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.
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
...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
Perestroika: Act 2, Scene 1
...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
Perestroika: Act 5, Scene 5
...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)