Angels in America

Angels in America

Angels in America Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In a hospital, Prior is sitting with his nurse, Emily, and Hannah. Emily tells Prior that he’s losing weight fast—he needs to slow down and do breathing exercises to make sure he stays healthy. Prior doesn’t pay attention, and instead mutters about Hannah, his “ex-lover’s Mormon mother.”
Prior is consumed with hatred and envy—he can’t believe that Louis has betrayed him for another man, let alone a Republican.
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Emily leaves Prior with Hannah for a moment. Prior confesses to Hannah that he saw an angel—he’s afraid he might be insane. Hannah shakes her head and tells Prior that he’s had a vision. She tells Prior about Joseph Smith, who saw an angel in New York, just a few miles from where Prior is sitting right now. Furthermore, it was Smith’s prayer and faith that made the angel appear before him. Prior protests that Mormonism is repellant to him—after all, Mormons believe that homosexuals are evil. Hannah tells Prior, “Don’t make assumptions about me, mister, and I won’t make ‘em about you.” Prior laughs and agrees to this truce.
Prior doubts his visions of the angel and yet also wants to believe in them. Ironically, Hannah’s comparisons between Prior’s visions and those of Joseph Smith are exactly what Prior needs to hear at this moment—they reassure Prior that he’s not losing his mind. Hannah is again portrayed as a good person at heart—while she has a hard time accepting homosexuality in her own son, she’s willing to look past it and help others when they really need it. Kushner seems to take a negative view of religion in general, but likes it best when it focuses on people, rather than rules (i.e., “love the sinner, hate the sin”).
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
Hannah tells Prior about the experience of finding out that Joe was gay. She finds homosexuality odd and awkward—men are ugly enough as is, she says, never mind two of them together.
Hannah’s reasoning seems naïve but also rather harmless—she has absorbed the Judeo-Christian social worldview that homosexuality is something strange or ugly, but she doesn’t seem to have any real problem with it on moral grounds. Her aversion to men also suggests something fluid or repressed in her own sexuality as well.
Themes
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
Prior asks Hannah a question: can prophets refuse the missions God has given them? Hannah admits that there’s precedent for this—when a prophet refuses his mission, God feeds him to a whale. Prior begins laughing and coughing. He tells Hannah that he’s close to losing his life. He begs Hannah to stay with him for a little while, until his friend (whom we recognize as Belize) comes to pick him up. Hannah sighs and agrees. She tells Prior that an angel is “a belief,” and shouldn’t be feared.
Hannah is a voice of calm and reason for Prior, since she’s knowledgeable about religious history. When Prior’s openly gay friends abandon him, it’s Hannah, a Mormon, who's there to comfort him. Perhaps the message here is that one’s political or religious affiliations are only of secondary importance—what really counts is what kind of human being you are; i.e., how compassionate you are with other people.
Themes
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
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