Tony Kushner’s, Angels in America, tells the story of people who struggle with dealing with the AIDS virus that ravages the queer community at first. The lack of support and attention for this epidemic led to the loss of many lives and these fictional accounts share a glimpse of the difficulties that followed the neglect. An unexpected pair share an intimate moment between Prior and Hannah who come from opposite ends of beliefs and upbringings. Prior, a gay man, who is suffering from the effects of being diagnosed with AIDS, and Hannah the mother of Joe, a closeted gay man, who is a Mormon from Utah. After an attempted confrontation with Joe and an ensuing panic attack from his health complications, Hannah assists Prior to the hospital despite her hesitations.
In Act 4, scene 8 sets the scene in an examination room at the hospital. Emily, who is Prior’s nurse-practitioner, is critiquing Prior for over-exerting himself causing him to worsen his health and lose weight. Kushner utilizes capital letters to emphasize Prior’s tone and carry gravity to his panic and anger after dealing with this virus for so long. Kushner also uses the hyphen-minus to demonstrate how Prior cuts off Hannah whenever she speaks to get the genuine answer to his question of whether she thinks he seems insane? Irritability and lack of patience seem to be a given when in a state of mental and physical fragility. The trials following this virus do not only affect the physical aspect but also the mental state especially after Louis left Prior by himself.
Luckily, at this moment, he is accompanied by Hannah who is very patient with him despite his attitude and insults towards her son. Prior says he has “been driven insane by… your son,” alluding to him as a home-wrecker after discovering of the affairs Louis and Joe had (Kushner, 239). The ellipsis may refer to his continuous train of thought that is never-ending which leads to jumping from thought to thought after arguing with Emily. Another hint at his passive-aggressive comments was when he introduced Hannah as his “ex-lover’s lover’s Mormon mother” (Kushner, 238). By mentioning that she is Mormon this may connect to his dislike for Joe even more since he is a closeted-gay, republican, and Mormon; all aspects of a typical, cisgender, straight male that may be homophobic. After Prior shows Hannah his lesions in a moment of distress an interesting comment was made by Hannah. She refers to Prior’s AIDS virus as cancer, “Nothing more. Nothing more human than that,” which can imply her difficulties with understanding the queer community (Kushner, 241).
One thought on “The gay man and the Mormon”
Hi there! I loved your exploration of Prior and Hannah’s relationship, specifically how it started. I would like to add on by discussing where we see them by the end of the play in the Epilogue. We talked in class about how Roy, Louis and Joe didn’t have the happy (or redeeming) endings that we expected them to, but Hannah, a Mormon woman from Utah, also didn’t receive the expected ending but in the opposite way – she was able to redeem herself by accepting and befriending gay men despite her religion. I think it’s because Prior’s illness makes her understand that there’s “Nothing more human than that.” In other words, Prior’s being gay doesn’t make him any less human than Hannah’s being a Mormon does.
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