Angels in America

Angels in America

Angels Symbol Icon

Angels are among the most explicit and evocative symbols in Kushner’s play. To begin with, it’s important to note that angels are hermaphrodites, neither male nor female. This is important because Kushner’s play centers around questions of sexual identity: just as many of the play’s characters waver between homosexual and heterosexual behaviors (and masculine and feminine personae), the angels exemplify the ambiguity in all sexual identity. But paradoxically, in representing a kind of “ideal humanity” (neither masculine nor feminine, neither gay nor straight), the angels also come to symbolize the absence of genuine humanity. Angels are immortal, have glorious orgasms, etc., and yet Kushner’s angels are also bored, joyless, and—most importantly—incapable of making free decisions. The angels’ very perfection renders their lives dull—only human beings themselves can experience the joy of uncertainty. It’s also important to keep in mind that the angels in the play might be completely imaginary—the product of Prior Martin’s feverish imagination. In this way, we might say that angels symbolize humanity’s potential to be perfect—to imagine or aspire to perfection—and yet they also end up symbolizing the futility (and undesirability) of actually realizing that potential.

Angels Quotes in Angels in America

The Angels in America quotes below all refer to the symbol of Angels. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theatre Communications Group edition of Angels in America published in 2013.
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

There are no gods here, no ghosts and spirits in America, there are no angels in America, no spiritual past, no racial past, there’s only the political, and the decoys and the ploys to maneuver around the inescapable battle of politics…

Related Characters: Louis Ironson (speaker)
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

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Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 7 Quotes

Greetings Prophet;
The Great Work begins:
The Messenger has arrived.

Related Characters: The Angel of America (speaker), Prior Walter
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

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Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Bored with His Angels, Bewitched by Humanity, In Mortifying imitation of You, his least creation, He would sail off on Voyages, no knowing where.

Related Characters: The Angel of America (speaker), Prior Walter
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

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It wasn't a dream. [...] I think it really happened. I'm a prophet.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker)
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

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Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

If [God] ever did come back, if He ever dared to show His face, or his Glyph or whatever in the Garden again. If after all this destruction, if after all the terrible days of this terrible century, He returned to see... how much suffering His abandonment had created, if all He has to offer is death, you should sue the bastard. [...] Sue the bastard for walking out. How dare He.

Related Characters: Prior Walter (speaker)
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 275-276
Explanation and Analysis:

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Angels Symbol Timeline in Angels in America

The timeline below shows where the symbol Angels appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Millennium Approaches: Act 2, Scene 2
Homosexuality in the AIDS Era Theme Icon
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...as a child. In one story, there was a picture of Jacob wrestling with an angel. The picture—the only thing about the story that Joe remembered—shows Jacob as a beautiful young... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, 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
...political sense, not a cultural or religious sense—this is the case because “there are no angels in America.” Belize replies that Louis has said “7 or 8 things that I find... (full context)
Millennium Approaches: Act 3, Scene 7
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Progressivism, Conservatism, and Change Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...the roof of Prior’s apartment caves in, covering Prior with plaster and dust. A beautiful angel flies in, smiling at Prior. The angel greets Prior, calling him a prophet. The angel... (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
Back outside the funeral, Prior explains that Angels have eight vaginas—they’re hermaphrodites—and they live in Heaven, which is a city much like San... (full context)
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
...Prior’s apartment in the flashback, the Angel of America explains that God has abandoned the angels because of his greater love and interest in human beings. In 1906—the year of the... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 3, Scene 2
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Prior tells Harper that he’s come here to conduct research on angels, since he’s just had a dream about one crashing into his apartment. As he says... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 3
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
We’re at the Bethesda Fountain—the huge angel statue in Central Park. Belize stands with Louis, and Louis notes that the fountain is... (full context)
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
...is: he’s full of shit. Louis thinks about big ideas too much, like America and angels—Belize, on the other hands, hates these big ideas, which are always out of reach of... (full context)
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 6
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
...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... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
...Belize) comes to pick him up. Hannah sighs and agrees. She tells Prior that an angel is “a belief,” and shouldn’t be feared. (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
We are in a strange room in Heaven. There are six angels sitting in the room. The angels listen to a radio, which reports on an upcoming... (full context)
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
...carrying a heavy book—the same book he found in the leather suitcase. Prior shows the angels his book, and says that he’s come to return it to them. He goes on... (full context)
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
Prior explains that God is never coming back, either to Earth or to the angels. God would never dare to show his face on Earth after all the suffering he’s... (full context)
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
Prior tells the angels that he wants to be healthy again. He begs the angels to prevent mankind from... (full context)
Prophets and Prophecies Theme Icon
Fantasy, Escape, and Tragedy Theme Icon
The Clash between People and Principles Theme Icon
The angels turn to look at one another, and as they confer, Prior walks away, slowly. While... (full context)
Epilogue
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
Prior points to the angel statue over the fountain. He notes that he loves angel statues more than he loves... (full context)