Angels in America

Angels in America

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The Angel of America Character Analysis

The Angel of America is the symbol of all that is fantastic, imaginative, and otherworldly in Angels in America—in other words, most of the play. The Angel—a hermaphrodite, but for the purpose of this summary, a “she”—appears before Prior Walter shortly after Prior is diagnosed with AIDS, suggesting that the Angel may not, in fact, be real, but only a hallucination Prior is experiencing. Nevertheless, as the play continues, the Angel shows up to frequently, and speaks with such a unique voice, that we have no choice but to regard her as a character in the play—independent, complex, and real. It is the Angel who tells Prior that Heaven is in a state of disarray, thanks to God’s preference for human beings. The Angel, jealous of humanity for distracting God from her fellow angels, wants Prior to spread the message “Stop moving” around the world. In other words, she wants to compel human beings to stop being human. While the Angel doesn’t seem to like human beings much, she also seems sympathetic to Prior’s AIDS, and—it’s suggested—saves Prior’s life by blessing him with health and life.

The Angel of America Quotes in Angels in America

The Angels in America quotes below are all either spoken by The Angel of America or refer to The Angel of America . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Theatre Communications Group edition of Angels in America published in 2013.
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 7 Quotes

Greetings Prophet;
The Great Work begins:
The Messenger has arrived.

Related Characters: The Angel of America (speaker), Prior Walter
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the first part of Angels in America, Prior Walter is visited by a mysterious figure, the Angel of America. We still have a lot of questions: why the Angel has come to Earth; why she's visiting Prior specifically; whether the Angel is "real," at least within the world of the play, etc.

In spite of the uncertainties surrounding the Angel's visit, her appearance reinforces the sense of prophecy and hope that's been a guiding theme of the play so far. Many of the play's characters feel a strong sense that something is going to happen, even if they have no idea what. So it's entirely appropriate that the play should end with "something" happening--an angel coming down to Earth, apparently from Heaven--even if we don't know what the angel's message will be.

Furthermore, the angel's presence reminds us of the ambiguity in Kushner's use of dream sequences. At times, dreams represent an escape for the characters; elsewhere, dreams help the characters address the problems of their waking lives with greater clarity and conviction. Which kind of dream is this? Or is it a dream at all? Kushner leaves us to wonder whether the angel is real and what effect it will have on Prior's life--and he also encourages us to feel the same vague sense of anticipation we've felt all along.

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Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Bored with His Angels, Bewitched by Humanity, In Mortifying imitation of You, his least creation, He would sail off on Voyages, no knowing where.

Related Characters: The Angel of America (speaker), Prior Walter
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Angel of America paints a bizarre portrait of the supernatural world. The Angel claims that God created humans long ago, and immediately became enamored with them. Instead of paying attention to his angels, God spent all his time with human beings. The reason that God loved humans better than angels, the Angel claims, is that humans have the power of free will: they can choose who to love, where to go, and how to spend their time. Angels lack free will, and thus simply aren't very interesting.

The Angel's speech to Prior is an early sign that the Angel's message for Prior might not be an entirely friendly one. On the contrary, the Angel seems rather antagonistic to Prior and Prior's species. Thus, the Angel's behavior in this passage challenges some of the naive optimism that the characters felt earlier in the play (as well as the general idea that angels are trustworthy messengers of God--in fact these angels seem to be going behind God's back). Yes, an angel is going to deliver a great message to humanity--but there's no guarantee this message will be good.

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The Angel of America Character Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the character The Angel of America appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 7
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...floor, too weak to stand. Suddenly, he speaks in a woman’s voice, saying that “ the angel ” is coming, bearing the “book of life.” Frightened, Prior covers his own mouth and... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...in, covering Prior with plaster and dust. A beautiful angel flies in, smiling at Prior. The angel greets Prior, calling him a prophet. The angel says, “the great work begins.” (full context)
Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 1
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
The scene fades to Prior’s apartment, where he’s still being greeted by the Angel . The Angel roars that Prior is about to become a great prophet, who will... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 1, Scene 5
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Immediately after seeing the Angel , Prior wakes up in his bed. Prior calls Belize—working late at a hospital—to tell... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 1
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior reminds Belize of his wet dream—i.e., his encounter with the angel . Prior claims that his encounter with the angel was real, and that he’s received... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 2
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...I: it’s a flashback to three weeks before, when Prior had his first encounter with the angel . The Angel tells Prior that she’s the Angel of America: here to make Prior... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
The Angel of America pays no attention to Prior’s complaints. She tells Prior to remove the “sacred implements” from... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
The tiles in Prior’s kitchen break. Prior complains that the Angel is releasing fluorocarbons into the air, which is “bad for the environment.” The Angel dismisses... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
The Angel orders Prior to remove a book from the suitcase. Prior finds a large, shiny book... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Back in Prior’s apartment in the flashback, the Angel of America explains that God has abandoned the angels because of his greater love and... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...Louis onto his “visions.” Just as Prior wants Louis to come back to him, so the Angel of America wants God to return to Heaven. Prior admits that Belize could be right,... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
In the flashback, the Angel tells Prior to spread this prophecy: “Stop moving.” Prior asks the Angel if she wants... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...tells Prior that he’s frightened for Prior: he’s not thinking clearly. Belize also disagrees with the Angel ’s prophecy, noting “Some of us didn’t choose to migrate.” Prior admits that Belize is... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 1
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...night. Prior wakes up to find Hannah sitting next to him. Prior tells Hannah that the Angel of America is nearby. There are loud noises, and suddenly, the ceiling breaks open. Hannah... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Hannah tells Prior to wrestle the Angel and say, “I will not go except thee bless me.” The Angel and Prior wrestle... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
After Prior has climbed the ladder, the Angel of America turns to Hannah. Although Hannah is visibly frightened, the Angel begins to kiss... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 2
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...brightly colored robes, has climbed the ladder. Heaven looks a lot like San Francisco, as the Angel has suggested previously, but it’s San Francisco immediately after the 1906 earthquake, with decayed buildings... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Suddenly, the scenery fades—Prior is standing in a large room, facing the Angel of America, who greets him as a prophet. (full context)
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 5
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Suddenly, Prior appears, accompanied by the Angel of America. The Angel of America announces that she’s brought “the prophet” with her. Prior... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior explains that God is never coming back, either to Earth or to the angel s. God would never dare to show his face on Earth after all the suffering... (full context)
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior tells the angel s that he wants to be healthy again. He begs the angels to prevent mankind... (full context)