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Written by Nicola Francisc
The play Angels in Americahas as its central theme homosexuality. The main male characters are all homosexuals and the play offers a glimpse into the life of the homosexuals in America during the 1980s. The play focuses on the social stigma the homosexuals had to suffer and on the opinion the others had about homosexuals. It also offers an accurate image on how homosexuals were perceived by the others, and even by those inside their own community. The general idea about homosexuals was that gay men could not be considered as being men in the real sense because they had no power and were marginalized. This happened even more if a person was diagnosed with AIDS and if those around him knew about it.
In the play, every character has a fixed identity. Every character knows its ancestry and belongs is a member of a religious group or has a political affiliation. Despite this sense that every character belongs somewhere, the characters presented in the play struggle to accept who they really are. For example, Joe identifies himself as being a Mormon and having a high morality. When he realizes that he is attracted by men, which goes against the belief system of the Mormon religion, Joe is put in the tough position of denying his desires or following them. Until he decides what path to follow, Joe struggles with his identity, feeling that he should behave in a certain way but knowing that it will go against what he thought to be right or wrong until that point.
The Angel’s appearance is closely related with the population’s migration. The Angel claims that man’s migration instinct created chaos in Heaven which prompted God to leave and abandoned his creations. The Angel of America tries to convince Prior to be prophet and to stop those living on earth from migrating, hoping that it will bring God back. The Angel’s point of view regarding moving from one place to another is shared by a few characters in the book. For them, moving and traveling is evil and should be avoided if possible. For them, staying in one familiar place means happiness and safety. But this doesn’t apply to the rest of the characters who discovered that they are not happier only because they stayed in the same place. In fact, many characters become miserable as a result of the stasis they were trapped in. This idea also has a symbolic meaning and is an allusion to the way the American society should react to changes that will inevitably happen. Through his play, the author tries to transmit the message that change is inevitably and it will happen even though the society will try to stop it. In the light of this idea, society should not try and live in an ideal past, but rather adapt to the ever-changing present.
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A recurrent motif in the play is the presence of supernatural phenomenon and supernatural beings. For example, Harper and Prior met in a dream while they both think that the other person is a fragment of their imagination: Harper believes that...