The Normal Heart Summary
by Larry Kramer

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The Normal Heart Summary

The Normal Heart is a play about the AIDS pandemic and its effect on the community when it first entered the scene in the 1980s. In the play, we see how the New York government was slow in responding to the disease. The public didn't know much about the disease and only direct victims, mostly gay men and their lovers, were interested in finding a remedy for this epidemic. Despite the general lack of interest, there are few people who actually care, for example, Dr. Emma Brookner, who is conducting research on the disease. The play also shows an unfamiliar side of the homosexual community. Through such characters as Ned and Felix, the author shows that same-sex couples go through the same relationship problems as heterosexual ones. All in all, it's a great read for anyone interested in the history of AIDS.

Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Larry Kramer’s landmark play, The Normal Heart, chronicles major events in the early years of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic in New York City. The play’s 1985 production at the Public Theatre riveted the attention of diverse audiences to the devastation of the new disease. As an instrument of political rhetoric and as a classically structured drama, The Normal Heart has power to move emotions and change minds.

In the summer of 1981, Ned Weeks visits Dr. Emma Brookner, who is treating virtually all the gay men in New York afflicted with rare, immune system-related diseases. Brookner has heard of Ned—and his “big mouth.” She is looking for a gay man to lead in this new crisis; she urges him to express his anger toward those in power who are apathetic and to convince gay men to stop engaging in sexual activity. She believes the disease is spread through sex.

Ned begins to act, exploring the failure of The New York Times to cover the epidemic adequately. In so doing, he meets a gay reporter, Felix Turner, to whom he is immediately attracted. A key relationship in the play is between Ned and his brother Ben, a lawyer. Although Ned is impatient with his brother’s reluctance to help the organization Ned has formed in response to the epidemic, it is clear that what Ned wants most from Ben is unconditional acceptance and love.

As Ned and Felix grow closer, Ned’s organization of gay men confronting the health crisis struggles with an unresponsive mayor’s staff on the outside, while battling ego clashes and differences in style within. Bruce Niles, a banker, attractive and cautious, is elected president of the group instead of Ned. Ned’s anger—and his commitment—increase dramatically when Felix becomes ill. Although the organization wins some victories in terms of fundraising and media exposure, Ned and Bruce fight continually; Ned is finally removed from the board of directors.

In the play’s poignant finale, Ned and Felix are married by Dr. Brookner in the hospital. Felix dies, and Ned remembers he meant to tell his lover about a recent trip to Yale, where he met many young gay people at a dance “just across the campus from that tiny freshman room where I wanted to kill myself because I thought I was the only gay man in the world.” Kramer’s play was one of the first in what has been an eloquent response from the artists of the theater to AIDS. As a result of Kramer’s anger, daring, and artistry, this disease is better understood.

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Ned Weeks visits Dr. Emma Brookner’s office because he is interested in writing a journalistic story about a strange, new disease called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. This disease is responsible for the symptoms experienced by two of Ned’s gay associates. While Ned has a physical exam, Emma tells him what she knows about the disease: It has already killed some of her patients, it seems to strike gay men, and the press has not paid much attention to it. She tells Ned that he should get the word out and urge gay men to stop having sex; she thinks the disease might be transmitted though sex.

Ned visits Felix Turner’s desk at The New York Times because...

(The entire section is 1,403 words.)