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Angels in America - Love and Justice

Essay by review  •  January 2, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,707 Words (7 Pages)  •  967 Views

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Angels in America

Love and Justice

Context

In 1992, American playwright Tony Kushner first commissioned and performed the award-winning, two-part play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Kushner developed the play to work synonymously with whom actors play two or more roles. Following the mass success of the theatre, Kushner was approached by Mike Nichols to adapt Angels in America to an HBO miniseries, where each "chapter" was allocated into one-hour segments for television.

The story of Angels in America focuses on the troubled and seemingly overt parallel lives of two couples, one gay and the other straight during the mid 1980's in New York City at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The eventual fate of both couples become intertwined and revered as the faceted meanings of homosexuality, religion, politics and AIDS collide to find a common ground. Throughout the story, the characters develop the theme for love and justice, and learn what it means to forgive and care for each other when they are needed most from their loved ones. This in-depth depiction of betrayal and asking for one's forgiveness, known limitations and finding room for personal growth and change is the backbone of Angels in America.

Comparing and Contrasting Figures

The characters from Angels in America are contrasted from vast differences among nationality, race, religion and sexual preference. These differences show the sense of community, or lack-thereof, portraying the national image of humanity to change. Out of all the characters in the play, Belize, being the most ethical and self-balanced, has always come to the calling of the other characters throughout the story. Towards the end of the play, Belize calls upon Louis to recite the prayer of the dead (a Jewish recital in Hebrew), where he states at Roy Cohn's deathbed "It isn't easy, it doesn't count if it's easy, it's the hardest thing. Forgiveness. Which is maybe where love and justice finally meet. Peace, at last. Isn't that what the Kaddish asks for?" This particular passage in the story can be compared in some sense to every character. The inevitable questions that arise from love and justice, upon abandonment of loved ones or knowing how to care for others is a key factor in building on forgiveness.

The character Prior Walter, whom is introduced to us in the beginning, is our main sufferer, our protagonist. His boyfriend, Louis, a neurotic and self-centered Jew, abandons him after knowing he has contracted HIV (AIDS) early in the story and shows general strength and willpower that he is strong but dying. After being sent to the hospital, Prior gains a power and authority beyond everyone else's capabilities. This power was invested in him through the work of an angel visiting from heaven. Prior is visited by this angel numerous times and is entitled as a Prophet for humanity.

On another parallel of the story, Harper and Joe Pitt are inescapably stuck in a failing marriage. Harper, Joe's wife, is introduced to us as a valium-addicted agoraphobic, who never leaves the house and imagines that she is visited by numerous characters that help her escape reality. These hallucinations of traveling to different places are what help Harper deal with the fact of believing her husband, Joe, is probably homosexual. Through one of these valium-induced dreams, she counter-collides with Prior, whom they share "revelations" about each other. It is after this encounter that Harper finds out that her husband is gay, and slowly but willfully takes her destiny into her own hands.

These two characters, Prior and Harper, both command a similar plot outline throughout the story. In the beginning, when Prior and Harper both seemingly find themselves in the same dream, Harper's visage explains to Prior about finding themselves through the hallucination, by use of understanding un-truthfulness... that "Nothing unknown is knowable". It is through this that Harper discovers that Prior is "really sick" without Prior telling her directly. Prior, shocked by this, looks at Harper and finds that she is "amazingly unhappy" and that "your husband is a homo". Harper once again looks into Priors eyes and finds that an innermost part of him is not sick and "entirely free of disease". This exchange of information curtails the rest of the story on a parallel curve of events. This is what starts Harper into believing that her husband is gay, and Prior into knowing he has to keep on living.

After this self-induced dream hallucination, Harper finds herself back in her apartment with Joe. Harper finally confronts Joe about where he goes at night and demands to know if he is a homosexual. This confrontation leads to lies, as Joe responds "no" and Harper leads Joe to believe that she is pregnant (when she really isn't), settling on that they now "both have a secret". Concurrently, Prior and Louis, also lay in bed with Prior explaining his personal vision of the afterlife. Louis knows that Prior has contracted AIDS, but is struggling with the terms of if there is justice in life... where the weighing of life that matters, and not the verdict. It is at this point where Louis asks Prior if he would loath him if he walked out on him, abandoning him in this great time of need. Prior soundly says yes.

Both of these characters share a similar plot alone, but are joined through the rest of the cast through the element of life and fantasy. Harper eventually admits to Joe that she is not sure if she is going to have a baby, tying Joe to believe that she is in despair, and tells him to move to Washington without her. This eludes Joe to knowing that Harper is going to leave him at some point. Similarly, Prior has his accident that sends him to the hospital where Belize works at. Louis confers with the nurse, Emily, about Priors family history, while Emily is condoling Louis's fear of Prior's weakness and companionship. Louis leaves the hospital marking the start of the abandonment.

At this point in the story, both couples have initiated what deems abandonment by their lovers when they were needed

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