Joe Pitt and the Homosexual Experience

In the play, “Angels in America,” by Tony Kushner, Joe Pitt is used by Kushner as a device to represent the closeted homosexual experience during the AIDS epidemic. Joe Pitt is an aspiring lawyer who is mentored by Roy Cohn, who is one of the main characters and is a staunch conservative lawyer. Joe is a man married to a woman named Harper, however he comes to the realization that he is homosexual. This realization, which had been suppressed by internalized homophobia, completely uproots his life. His wife leaves him, and his mom completely invalidates his feelings when he comes out to her. Within their discussion, Joe laughs at himself and apologizes for making things awkward, despite just telling his mom that he is homosexual (Kushner 77). His mother then tells Joe that he is being ridiculous, a response that resonates with homosexual individuals that struggle for acceptance.

This conversation with his mother is also representative of the homosexual struggle with religion, whether it be one’s own religion or someone else’s. Kushner uses religion as a common theme throughout the play, and this scene is no different. Homosexuality, especially during the AIDS epidemic, is characterized as being rejected by religion and sometimes weaponized by these religions. Joe and his family are Jewish, and his mother uses this religion as a way to berate Joe within their phone call. She states, “Within their conversation, his mother states, “No more talk. Tonight. This… (suddenly very angry) Drinking is a sin! A sin! I raised you better than that” (Kushner 79). Kushner uses their religion as a symbol of homophobia in this scene, with Joe’s mother as well as Joe’s internalized homophobia both playing a role. Overall, Joe Pitt is a character that Kushner uses to represent the homosexual experience in the AIDS epidemic.

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