Angels in America

Angels in America

Angels in America Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the hospital, Belize wakes up Roy Cohn so that he can take his pills. Cohn cusses out Belize with ethnic slurs. Belize only replies, “You’re flying”—Cohn has been prescribed a large dose of morphine. Cohn asks Belize, “What’s the afterlife like?” and Belize replies, “Hell or Heaven?” When Cohn doesn’t answer, Belize tells him that the Afterlife looks a lot like San Francisco. There’s a gritty wind and a sky “full of ravens.” There are piles of trash everywhere, and voting booths as far as the eye can see. Everyone wears red corsages and dances to giddy music. There’s racial impurity and gender confusion everywhere: everyone’s creole or mulatto. Cohn asks, “And Heaven?” to which Belize replies, “That was Heaven.”
This is one of the most famous passages in the play: a description of Hell that could also be a description of Heaven. Kushner’s point is a little subtler than “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Rather, he suggests that the conservative ideal is fundamentally different from its liberal counterpart. Belize’s idea of Heaven emphasizes the ideals that he enjoys and that the world around him condemns—diversity, choice, frivolity, and theatricality.
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
Cohn, still high on morphine, raves and mutters, and Belize doesn’t try to stop him. Belize only says, “I’m the shadow on your grave.” At the same moment, Ethel Rosenberg appears onstage, standing beside Belize.
Belize seems to be savoring his experience of watching Cohn lose all his power and die, but this is left ambiguous in the play, and different productions handle Belize’s tone differently.
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