Angels in America Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Angels in America Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Supernatural elements

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 Prior is her hallucination and Prior believes that Harper is just a fictive person that appeared in his dream. This proves to be inaccurate as both Harper and Joe reveal details about themselves that the other person couldn’t have possibly known. Most supernatural elements are linked with Prior and other characters like Harper who have some type of health problem thus highlighting the idea that normal people who obey the social rules can’t get in touch with what is beyond our world.

Preparation for a great work

After Prior is diagnosed with AIDS, he begins to hear voices talking to him. When that happens, he always hears a voice telling him to be prepared to perform a great work. The great work that Prior must do becomes a recurrent motif in the play and its real meaning is explained later on in the play.


The quest for freedom is another recurrent motif in the play. The idea of freedom is associated with Joe and Louis, both characters suppressed in one way or another. Joe is the prisoner of a loveless marriage, an unforgiving society and he is also a prisoner to his own principles. Because of this, he feels the need to escape and thus the idea of freedom begins to take shape into his mind. From that point, Joe will focus on ways to feels free and will discover that freedom is not what he thought it would be.


For Sister Ella, traveling is a symbol for freedom and for evil. Ella rejects the idea of freedom and thinks that traveling leads to evil. She thinks that a person who always travels is more exposed to dangers and sees the place where she lives as being a safe haven. Because of this, she tries to persuade Harper to remain in Salt Lake.


The scene in of the first part of the play has a symbolic meaning that was slowly built up from the first scene. The moment when the angel appears before Prior, it not characterized by peace and quietness but rather by destruction and turmoil. The angel’s entrance represents the destruction the relationship that existed at the beginning of the play namely Louis and Prior’s relationship and Joe and Harper’s relationship. But the angel’s entrance also offers a little bit of hope and foreshadows the relationships that will be built again in the second part of the play.

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