The Angel of America also provides Prior Martin with a pair of magical spectacles, which supposedly allow Prior to see the world in its true form. The symbolism of the spectacles explicitly recalls the iconography of Mormonism: according to the Book of Mormon, the Angel Moroni gave Joseph Smith a pair of magical spectacles, without which he couldn’t read the Book of Mormon at all. And yet while Smith’s spectacles were symbols of emancipation and enlightenment, Prior’s spectacles are symbols of pain and suffering—it literally hurts Prior to wear his spectacles. Like the Book of Life, Prior’s spectacles represent the terror and danger of prophecy, and the sometimes-horrifying reality of life.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Angel’s Spectacles appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 2
...his now-ruined kitchen, Prior finds a leather suitcase. Inside the suitcase, there’s a pair of spectacles. Prior puts on the spectacles, noticing that there are rocks where there should be lenses.... (full context)