Harper sits on a plane. She says to herself, “Night flight to San Francisco—it’s been years since I was one a plane.” She talks about flying through the atmosphere, just below the ozone layer, which has been torn by modern industry. She remembers a flight she took years ago, during which she saw the souls of the dead, rising to Heaven.
Harper initially seemed like the most pathetic character in the play—a pill-popping housewife. Here, however, she gets the closest thing in the play to a happy ending: she’s off on a glorious quest to San Francisco. The future holds a lot of danger and uncertainty for her, but Kushner presents this as a good thing.
Harper talks about the “painful progress” of life on Earth. All humans have to learn how to savor their sense of longing for what lies ahead.
“Painful progress” might as well be the title of this play. Humans aspire to a constant state of change, even when the change is painful and dangerous. This state of change is the essence of the human condition.