Denial

Whether it is denial about sickness, sexuality, or reality itself; nearly every character in Angels in America experiences denial at some point during the play. In the first act of Millennium Approaches, we see Joe in denial about his sexuality, claiming that as long as he doesn’t act on his homosexuality it wont be a problem in the eyes of the Mormon church. Joe’s denial about his sexuality, though he addresses it in later scenes, is brought to the surface by both his wife Harper and Prior, a man he has never met. Although Harper is also Mormon, she doesn’t seem to have the same moral problems with her husband being gay but it does aid in showing the audience her denial about reality. Harper has constant thoughts about leaving for Antarctica where she believes she can have a new life. She eventually gets to experience this in what is a reality for her only to realize she had never left New York. We see Harper’s denial be challenged in ways she has not experienced before, just as we did Joe’s. 

Louis has a different experience with denial, he believes his boyfriend is dying and rather than face what is happening he is in denial about his emotions. He attempts to cover these fears by leaving Prior and finding solace in others. Towards the end of the reading we have done so far, Louis realizes that he wants to be back with Prior, but it has taken him so long to get over the denial of his emotions around Prior’s sickness that there has been significant change in both circumstances. Prior’s denial is closer to that of Harpers, he questions his sanity because of his visits from the angel. He is not sure if what he sees and hears is real or if it is his sickness getting to his head and creating delusions. The development of each character in either the progression or overturning of their denial brings their stories closer, giving the audience a way of connecting each storyline and personality.

4 thoughts on “Denial”

  1. I really like the focus you chose for this blog post because, as you point out through your analysis, denial is often a factor in exploring its own sexuality and/or queerness. Denial is connected to the missing acceptance of queerness in society which reminds me of Saeed Jones who gave other queer peoples stories a voice in his poems, but it took him a while to talk about himself and his own experience. It indicates that he was not ready to share that side of him yet, probably due to denying his sexuality and the ongoing homophobia in society especially in the South were Jones lived.

  2. I did not think about this theme until I read your post and it makes perfect sense! I couldn’t help missing Roy in your analysis, who is a character that seems to be in constant denial along the whole play. As we saw in class, Joe reveals in all their conversations that he is a sweet and sensitive man, fact that makes Roy angry, calling him “sissy”. However, we see in him tiny details that lead us to think that he is in denial regarding his own identity and personality, such us him making fun of the queer community but showing that he is suspiciously aware and well-informed of this culture as well..

  3. You are correct about the theme of denial in this play being something that transcends all the characters and one other character who also shows this is Roy Cohn. He shares a similar denial in the aspect of Joe but the way he presents it is very different. Another person who responded to this post had the same thought, but they hinted at something that I wanted to flesh out a bit more which was Roy himself being a homosexual. As the other commenter points out Roy seems to know a lot about gay culture, and hints of that are evident within the play, but I wanted to bring to the spotlight a very curial moment that happens after the audience finds out that Roy has Aids where Roy says that he is “a heterosexual man…who fucks around with guys” (Kushner 47). This is an extremely obvious example of how blatant his denial is. While Joe tries to suppress his sexuality in a way Roy embraces at least some of his sexuality by having sexual relations with men but he denies the label of being called a homosexual and him doing these acts behind closed doors while presenting something else is where his true denial lies.

  4. I agree that denial seems to be a significant theme in the play. We also see this portrayed in Roy’s case where he denies that he is a homosexual because he believes they are people with no power or clout. However, it is interesting to see that everyone surrounding these characters seem to be able to look right through the other’s facade and denial to see the truth that lies beneath, even if they have never met.

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