Acceptance Throughout Angles in America
Angles in America by Tony Kushner, is a drama that has won a Tony Award for Best Play. The play as a whole is a compilation of two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. Throughout the play, it is quite obvious that acceptance is a major theme amongst the main characters. The characters go through different experiences that force them to make an acceptance. Most of the characters are able to successfully accomplish this except Joe. The characters face challenges in the play that deal with love, disease, sexuality, and change.
Two of the plays main characters, Roy Cohn and Prior Walter, fall victim to AIDS, or what was then known as the gay plague. The setting of the show is New York City in the 1980s which was when the AIDS epidemic first began developing. The disease is commonly found in the gay community and people did not know to react. Some people felt like AIDS was a curse given by God to the gays for being homosexual and others were scared. Although both Roy and Prior are diagnosed with AIDS, they each handle the situation differently for a very important reason. Roy unlike Prior is not open about his sexuality. He is a big New York lawyer, and admitting the fact he was gay would bring up problems in his career. He tries to even avoid the fact he has AIDS by telling people he has severe liver cancer. As the play progresses, his sickness get worse and worse until he is rushed to the hospital and Belize tries to help him out by giving advise on AZT. As Roy lays in his hospital bed and reflects on his life and career, he comes to accept that he is sick and dying. His condition is so bad at the end of the novel that he learns the end is near and dies. He realizes that he can no longer keep on living and that this is a key turning point on his voyage. Prior on the other hand is openly gay and the plays protagonist. The audience learns that he is infected by AIDS early on in the play. On top of being infected, he is abandoned by his partner, Louis, and is suddenly thrust with great responsibility from an angel. His feelings towards his disease changes throughout the play. In the beginning he was scared and wanted to die. The love of his life, Louis, also scared, left Prior and he wasnt sure if he could live without him. He is trapped and wants to escape the world. In the play he is visited by an angel who tells him that he is a prophet and must come to heaven to fulfill his needs. He can choose to end his misery with AIDS and go to heaven but he chooses life. He accepts the fact that he is sick and wants to fight off the disease. I want more life. I cant help myself. I do. Ive lived through such terrible times, and there are people who live through much much worse, butYou see them living anyway. In the end of the play Prior does not die of AIDS like Roy did. Prior instead lives on to keep fighting the battle and enjoying the rest of his life. Another great component of Priors character is that he does not take Louis back as his partner but as his friend. This shows that even with the struggling battle of AIDS, Prior has become a very powerful man and shows the audience that he is self-reliant and a new man. Tony Kushner does a wonderful job showing how deadly AIDS can be but that people can also fight through it. Roy and Prior are two great example of how the disease impacts different people and it also shows hope.
The acceptance of sexuality is a huge part of Angels in America. There are five characters in the play that are gay. Roy, Joe, Louis, Prior, and Belize are all examples of homosexual men. When beginning to read the play, the audience learns right away that Belize, Louis, and Prior are gay. Roy is gay but hides it very well because of his self-image and career and Joe is struggling to accept it. Joe is married to Harper and their marriage is one the rocks. Harper is in love with Joe but she senses something is wrong with him. Even when they have sex she discovers that he is somewhat uncomfortable. For a while Joe cant figure out whats wrong either until he meets Louis. He soon discovers that he is gay and is somewhat afraid to admit it. Harper eventually finds out when she has a dream about Joe and is upset. She feels like Joe has fallen out of love with her and she decides she needs to leave him. Although Joe asks Harper to stay with him, he comes to term with his own sexuality. He realizes that he is gay and that he doesnt love Harper in that way. Throughout the play, it is easy to see how struggled Joe is. He is also very hesitant the first time he has sex with Louis. Roy is another character that comes to term with his sexuality even though it isnt as obvious in the play. We figure out that he is gay because when he is diagnosed with AIDS, he tells the doctor a few stories but otherwise no one really knows. Sexuality has a huge role in this play.
Tony Kushner also uses love throughout this play. The best example of love and its acceptance takes place between Louis and Prior at the end of the play. In the beginning Prior is afraid to tell Louis that he has AIDS because he knows that he will leave him. After Louis leaves all Prior wants is him back. They were both in love with each other but Louis was afraid and ran from the problem. After analyzing the situation Louis learns that he is in love with Prior and that even though he is diagnosed with AIDS, he can live with that and wants to support him. Prior on the other hand has moved on and has become a different person. In the end he admits to Louis that he loves him but he cannot take him back. I love you Louis. I really do. But you cant come back. Not ever. Im sorry. But you cant. Its important for Prior to show Louis that he stills cares but he has learned a lot from this experience and needs to be independent. They both learn to respect the love they have for each other in the end but also their friendship. Another example of love is Harper and Joe. Although they are complicated at times there is love. Harper is in love with Joe but she also has sexual desires for him. Joe on the other hand loves her too, very much, but does not lust over her because of his sexuality issue. Because their love for each other grows complicated Joe and Harper have many issues. They fight a lot with each other and in the end Harper has to make the decision to leave. They understand that there is love between them but they are obviously not right for each other so they split up, even against Joes wishes. I dont know what will happen to me without you. Only you. Only you love me. Out of everyone in the world. I have done things, Im ashamed. But I have changed. I dont know how yet, butplease, please dont leave me now. Harper. Youre my good heart. Belize also shows a lot of love in the play. He is a very joyful character and is out there to help his friends. The best part about him is that even though he hates Roy, he accepts him for the way he is and tells him about the AZT. His love is shown to all his friends.
Another very important aspect of acceptance in Angels in America is change. Many of the characters change within the play and come to accept it. Hannah Pitt makes great change in this play. She is Joes mother and a Mormon. When Joe tells his mother in a late night phone call that he thinks he is gay she comes rushing to New York. Mormons are part of a very conservative religion and being gay would be looked down upon. During her stay in New York she meets Prior. Prior gets very sick while he is with her and she is forced to bring him to the hospital. There she learns that he has AIDS and about his encounter with an angel. During the scene in the hospital Hannah actually goes through a sexual encounter with the angel that comes down into the room when they are there. She seems to be very different after this and begins to hang around Prior and his friends. The last scene takes place in Central Park where Hannah, Belize, Louis and Prior are sitting by the fountain. They are all in a heated debate about politics while Prior is talking to the audience. In the scene it is obvious that they four have become good friends and that Hannah has learned to accept people for who they are. Even though she is Mormon, she accepts that her new friends are gay and begins to adapt to the New York City lifestyle. Harper is another character that accepts change. After finding out Joe is gay she realized that she needed to leave him. The only thing she wanted was for him to love her but after she knew she needed change and decided to move away. Joe, though, seems to be the only character in the book who cant except change. In the end of the play he doesnt do anything and was even rejected by Louis. Prior is a major character that experience great change. He goes from a depressed man who wants to kill himself, to a man who demands life and independence. He realizes that his life will never be the same and he accepts this new change. He learns to cope with this new illness and is the strongest character in the book.
In conclusion, Tony Kushner used the theme of acceptance throughout his play. His charcters showed acceptance of love, disease, sickness, and change. Each character experienced a different situation but they all had to go through a specific element of acceptance.