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Literature Study GuidesAngels In AmericaPerestroika Act 3 Scenes 3 4 Summary

Angels in America | Study Guide

Tony Kushner

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Angels in America | Perestroika, Act 3, Scenes 3–4 | Summary



Scene 3

Harper spends her days in the Diorama Room of the Mormon Visitors' Center, where Hannah volunteers. A diorama is a display in the form of a theatrical scene, usually life-sized and representing a staged scene from history, in this case of a family of Mormon pioneers. The father in the "dummy" family of pioneer Mormons reminds Harper of Joe. In the Diorama Room, Prior introduces himself to Harper as an "angelologist." He confesses to her that he has seen an angel. The mannequin display tells a recorded story of Mormon pioneer courage, while Harper provides a bitter commentary that reveals the story's hypocrisy.

Louis "suddenly appears in the diorama." He is shocked to have discovered Joe is a Mormon. He talks to Joe, who had been playing the Mormon father, about the problem posed by Mormons in America: how can a member of a "cult" participate in a democracy? Joe rejects the term cult. Joe and Louis return to their bedroom. In the Diorama Room, Harper is puzzled by the disappearance of the father mannequin, and Prior is shocked at having seen Louis and Joe in the diorama. Harper pulls back the diorama's curtain, revealing that the father mannequin has returned.

Hannah scolds Harper and Joe for not knowing their "duty" (to stay married). Harper remarks that Hannah has "less of a place in this world than I do if that's possible," and she tries to interest Hannah in Prior's angelic vision. Hannah shoos Prior and Harper out of the Diorama Room. Harper lingers, waiting for the female mannequin to speak. The mannequin woman—"Bitter lady of the Plains," Harper calls her—speaks darkly of the suffering involved in change; God rips you open, says the mannequin woman.

Scene 4

Joe and Louis sit in the dunes at Jones Beach. Louis is still reeling over the fact that Joe is a Mormon. Louis is also stunned to be with someone so conservative and Republican; he tries to find that difference exotic and sexy. Louis says he wants to see Prior and asks if Joe doesn't want to see Harper. Joe makes increasingly desperate declarations: he will give up his Mormon temple garment, he will give up his skin, he "can be anything" for Louis. As Louis leaves, Joe shouts that he'll be back. Louis calls Prior from a pay phone and says he wants to see him.


In Scene 3, Louis's question for Joe—how can Mormon outsiders participate in the wider democratic society—is not only about loyalty to a "cult." It is also a question for the play's other outsiders, Jews and queers, about how they can find a place in such a society. Roy's answer is by force of will and by staying in the closet. This does not satisfy Louis.

Harper says to Hannah, "You have less of a place in this world than I do if that's possible." She is talking about Hannah's lack of purpose in New York, but it is also an unwitting comment on the function of female characters in this play. The minor female characters talk to (or about) the major male characters, draw them out, and reveal their nature to the audience. The play does not grant women equal participation until the final scene at Bethesda Fountain, when Hannah does at last have "a place in this world."

At Jones Beach, Louis mentions he "slept around" more than Prior, and there's "no justice"—no reason for Prior to be infected rather than Louis. Apart from the scene with the man in the park, this is the only scene dealing with fear of infection, and with possible connection to promiscuity. Louis takes a generous rather than judgmental view, depicting the gay men cruising in the dunes as dedicated explorers, practicing another type of migration.

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