Angels in America

Angels in America

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Angels in America, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

One of the key facts about Angels in America is that it was written during, and is largely about, the AIDS crisis in the U.S. During the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of them gay men, contracted the HIV/AIDS virus, a deadly disease that destroys the human immune system and typically results in death. (For more information on the AIDS crisis, see Background Info.) It’s impossible to understand Angels in America—not just…

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Right away, it’s clear that Angels in America is a play about prophecies and the people who make them (or refuse to make them). The play’s protagonist, Prior Walter, is a reluctant prophet being forced to spread a “great work” around the world. Another main character, Joe Pitt, is a Mormon: Mormonism is a religion based on the Angel Moroni’s speech to Joseph Smith, a prophecy that impelled Smith to lead a group…

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Angels in America takes place at the height of the “conservative revolution” in American politics and culture. After the liberal era of the 1960s, the United States “swung back” in the direction of conservatism under the leadership of President Ronald Reagan. As Kushner understands it, conservatism is the belief that change should be greeted with skepticism, and that, by default, life is best the way it is: when it’s structured around “traditional” ideas and…

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In a key scene from Act Two of Perestroika, Prior Walter and Belize attend a funeral for a drag queen they both knew. The funeral is a lavish, gaudy affair—the attendees, many of whom are gay or transvestites themselves, sing and dance joyfully, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. After the funeral, Prior complains that the attendees shouldn’t be so cheerful about dying—they have nothing to look forward to but death, after all…

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One of the reasons that the AIDS crisis was so historically significant was that it put longstanding debates about politics, religion, and morality into a terrifyingly real-world context. Proponents of liberal and conservative values, religion and secularism, faced a challenge: how to treat the victims of AIDS, most of whom (at least at first) were homosexuals. It’s one thing for a Christian pastor to condemn homosexuality as an abomination, but it’s quite another for the…

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