The Many Prior Walters

In Act Three, Scene One of Millennium Approaches, two predecessors of Prior show up at his bedside. One claims to be Prior Walter the first, and the other is Prior Walter the 17th. This confusing but telling scene alludes to the many Priors that have lived throughout the years, showing the apparent strength of the family bloodline. However powerful this bloodline, however, there is a certain expendability that one may associate with the name Prior Walter. Because there have been so many, it makes each Prior that follows seem less and less significant and just another prior Walter. In addition to the inevitability of the existence of a Prior at any point in time, the death of each Prior is inevitable as well. Whatever the “pestilence” of the time, the Prior of that time will fall ill to it (Kushner 92). For Prior the First, it seemingly was the Black Death, and for this current version of Prior, the pestilence of course is AIDS. This speaks to a larger theme of the play, which is the inevitability of death.

This play is encompassed in death. Because it is so persistent in this text, Kushner must resort to camp to make the play seem less dark – in this particular scene, Prior is already pretty close to dying, but the campiness of having Prior the first and Prior the 17th there makes the theme of death easier to digest. It is also important to note that Prior will not reproduce and therefore he won’t be continuing the family bloodline, an extremely tragic fact that is covered up by the campiness of this particular passage.

This speaks to the many roles that “camp” can play in a text – it typically is used to allude to a common critique of society and does not really take a side. However, in this situation, “camp” alleviates us and makes the large pill of death that is ever-present in this play easier to swallow.

3 thoughts on “The Many Prior Walters”

  1. We see camp play a role in many of novels! In Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, camp is also used to make the novel more easy to read. For example, the various fairytales Jeanette makes up are very campy. Also in the new novel we are reading, Boy Meets Boy, there is a lot of camp shown in the characters. It is interesting because all three novels have camp but show different ways to represent it. From what I read, in Boy Meets Boy, camp is presented in the representation of the characters (especially Infinite Darleen). Angles in America presents many camp moments in the crazy visions while Oranges are Not the Only Fruit presents camp in Jeanette’s fairytales.

  2. I like the connection between the Prior’s and camp, it is a particular point to be made. However, is it possible to argue that the Priors’ are more campy then camp? The prior’s, I agree, are symbolic in the aspect of the patriarchal bloodline but they also represent an acceptance, a peace for Prior, in my opinion. This separation of time does not pit these Priors against one another, it simply shows that once Prior passes he will be joined by his predecessors – a legacy.

  3. The message of death being inevitable and there being a death in the bloodline of Priors in clear. There can be a longer explanation of how camp plays a role in this scene because it remains confusing on how the text relates, especially if one was not 100% sure on what camp culture is. There also seems to be a theme around death and you can explain more on why AIDS is so close related to death and homosexuals. You can also reach to societal expectations being failed because he can not continue the bloodline which then to his family signifies failure because a man without children may be looked down upon.

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