Angels in America

Angels in America

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Angels in America Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Joe sits in his apartment late at night. He calls Harper on the phone, but doesn’t get an answer. Suddenly, Roy Cohn walks into the room, wearing black. Calmly, Cohn tells Joe that he’s died.
Cohn is the first major character in the play to die of AIDS—he’s something of a guinea pig for the other characters.
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Joe angrily attacks Cohn for lying about his AIDS. Cohn shrugs and brings up the fact that Joe recently “beat somebody up.” He suggests to Joe that Joe’s victim deserved his beating. Joe begins to weep, and says that he’ll never see Louis again. Joe orders Cohn to leave him. Before Cohn goes, he kisses Joe on the mouth, very gently. Cohn disappears.
Cohn’s bitterness and ruthlessness are laid bare in this scene. As we’d already seen, Cohn enjoys it when the people around him imitate his own cruelty and bullying manner—thus, Cohn is pleased when Joe beats up Louis. Cohn’s kiss for Joe suggests that Cohn has been unable to censor his own homosexual urges. Cohn’s kiss is remarkably tender and intimate—something strange for such a brutal character, but also disarmingly human.
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
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Harper enters the apartment. Joe is amazed to see that his wife has come back. He asks where she’s been, and she says that she was in Heaven.
Harper seems to remember her dream more clearly than she has before—this suggests that the real and spiritual worlds of the play are moving closer together.
Themes
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon