Angels in America

by Tony Kushner

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How are the super objectives of the characters similar in Angels in America and Joe Turner's Come and Gone

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The super objectives of the characters in both dramas are similar because they struggle with how to construct their identity in a world that fails to give adequate guidance to do so. The overarching goal of both sets of characters is how to form identity in a setting where change and transformation is the only real absolute.

In Wilson's drama, the condition of slavery has passed.  In its place is an uncertain future in which African- Americans are confronted with a life of debt slavery in the South, coupled with intense discrimination as slavery's shadow.  At the same time, the Great Migration has made movement to the North a reality for many.  Yet, this does not have any guarantees for racism and lack of opportunity still exists.  The characters in the boarding house all confront this condition, seeking to understand their own identities in a world of change and transformation.  It is one in which identity is left to navigate for the individual to find "their song," as Bynum would put it.  The world in which they live is one where many have "forgotten their songs," and such reclamation is critical to their identities.  The drama focuses on how this "binding" to one's identity can happen in a world that offers little in way of guidance towards this goal.

This same super objective of identity formation is evident in Kushner's work.  While Wilson deals with the condition of African- Americans, Kushner seeks to articulate what it means to be homosexual and fundamentally different in America.  The social conditions in which Kushner's characters engage on their quest are strikingly similar to what confronts Wilson's characters.  The condition of AIDS in the gay community combined with the Conservative ethos in America of the 1980s have helped to coordinate a social condition in which identity has to come from within.  The reality of identity formation amidst change and transformation becomes part of what each character endures. External reality does not offer much in way of assistance as to how individuals should live their lives and what they should do.  For the characters in Kushner's drama, critical questions about how they construct their identity in such uncertainty defines them, similar to Wilson's guests in the boarding house.  Kushner's characters must learn how to find "their song" without the presence of "angels in America."  

Both works feature characters whose super objectives are similar.  In seeking to understand what their identity in social conditions that fail to give much in way of guidance, both works develop the voice of "the other" amidst change and transformation.

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