Angels in America

Angels in America

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Angels in America Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The scene opens in a strange room, filled with mannequins and dioramas portraying a family traveling in a covered wagon. A sign announces that this is the Diorama Room of the Mormon Visitors’ Center, where Hannah volunteers. Harper sits in the room, eating candy and junk food. (The audience notices that one of the mannequins in the diorama is really Joe).
Harper has regressed to a juvenile state of mind, as evidenced by her consumption of junk food. And yet she seems to be thinking of her husband at all times, showing that she hasn’t entirely lost touch with her old life (we can surmise that the mannequin that looks like Joe is one of her hallucinations).
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Hannah and Prior enter the scene together. Hannah goes to start the diorama (a moving theater piece). A tape plays, welcoming visitors to the Mormon Visitors’ Center. Suddenly, the tape speeds up, and Harper notes that they’ve been having trouble with the tape lately. Harper nonchalantly offers Prior some food, and asks him if they’ve met before. Prior says no, hesitantly. (He doesn’t quite recognize Harper from his dream in Part One). Harper points out the mannequin and notes that it looks like Joe, her husband.
This scene suggests that the hallucination in which Harper met Prior was actually “real” on some level—even if Prior can’t quite remember it, both he and Harper seem to have had some kind of shared experience. The diorama (not the kind of shoebox project we make in elementary school, but a moving theater piece) is also a “meta” sort of reference to the play itself.
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior tells Harper that he’s come here to conduct research on angels, since he’s just had a dream about one crashing into his apartment. As he says this, he notices that Harper looks familiar to him.
Prior continues to fret over the significance of the Angel’s prophecy. But unlike other prophets, he doesn’t just ask a “wise man” for help—he tries to conduct his own research.
Themes
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The diorama proceeds, with the mannequin people “performing” a play about the Mormons’ journey across the country: there’s a Mormon Father, a Mormon Mother, a Mormon Son, and a Mormon Daughter. The mannequin that resembles Joe tells his “family” to be strong and courageous as they wander across America toward Zion. Harper laughs and says that the Mormons will probably die on their trip. She also notes that none of the female mannequins “speak”—only the father and son have lines.
Harper’s commentary on the Mormon diorama is an odd combination of cynicism and insight. She’s clearly bitter about Joe being gay, and she projects her bitterness onto the diorama. And yet she also has a keen eye for latent sexism in the Mormon religion, and therefore notices right away that the women in the diorama are put in passive positions, while the men represent the “action.” (This could also be another self-commentary on the play, in which all the protagonists are men, and only the male “gay community” is represented).
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
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The scene fades, so that we can still see Prior and Harper looking at the stage. On the stage, however, we see Louis and Joe, arguing about Mormonism. Louis asks Joe how it’s possible for Mormons to live in a pluralistic democratic society.
Louis is still trying to come to terms with Joe’s religious and political identity, particularly since his ideologies seem to deny the value of Louis’s own identity.
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior is astounded to see Louis in the diorama, but Harper calmly tells him that Louis is always there. Prior calls Louis’s name, and Louis hears Prior’s voice, but says that he can’t see Prior anywhere. Louis tells Joe that he needs to tell Joe about something. Prior weeps as he watches all this.
This is another “shared dream,” in which the characters interact across the barriers of space and time. It’s important to note that these shared dreams usually take place when the characters have an important truth that they need to communicate, but can’t find the courage to express.
Themes
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Hannah bursts into the room, and the lighting changes again—the diorama looks normal, and a regular mannequin has replaced Joe. Hannah criticizes Harper for being obnoxious, and suggests that Prior leave the room while she repairs the diorama. Prior suggests that he’s seen Harper before. Harper tells Prior that he looks sick—he should go to bed. Prior tells her that he’s afraid of dying in bed, but then he leaves.
Prior and Harper come painfully close to recognizing each other in real life, but they don't. This suggests that there’s a limit to the connection and efficacy of these “shared dreams.” Although the characters may attain a kind of enlightenment in their dreams, they can’t always bring this back to their waking lives.
Themes
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Harper stands alone in the diorama room. She turns to the mannequin of the Mormon Mother, and asks it to talk. The mannequin comes to life and tells Harper to follow her. She escorts Harper off the stage.
In contrast to the male-dominated “real” diorama, Harper only hallucinates the Mormon Mother coming to life—the male characters remain passive.
Themes
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon