Philadelphia Fire Summary
John Edgar Wideman

Everything you need to understand or teach Philadelphia Fire by John Edgar Wideman.

  • Philadelphia Fire Summary & Study Guide

Philadelphia Fire Summary

Given the basis of the novel, it is not surprising that its major themes revolve around despair. The overriding theme is that we are destroying ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As evidence, the book offers descriptions of the garbage we produce, in our homes and on our streets. We see instances of cyclical violence, as when Simba survives the bombing but goes on to lead a gang of violent youngsters. The city and its structures are crumbling, and no emotional tethers exist to hold people together. Societal and individual despair pervades Philadelphia Fire.

Similarly depressing is the theme of exile. Cudjoe, the initial protagonist of the book, has exiled himself to Greece for ten years before returning in search of Simba, whom he saw on the television news. Wideman, who enters the book in Part II, isolates himself in Wyoming, and his son is exiled in prison. A...

(read more from the Short Guide)

Study Pack

The Philadelphia Fire Study Pack contains:

Philadelphia Fire Short Guide