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The Cyclical Nature Of Progress Within Angels In America

1098 words - 5 pages

Tony Kushner, in his play Angels in America, explores a multitude of issues pertaining to modern American society including, but not limited to, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Through his diverse character selection, he is able to compare and contrast the many varied experiences that Americans might face today. Through it all, the characters’ lives are all linked together through a common thread: progress, both personal and public. Kushner offers insight on this topic by allowing his characters to discuss what it means to make progress and allowing them to change in their own ways. Careful observation of certain patterns reveals that, in the scope of the play, progress is cyclical ...view middle of the document...

“Because the soul is progressive”(145), as noted in Kushner’s epigraph, people look to fix, cure, or correct the issues they face in order to “[produce] a new and fairer whole”(145). The desire and pursuit of a sacred, Heavenly ideal of supreme contentedness is what motivates characters’ actions in the play. This pursuit of happiness can be by society itself or by individual characters, and what each one chases can vary greatly: social progress, a new experience, and escaping unfortunate circumstances are just a few examples. The forms of inspiration for change are many, but one that is common among many characters in Kushner’s play is the motif of rootlessness, which appears explicitly on multiple occasions and is alluded to otherwise.
Having entered a volatile, Valium-induced state, Harper Pitt shares her thoughts on her present condition with Mr. Lies, who is a figment of her imagination. This is the first scene in which the concept of rootlessness appears. Here, Mr. Lies, who is most likely a physical representation of Harper’s subconscious, after he hears about her discontent and deteriorating mental state, recommends that she take a vacation to treat that which ails her. His suggestion that Harper’s visions and dreams are “the price of rootlessness”(24) or “motion sickness”(24) and that “the only cure”(24) is “to keep moving”(24), or to progress, is an idea that continually appears throughout the play. Harper has no roots in her life in the early stages of the story: she has no mental foundation, her relationship with Joe is a sham, and she seems to not be able to leave their apartment. While Mr. Lies’ suggestion can be taken literally because Harper wishes to travel, his suggestion is also figurative and means that she should move on from her life with Joe to begin anew. Another example of rootlessness comes from Joe, who, unlike his wife, at the beginning of the play, feels rooted in his place as a result of Harper and his own faith. He is unable to change jobs, to move to Washington, because he feels that he needs to ask Harper for permission. It is later revealed that he is not actually bound to his situation...

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