Angels in America

by Tony Kushner

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Student Question

What are your thoughts on Harper's belief about the limits of imagination in Angels in America?

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Harper's musings such as her opinion on the notion of imagination represents some of the finest in the merging in drama and philosophy.  They also represent where Kushner is at his finest.  I believe that one of the basic points that Harper is trying to make in her assessment on the limitation on imagination is that it is impossible to determine something "new" or something that has not existed in some form before.  The idea of somehow being able to arbitrarily develop something in the mind without some type of influence from "the other" is where the strength of Harper's argument lies.  Harper, herself, embodies this as she pulls from events in the world and in her life to form her own imagination.  She does not immediately imagine Joe to be gay, but rather her "threshold of revelation" comes from her own perceptions and understanding about her relationship with Joe.  Her vision and imagination at the end of the drama about how the people on Earth will assume the form of angels in plugging up the holes in the ozone layer is inspired by the news bombardment of the ozone layer issue. In the end, Harper is attempting to bring out a postmodern notion of truth in that there is really nothing "new" per se.  Everything is a construction of something previous.  For Harper, the limitation to imagination is the extent to which human beings are social creatures, linked to others in inseparable ways. When this is understood in that human construction is social and collective in its nature, one understands that imagination and the desire for "newness" is influenced greatly by what is already previously known and understood.  In this, I think that there is some validity and feel that Harper might be onto something in suggesting that what we construct is based off of something "prior" or something with which we interacted.

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