Angels in America

by Tony Kushner

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What are your reflections on Angels in America by Tony Kushner?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If the topic is homosexuality, there are many ways to go about reflecting on this topic as Kushner provides much in way of fodder for thought. The critical issue of what it means to be gay in America is explored through different ways.  One particular angle that can be taken is the issue of homosexuality in a political setting dominated by the Religious Right Wing of the Republican Party in America.  The notion of spiritual purity and the casting of homosexuality as an affront to this notion is something that Kushner challenges in different realms through different characters.  Think of Joe and the struggles to come out of the closet only to find that it is impossible to reconcile his Republican and Mormon values with his homosexuality.  The illness that eats at Roy Cohn is AIDS, but in a larger sense, it is the fact that his double life of being a right wing zealot and a homosexual (or as he puts it, "a man who likes having sex with other men") rips apart both his career and his life.  A more universal theme which Kushner weaves nicely into the work might have to do with the emotional estrangement that seems to be universal to all people.  There is a distance that both gay and straight people experience with and towards one another.  In this light, Kushner makes a point that, like AIDS, emotional cruelty is present everywhere and is something susceptible to gay and straight people.  Lew and Prior are in a homosexual relationship, yet the cruelty that he shows is the same that Joe displays to Harper.  Joe's distance with his mother is the similar to the emotional distance that Roy has towards Ethel Rosenberg, where religious or political zeal replaces real understanding and emotions.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Angels in America is a two act play by Kushner, brilliantly written, both funny and profound.  These two parts, however, Perestroika and Millennium Approaches, are long and intricate, so without a more specific question to reference for your reflection piece, it's difficult to give you accurate and specific direction here.

Keep in mind the historical setting of the play in the 1980's, as the public becomes aware of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the discrimination that follows this.  The plays discuss the difficulties of being homosexual in the United States, both openly and in private.  It explores human relationships and the effects of the disease on individuals and groups.  It examines politics and religion and their role in the AIDS experience in America. 

Keep these themes in mind as you write your reflections, and be sure to focus on exactly what the instructor has asked you to.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial