shrinking Violet: As a result of her Green Thumb, Green is far more comfortable with animals and plants than people.
  • Survivor Guilt: After the explosion, Green wishes she'd gone with her family to the market so she could have died with them.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: Green starts covering herself in black tattoos to deal with her grief. However, they slowly change color over the course of the novel from black to green (reflecting her slow healing). Her last tattoo is half a heart, which slowly turns from black to red; the other half is on Diamond.
  • That Man Is Dead: For much of the novel, Green renames herself Ash. Clothing-wise, she goes from long hair and skirts to a leather jacket, hobnail boots, tattoos, and cropped hair.
  • Wild Hair / Messy Hair: Green's Rapunzel Hair was frequently messy and dirty from garden work. She mentions daydreaming that on her sixteenth birthday, she'll take a long shower, comb out all the dirt and tangles, and wow everyone with how confident she is.

Tropes in Green Witch:

Green Witch takes place after the events of Green Angel, and the two can be bought as a package in Green Heart. A year after Diamond's departure, Green wonders if she'll ever see him again. Eventually she starts despairing that he's either died or forgotten about her, but she helps the slow rebuilding of the city by growing food, caring for the injured, and writing down people's stories after finishing her own.

Eventually she gets a request from the missing Heather's little brother that he wants Green to help get her back, as she's imprisoned by the Horde. In the photo he gives her, she discovers that Diamond has also been taken prisoner, which cements Green's resolve. She embarks on the quest to find five women (collectively thought of as witches) who might have information about them.

  • Chekhov M.I.A.: Heather was presumed dead after vanishing in Green Angel. A year later, her little brother finds a photo of her getting abducted by the Horde—and the same photo shows Diamond being taken as well.
  • Defector from Decadence: Heather and one of the Horde men fell in love.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: And how. Verges on Bittersweet Ending.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Horde looks like a group of handsome, well-organized knights... because they hate technology and want the world to revert back to a medieval state.
  • The Quest: Green's quest to find Diamond and Heather, who have been imprisoned by the Horde.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The paper Green makes for her clients has meaningful ingredients combined with the normal mix—a page from a now-burned novel for the teacher, rose-water for the woman who lost her love, and cinnamon for the baker who lost his son.
  • Scavenger World: The region is slowly cobbling together their lost/damaged technology. One of the most prominent scavengers is Heather's little brother.

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