Angels in America

by Tony Kushner

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How are the couples in Angels in America different and similar in shared experiences?

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Kushner's construction of the parallel breakups in Act II, scene 9 brings out some striking similarities even though one couple is homosexual and the other is between a man and a woman.  This might be deliberate to reflect what Kushner feels is an almost human trait of breaking another's trust and heart, regardless of sexual orientation.  Both couples clearly have "an aggressor," someone who needs to leave the particular relationship because of a condition in their own being that has been concealed for a great deal of time and has now emerged to the surface.  Louis' characterization is one that cannot deal with the emotional and physical toll of loving someone who has AIDS.  Joe's characterization is that he can no longer deny that he is gay.  In both settings, someone has reached their maximum capacity of being able to pretend, to assume a facade that has denied their true sense of identity.  In both relationships, someone who depends on them is being abandoned.  Harper needs Joe, and while she has many needs, one of them is Joe and the stability he can potentially offer her.  Prior needs Louis because he is dying and to face the disease of AIDS alone is perhaps worse than actually suffering from it.  Both relationships are different in that they reflect people in different contexts, but the same pain and alienation is evident and this becomes Kushner's strength in featuring both in pivoting off of one another.

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