Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1383
Angel Allen is a thirty-four-year-old woman who, as the play opens, has been fired from her job as a backup singer at the Cotton Club. Angel has just broken up with Nick, an Italian gangster who recently married another woman. Angel, hurt by the breakup, saw Nick in the audience of the nightclub and interrupted one of her dance routines to berate him and throw things at him. As a result of the breakup, Angel has also lost her apartment, paid for by Nick, as well as all of her clothes and other belongings, since he will not allow her into the apartment to collect her things. Guy, her best friend, allows her to live in his apartment while she searches for another job. However, due to the depression, there are no singing jobs available for Angel, and she continues to be out of work while Guy supports her. Her only prospect is not a singing job but an opportunity to become the mistress of Tony T., a friend of Nick’s. Angel is a practical woman who, although she would prefer a job as a singer, is not above selling herself to a man in exchange for financial security. In Leland, Angel sees an opportunity for financial stability as his wife, despite the fact that she does not love him. But, after she gets pregnant by Leland, she decides that she does not want the baby and chooses to abort it. She has had at least one abortion in the past, after she became pregnant by Nick. When Guy offers her a ticket to go to Paris with him, Angel decides that this is a better opportunity than marrying Leland. She first tells Leland that she has had a miscarriage and then admits to having had an abortion. After Leland shoots Sam, the doctor who performed the abortion, Angel disappears for two weeks. She returns to Guy’s apartment just as Guy and Delia are leaving for Paris. But Angel seems to have cut all ties with her two friends, and the play ends as she sits in the window of Guy’s apartment, figuring out what to do next. Angel is a woman who has always been able to do whatever it takes to survive, despite unfortunate personal and financial circumstances.
Leland Cunningham is a twenty-eight-year-old man from Alabama who has been in Harlem only six weeks. Eight months earlier, his wife, Anna, died giving birth to a baby boy, who also did not survive. Leland encounters Guy and Angel on the street in the middle of the night and helps Guy to accompany Angel, who is drunk, back to the apartment. He later tells Angel that he was drawn to her because she looks like his deceased wife. Leland’s manner is that of a Southern gentleman, and his dress is neat and conservative. He is very religious, with traditional, conservative values that are very different from those of Angel and her friends. Leland considers homosexuality ‘‘an abomination’’ and is even acquainted with the young men in the neighborhood who have been beating up on gay men. Because of this, Angel lies to Leland about Guy, saying that he is her cousin, rather than explaining that he is a friend who is gay. Leland continues to court Angel, even though her values and lifestyle are clearly very different from his. He tries to influence her to attend church, but she is not interested. He even buys her a very conservative dress, which is not at all her style. Before long, Leland asks Angel to marry him, and she accepts. After she tells him that she is pregnant with his child, he brings her a rocking chair he has made by hand, in which he says he wants her to rock all of their children. However, when Angel tells him she has miscarried the baby and then admits that she opted to abort it, Leland immediately figures out that her friend Sam was the doctor who performed the abortion. Leaving Angel, he encounters Sam outside of the apartment building and shoots him in the back with a pistol,...
(The entire section contains 1383 words.)
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