Angels in America

Angels in America

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The “Book of Life” Symbol Analysis

The “Book of Life” Symbol Icon

When the Angel of America visits Prior Martin, she gives him a heavy metal book containing a prophecy—the “Book of Life.” As the play goes on, Prior learns that the prophecy he’s been instructed to spread concerns the fate of mankind: to “stop moving” and die. The weight and austerity of the Angel’s book symbolizes the severity of Prior’s prophecy—a prophecy that, understandably, he’s reluctant to disseminate. It’s also darkly ironic that the “Book of Life” is actually about the opposite of life—death.

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The “Book of Life” Symbol Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the symbol The “Book of Life” appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, 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
...has no immune system. As Emily talks, Prior hallucinates the appearance of an enormous, flaming book bearing the Hebrew “aleph” symbol. Emily can’t see it. Confused, Prior rushes out of the... (full context)
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
...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 says that he’s talking nonsense. (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
...claims that his encounter with the angel was real, and that he’s received a physical book, containing a glorious prophecy. The book has disappeared, Prior admits, but it’s still inside him. (full context)
Perestroika: Act 2, 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
The Angel orders Prior to remove a book from the suitcase. Prior finds a large, shiny book that appears to be made from... (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
...of America announces that she’s brought “the prophet” with her. Prior is carrying a heavy book—the same book he found in the leather suitcase. Prior shows the angels his book, and... (full context)