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Literature Study GuidesAngels In AmericaMillennium Approaches Act 2 Scenes 8 10 Summary

Angels in America | Study Guide

Tony Kushner

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Angels in America | Millennium Approaches, Act 2, Scenes 8–10 | Summary



Scene 8

From a payphone in Central Park, Joe calls his mother in Salt Lake City and tells her he's gay. He also mentions he sometimes comes to the park at night to "watch." He pleads with her to say whether his father loved him. Joe's mother, Hannah, does not directly respond to his news or his question; instead she scolds him for being "ridiculous."

Scene 9

In Prior's hospital room, Louis announces he is moving out; at their home in Brooklyn, Joe and Harper continue their protracted breakup. Prior is furious. Joe realizes Harper's fears of menacing intruders are really about him: "I'm the man with the knife." Harper calls for Mr. Lies to take her away to Antarctica; Prior tells Louis to get out. Both Harper and Louis exit the stage.

Scene 10

Hannah talks to Ella Chapter about selling her Salt Lake City house. She's moving to New York to be with Joe. Ella Chapter tries to dissuade Hannah, saying Salt Lake City is the only place for saints to live.


The audience already know what Hannah doesn't—her son is gay. The scene's real revelation for the audience is that Joe has been cruising in the park, though only to watch. Joe's activity (or inactivity) in the park is ambivalent. He seems to have left himself an excuse—is he really gay if he just watches? But as with Louis's "What if I left?" question earlier in the play, Joe's watching is really an action in and of itself. Until now homosexuality has been Joe's secret, sealed up in the closet. Telling his mother seems to tip the balance and make Joe's sexual identity into a social reality for him.

In Scene 9, two breakups are contrasted, again in a split scene; Joe pleads and clings, more because he fears his homosexuality than because he wants to be with Harper. In contrast, Prior uses the logic of "You can't quit, I'm firing you," as he orders Louis to leave. This split scene differs from the previous ones because the dialogue takes place simultaneously in the two scenes. There is no separation between the scenes. As the couples' lines intertwine, the effect is of one scene, not two:

Harper: No, I don't like the sound of this. I'm leaving.
Louis: I'm leaving. I already have.
Joe: Please listen. Stay. This is really hard. We have to talk.

Both couples are facing tough breakups. Both Louis and Joe claim they can't change themselves, despite their best efforts. Joe can't come through for Harper and feels he does her more harm than good; Louis fails to find the courage to stay with Prior.

In Scene 10, in a conversation about real estate, Hannah and Ella bring up two divergent views on spirituality. Ella thinks it is possible to meet with saints here on earth, the Latter Day Saints. Hannah makes the grim and indirect remark, "Late in the day ... for saints and everyone." This could mean that it's too late for saints on earth (and everyone else); it's too late for another revelation. But "late in the day" could also mean it's high time; in other words, the millennium approaches.

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