(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Quasi-autobiographical, rife with symbolism, and redolent of an era pregnant with change in American history, Caroline, or Change harks back to Kushner’s childhood. To this story of change and loss, he adds fanciful, nonrealistic touches such as the singing washing machine, dryer, bus, and moon.

Eight-year-old Noah Gellman, who recently lost his mother to cancer, has a new stepmother (Rose) whom he loathes and a surrogate mother, the family’s black maid, Caroline Thibodeaux, whom he idolizes.

Stuffing her anger deep inside, Caroline, staunch, exhausted, and poor, is forced to work in the hot basement laundry room for thirty dollars per week. Divorced with four children (one a soldier in Vietnam), she laments her life and remembers her ex-husband who returned from World War II and, unemployed, became an abusive alcoholic; ironically, Caroline and Noah similarly deal with grief and loss.

“Change” in the play’s title has different meanings. The main conceit of the play is that Rose has rebuked Noah for his careless attitude about money since he often leaves change in his pockets. Since its phases signal change, the Moon sings about the progress ahead, another meaning of “change.” When the bus tells of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (a supporter of equal rights), Caroline laments what might have been and wonders what change is coming for black people.

When Rose announces that Caroline...

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Caroline, or Change Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Brask, Per, ed. Essays on Kushner’s “Angels.” Winnipeg: Blizzard, 1995.

Fisher, James. The Theater of Tony Kushner: Living Past Hope. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Geis, Deborah R., and Stephen F. Kruger, eds. Approaching the Millennium: Essays on “Angels in America.” Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Lahr, John. “After Angels: Tony Kushner’s Promethean Itch.” The New Yorker, January 3, 2005, 42-52.

Vorlicky, Robert, ed. Tony Kushner in Conversation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.