Struggle is a common factor in The Angels in America, whether it comes in the form of being a minority, power struggles or even a disease crisis. Throughout this play, there are funerals, broken relationships, identity struggles and dealing with certain death. The play covers the personal lives of multiple characters that have vastly different views and ways of life but is all connected through different aspects of every person’s life and journey as they progress.
The important factor of this play is the time it’s based in, the 80s was difficult for many minorities that differed from the “social norm” or religion. The 80s was a time when unless you were straight, white, and male you didn’t have power or respect in the workplace, so when someone from the queer community had to live in that society how can they feel accepted. The AIDs epidemic was a thing of mass panic, a disease that at the time felt like it could end the world; But who did the media blame it on, the already hated gay community. AIDs was portrayed as a disease that only was spread in the gay community and not what it really was and could be spread by anyone. Joe is a character that struggles with religion and his place in the world, as a devoted Christian he later finds out that he himself is homosexual and he consistently struggles with what side he must take. In act 2 scene 8 Joe calls his mother Hannah to tell her he is gay and asks if his father loves him and rather than respond she just says, “Don’t be ridiculous”. It’s easy to see where his families priorities are and that the religious life doesn’t accept the idea of homosexuality and if Joe himself is homophobic he would lose his family.
3 thoughts on “Religion and sexuality”
The struggles that the characters of this play face and that you mentioned in your post made me think about the campy scene in which Prior is wrestling with the Angel. As we noticed in class, he was literally “wrestling with God”, which means that he was trying to understand what His Word was telling him or even struggling with their own acceptance of being sick of AIDS. This is very revealing because at the end all the characters experience some kind of realization that comes from that struggle.
I agree that characters have perspective on their own identities after their struggles with religion. I think it’s also worthy to note that the play is put into the lens of religion from the first scene with the rabbi. In the first scene while referencing the woman that died, the Rabbi says, “She preferred silence. So I do not know her and yet I know her” (Kushner 10). This parallels how characters feel towards each other, like @shanksca touches on, the cycle of struggle is what acts as glue for the play, connecting the characters through death and their perceptions of it.
I love that you brought up religion within this play. I think the way Angels in America brings faith into conversation is so interesting as a whole. The quote that always sticks out to me is when Harper says, “In my religion we don’t believe in homosexuals” to which Prior responds, “In my religion we don’t believe in Mormons.” While this is a funny exchange it also says a lot about what the author might consider faith. It shows that faith at least in the author’s view is based very much in community, as prior brings up by comparing the gay community to the Mormon church.
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