Similar Relationships

The play Angels in America and the novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit share certain thematic and idiocentric similarities. Such character similarities include the relationship between Ethel Rosenberg and Roy, in Angels in America, and Jeanette and her Mother, in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. These relationships personify internal struggles of Roy and Jeanette. Mother and Ethel both make the internal concepts of Roy and Jeanette external, all the while trying to rid them of their demons.

Despite their similarities however a significant difference develops between these two relationships. Although both Mother and Ethel embody internalized emotions of Jeanette and Roy, Ethel and Mother present these aspects differently. In Act 3 Scene 5 Roy lays in his hospital bed and sees the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. In this scene Ethel acts as the embodiment of Roy’s pain, weather it’s his AIDs, his homosexuality, the murder of Ethel herself, or his self-hatred. While seeking forgiveness, Ethel refuses to sympathize with Roy, laughing at him and claiming he is “a very sick man” (118).  The forgiveness Ethel denies him, symbolizes Roy inability to forgive himself. Within this, Ethel tries to kill Roy, punishing him for all the harm that she claims he has done, persecuting him for his inner demons and making sure that he is aware of them.

In Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit Mother yearns to save Jeanette, not kill away her demons. Mother uses religion and the bible to try to save Jeanette. Mother believes that making Jeanette a good Christian girl will save her from her sexual desires and internal struggles. While Mother seeks to change who Jeanette chooses to be, readers feel sympathetic for Jeanette, a feeling we may not get for Roy.

This subtle difference, within a seemingly obvious similarity between Roy and Ethel and Mother and Jeanette, is significant to understanding these two pieces of text as a whole. Both of these texts mirror society at the time that they were written, specifically through the relationships of these four characters. Each relationship is a version of how we oppresses and dealt with LGBTQ individuals at certain times. During late 19th century America, our society persecuted gays and aligned them closely to the HIV/AIDs crisis, just like Ethel does to Roy.  In the 80s and 90s, within an English Pentecostal community, society tried to use the bible to save homosexuals from their “behavior,” just like Mother attempts to do with Jeanette.