Angels in America Literary Elements

Angels in America Literary Elements





Setting and Context

New York City, Salt Lake City and Elsewhere, 1985–1986

Narrator and Point of View

Being a play, there is no narrator in the real sense. The only time when the narrator intervenes is when he gives certain information about the place where the characters are placed on the stage and when he offers details about the characters and setting. Apart from those times, the point of view is that of the characters that appear in the play who present the action from a first person point of view.

Tone and Mood

Violent, tragic, regretful, ironic

Protagonist and Antagonist

Roy, Harper and Louis can be considered as being antagonists while Joe and Prior are protagonists.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between Prior and Louis, conflict fueled by Prior’s illness.


The play reaches its climax at the end of the first part of the play when the Angel appears for the first time before Prior.


The scene when Prior tells his lover that he has AIDS foreshadows the destruction of their relationship.


In the beginning of the play, the Rabbi tells about Sarah that she had taken a great journey and those kinds of journeys don’t happen anymore in the present day. The statement is an understatement as the play presents many such journeys taken by different characters.


In the second part of the play, Harper goes to a show help at the Mormon Visitor’s Center. The play features puppets instead of actual people and it tells the story of a Mormon family moving from one place to another. What is interesting in the play is the manner in which the Mormon mother is presented. Compared with the Mormon Father, the Mother doesn’t move at all. The Mother and the Daughter in the play have no voice and are presented as being obedient and cheerful. The image created through the Mother has the purpose of presenting the rigid hierarchy inside the Mormon families. Woman has no voice and could not influence their husband’s decisions whatsoever. They are puppets that can’t move and are forced to live in an oppressive environment. By allowing the Mother to speak, the writer grants in a symbolic manner, the right to speak to all the women who were forced to remain silent.


In a few instances in the play, Roy is imagined as being a paternal figure for Joe. Because there are no references made towards the existence of a father in Joe’s case, Roy takes over in a symbolic way. While there are undeniably moments when the manifestations of affection between Joe and Roy have a sexual undertone, most of the time Roy treats Joe as his son. This is most obvious in the scene when Joe visits Roy in the hospital and tells him that he moved in with a man. Then, Roy behaves more than ever like a father, urging Joe to stop seeing the other man and manifesting his affection by touching his head in a fatherly manner.


Roy’s opinion about Ethel Rosenberg is presented as being a paradox. Roy despises Ethel and he even makes racist references about the fact that she was a Jew. His point of view is paradox because he judges her because she is a Jew while forgetting that he is also one. For Roy, Ethel Rosenberg represents his own marginalization from the American community because of his origin and this, instead of making him feel close to her, makes him hate her and resent her.


In the third act in the first part of the play, the writer drew a parallel between his and Prior’s relationship and a fictional relationship between a woman named Margaret and her slave that appears in a novel. Just like Margaret and the slave she loves can never be together because they come from different backgrounds that will eventually tear their relationship apart, Louis and Prior’s relationship is destroyed by AIDS and by the prejudices people had about AIDS, even inside the gay community. Both couples believed their love is stronger than the society they live in but they are unfortunately wrong.


Imagination can't create anything new, can it? It only recycles bits and pieces from the world and reassembles them into visions.

Use of Dramatic Devices

The writer uses dramatic devices in order to offer background information about the characters in the play. Through those comments, the reader understands better the actions of the characters. The writer also uses dramatic devices to describe the scenes, how the characters are placed on stage and how they interact with one another.

This section is currently locked

Someone from the community is currently working feverishly to complete this section of the study guide. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t be long.