Study Guide

Dr. DeAngelis in Dancing on the Edge

By Han Nolan

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Dr. DeAngelis

Thanks to books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Bell Jar, mental hospitals have a pretty bad rep in literature. Their characters endure harsh electroshock treatments; evil, power-hungry nurses; and bizarre cell-like rooms with nailed-down beds. Fortunately, we here at Shmoop are pleased to say that Miracle McCloy doesn't have to deal with these typical inconveniences of literary mental institutions. And it's all thanks to Dr. DeAngelis.

A psychologist who meets Aunt Casey when he lectures at her college, Dr. DeAngelis is largely responsible for helping Miracle confront the dark realities of her past. The guy has awesome people skills, and it seems like he always knows just the right thing to say or do as he deals with Miracle's issues. To this end, he trades places with Miracle for one of their sessions and lets her sit at his desk, insists they communicate with eye contact even if Miracle isn't willing to talk to him at first, and unwaveringly serves as her supporter. He tells her:

"I think you've gotten a bum deal […] I think things have been pretty rotten for you at times. It makes me angry. Miracle, I'm very angry." (20.36)

If you think Dr. DeAngelis's character begins and ends with his methods in treating Miracle, though, you're wrong. We also learn a surprising number of personal details about this guy that make him more than just a cardboard cutout of a doctor. Miracle observes, for example, that "His legs were so long they didn't look as if they had been attached to his body correctly" (18.12), a physical trait that fits nicely with his passion for running.

While sitting at his desk, Miracle also notices that he has three children, and on their first meeting, she sees that he's wearing a wedding ring. It's kind of awesome how Nolan weaves these subtle details together to create a picture of Dr. DeAngelis—a loving father and husband, an experienced athlete, and a devoted advocate for his patients. In other words, not just a guy who's good at his job, but a guy who seems to be good in general.

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