Study Guide

Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika Abandonment

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Harper: When your heart breaks, you should die. But there's still the rest of you. There's your breasts, and your genitals, and they're amazingly stupid, like babies or faithful dogs, they don't get it, they just want him. Want him. (1.2.8)

Harper is still reeling from Joe abandoning her in <em>Millennium Approaches.</em> In this poignant bit of dialogue she talks about how her body still wants Joe even though her mind knows he's gone.

Harper: Bastard. You fell out of love with me.
Joe (<em>Meaning it</em>): That isn't true, Harper.
Harper (<em>Breaking</em>): THEN COME BACK! (1.2.23-25)

Harper is in total misery over the fact the Joe left her. In this scene, he's not actually there in reality. As we discuss in "Versions of Reality," this is either Harper imagining her husband or one of Kushner's reality-bending moments where a character's consciousness can be somewhere outside his actual body. Either way it shows the total trauma that Joe's abandonment of Harper has caused.

Angel: The King of the Universe:
<em>HE Left</em>...
Prior: Abandoned.
Angel: <em>And did not return. </em>(2.2.83-84)

Louis and Joe aren't the only ones capable of abandonment. According to the angel, God himself is biggest abandoner of all time. He took off a while ago, leaving both his angels and human beings in the dust.

Belize: Abandoned. [...] I smell a motif. The man that got away.
Prior: Well it occurred to me. Louis. (2.2.86-89)

Belize thinks Prior's vision of the angel was caused by his depression over Louis. He implies that Prior's dream that God abandoned the universe is inspired by Louis' abandonment of Prior. This line could also be seen as a self-referential recognition by the playwright. It's kind of like Kushner is saying, <em>"Yes I know it's a little heavy-handed, but whatever, deal with it." </em>

Joe: What you did when you walked out on him was hard to do. The world may not understand it or approve what you needed to do. And I consider you very brave. (3.4.37)

Joe admires the fact that Louis left Prior; he thinks Louis was only doing what he had to do. Staying with Prior while he was horribly sick would have been too terrible for Louis to deal with. What do you think about this? Is Joe just being self-serving and rationalizing? Could Louis' abandonment of Prior be seen as admirable in any way?


Joe gets a taste of abandonment when Louis leaves him on the beach, saying that he needs to see Prior again. Now Joe is in the same position as his wife – he's been deserted by someone he loves.

Belize: You walk out on your lover. Days don't pass before you are out on the town with someone new. (4.3.14)

To Belize, Louis' abandonment of Prior is made worse by the fact that he hooked up with Joe so soon after. Does this show that Louis is totally heartless, or that he missed Prior so much that he couldn't face being alone?

Prior: If [God] ever did come back, if He ever <em>dared</em> 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 <em>sue</em> the bastard. [...] Sue the bastard for walking out. How dare He. (5.4.47)

Prior advises the angels not to take God's abandonment lying down. Instead of meekly accepting the fact that the Almighty left the universe behind, Prior demands that they hold Him accountable. This moment connects with a lot of the themes of justice and judgment from <em>Millennium Approaches</em>. Much like when Louis deserted him, Prior demands that there be some sort of universal system of justice that punishes those who abandon others, even if the abandoner is the one who created the universe to begin with.

Harper: I want your credit card. That's all. You can keep track of me from where the charges come from. If you want to keep track of me. I don't care. (5.8.2)

Joe tries to come back to her, but Harper isn't having it. In the end, it's Harper who abandons her husband, taking his credit card and heading off to San Francisco. Joe's abandonment, in the end, seems like the best thing that could have possibly happened to Harper. She's now found the strength to live without him. We only hope Joe finds the same thing.

Prior: I love you Louis. [...] I really do. But you can't come back. Not ever. (5.8.15-17)

Prior refuses to take Louis back; he can't forgive his betrayal. In the Epilogue, we see that Prior and Louis are still friends, even if they're not lovers, showing that their relationship has evolved into something new and hopefully better. It could be that Louis' abandonment of Prior ended up being good for both of them... maybe.

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