Study Guide

Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika Isolation

By Tony Kushner

Isolation

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)

Even before Joe left Harper, he was hardly ever home. Now his abandonment of Harper has left her completely isolated. In this scene she romps around her imagined version of Antarctica, desperately trying escape her loneliness.

Roy: [...] Sit. Talk.
Belize: Mr. Cohn. I'd rather suck the pus out of an abscess. [...]
Roy: Oh forchristake. Whatta I gotta do? Beg? I don't want to be alone. (1.5.25)

Though Belize is just the sort of person Roy hates, he still wants the nurse to stick around. The thought of being alone with his disease is just too much for him. Could this be a rare moment of vulnerability for Mr. Cohn?

Prior: "Each angel is an infinite aggregate myriad entity" (2.2.62).

So what Prior is saying here is that angels aren't just one single being. They are made up of an infinite number of beings, who have sort of crystallized into one consciousness. Deep thought: Can such a creature ever truly be alone?

Angel: The King of the Universe:
<em>HE Left</em>...
Prior: Abandoned.
Angel: <em>And did not return. </em>(2.2.83-85)

The angels are all miserable without God. The fact that God has abandoned them makes them feel isolated. Even though they have each other and are each made of many different beings, the angels long for the closeness they once had with God.

Belize: You have been spending too much time alone.
Prior: Not by choice. None of this by choice. (2.2.107-108)

Belize thinks Prior is having visions of angels because he's been spending too much time alone. He worries that Prior's isolation is driving him insane. Here Prior points out that it wasn't his idea for Louis to abandon him.

Harper: I've only ever been here, or in some place a lot like this, alone, in the dark, waiting for the dummy. (3.3.29)

Here Harper refers to the life of isolation she's lived as Joe's wife. He's been both physically and emotionally absent for years, and the constant isolation has kind of driven her crazy.

Louis: He's just company. Companionship.
Prior: [...] Companionship. How <em>good</em>. I wouldn't want you to be <em>lonely</em>. (4.1.99-100)

Here Louis tries to justify the fact that he moved on so quickly after Prior. Louis' argument doesn't get him very far with his ex-lover, as can be seen by Prior's sarcastic response. Prior has been <em>incredibly</em> lonely since Louis left him. Though he is being sincere, Louis is just rubbing salt in the wound.

Prior: There are thousands of gay men in New York City with AIDS and nearly every one of them is being taken care of by... a friend or by... a lover who has stuck by them through things worse than my... So far. Everyone got that, except, me. I got you. (4.1.100)

This statement from Prior really hits Louis hard. Louis starts crying after this because it totally highlights the immense sense of isolation Prior must feel as he deals with his disease without Louis there to lean on.

Joe: Call or... Call. You have to.
Harper: No. Probably not. That's how bad. (5.10.10-11)

Harper has seriously grown over the course of the play. In her final scene with Joe, we see her embrace her isolation. She finds strength in herself and heads off for San Francisco (probably listening to "I Will Survive" on her Walkman).

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

Looks like we've got ourselves a parallel! Louis and Joe both try to go back to the significant others they started with at the beginning of <em>Millennium Approaches</em>, and both are rejected. Both Harper and Prior have suffered greatly in isolation, but they've also gained personal strength from being alone.

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