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Written by Nicola Francisc
The play is set in a time in America when the general population had many misconceptions about homosexuality. Because of this, the image associated with a gay person is that of a man without power, a man who is submissive, has no qualities and is worthless. It seems that being labeled as a gay person or as someone having AIDS was the worst thing that could happen and this idea is highlighted by Roy when he first receives the news that he has AIDS and thus can’t deny the fact that he is homosexual. The image the general population had about gay people was a negative one and it could easily destroy a person. The image of the ostracized homosexual only grows as the play progresses to the point where it almost seems as if a gay person is a martyr.
The tapestry represents an important image in the play linked with Prior. The tapestry represents the noble and stable lineage Prior has. It is hinted in the play that his money comes from a trust fund and that he doesn’t work much. Prior’s family is a noble one and the name has been passed from father to son from generation to generation. The family lineage will end however with prior. Firstly, Prior is gay and thus he has no chance of conceiving a male heir with his partner. On the other hand, the fact that he has AIDS will more likely stop him from trying to have children with a woman. The image of the tapestry is a important one because it makes reference to the end of Prior’s family, Prior representing the breaking of the thread.
For some characters in the play, the quest for freedom becomes their sole purpose in life. While at first freedom is presented as an ideal, something exclusively good, the image the characters have about freedom changes rapidly. Freedom is then perceived as a ruthless person, cold and unforgiving. The idea of freedom is thrilling and even though the characters know the cost, they still chose to pursue freedom because otherwise the state of stasis will eventually lead to their symbolic death.
The image of the angel that appears at the end of the first part of the play is the image around which the play is centered. Until that point, the presence of the angel is hinted by the recurrence of noises that make Prior think about birds and wings and by the voices he hears. In the last scene of the first part however, the angel appears visually before Prior and thus the play reaches its climax. The presence of the angel is more than just an image, having a symbolic meaning as well.
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