What are the similarities between Angels in America and Joe Turner's Come and Gone?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the strongest similarities between both works is that they explore one aspect of "the other" in American society.  Wilson and Kushner focus on one particular aspect of American society that is not fully understood and explore it with depth and precision.  Neither work gives "the answer," but rather presents more questions which contribute to a greater understanding to a segment of American society.

For Wilson, the focus of his work is to explore a part of the meaning in being African- American.  Wilson chooses the period of the 1910s to explore what constituted African- American identity in this time period.  He is able to evoke questions regarding African- American identity in the shadow of slavery and in the midst of the Great Migration.  The exploration of identity he offers enhances the understanding that one has of the historical condition of African- Americans.  In seeking to better understand what it means to be Black in America, Wilson is able to display a great deal of insight into the historical realities that African- Americans had to face.  This exploration allows the audience greater understanding into this section of American culture.  Wilson's work provides insight into African- American identity, a topic that is still discussed today and reflected upon in American society given recent events in Florida.

Kushner embarks on a very similar journey in his work.  Being homosexual in America was and is still a challenging notion to understand, similar to how being Black in America is still seeking to be fully understood.  Kushner wishes to bring the audience into the mindset of people who are gay in America and what it means to be fundamentally different than the norm.  In a world in which being gay was seen as a "choice," Kushner makes the argument that change and transformation are the only constants in American identity.  This results in both homosexual people learning how to adapt to change and transformation as well as American society doing the same.  The recent debate on gay marriage is one such reality of change and transformation for both gay people and the American social order that must integrate them into its fabric.  For Kushner, being able to evoke the nuanced condition of being homosexual in America brings complexity and depth to identity, something that challenges the caricatures and stereotypes of gay people that Kushner experienced and absorbed.  The drama accomplishes this, as one becomes engrossed in the contours and trajectory of homosexual identity in terms of being in the closet, outside of it, and recognizing where one's place is in a social setting that does not acknowledge one's identity.

Indeed, both works are focused on exploring identity of "the other" in American society.  In doing so, both works are focused on exploring how historical conditions of the past are relevant to ongoing issues of identity formation.  The end result of both works is that the audience recognizes that being African- American and homosexual are realities that are deep, rich, and layered with multiple meanings that repudiate any stereotype.

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Angels in America

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