Literature Study GuidesAngels In AmericaPerestroika Act 5 Epilogue Summary

Angels in America | Study Guide

Tony Kushner

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Angels in America | Perestroika, Act 5, Epilogue | Summary

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Summary

In winter 1990, Prior, Louis, Belize, and Hannah sit by Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, discussing Soviet leader Gorbachev and his policy of perestroika, which will transform the Soviet Union. Prior turns and addresses the audience directly. He says the Bethesda Fountain with its statue of an angel is his favorite place in NYC, and he's been living with AIDS for five years now.

The fountain has a statue of the angel Bethesda. Louis tells the audience the angel's story: Where the angel Bethesda's foot touched the ground, a fountain arose. This fountain could heal the mental or physical sufferings of anyone who walked through it. With the destruction of the Jews' original temple, the fountain dried up. It will return at the millennium; Prior specifies "not the year two thousand, but the capital-M Millennium." Hannah says she will take Prior there herself so he can bathe in it once it returns.

After Louis's story, Prior addresses the audience again. He says, "We won't die secret deaths anymore ... We will be citizens." Prior concludes by blessing the audience, calling them "fabulous creatures" and wishing them "More Life."

Analysis

The group by the fountain represents the new social unit: queer and multiracial; composed of friends, newcomers, and ex-lovers. They avidly discuss Gorbachev, who is the progressive opposite of Aleksii, the oldest living Bolshevik. Thus the forces of migration (the progressive Gorbachev) have won out over the forces of stasis (the old Bolshevik and the Angel).

The play began with an address to the audience; in Act 1, Scene 1 of Millennium Approaches, a rabbi addressed an unseen group of mourners as "you." The rabbi's eulogy put the audience in the position of mourners. Now at the play's end, Prior (and sometimes Louis) addresses the audience with a blessing: "More Life." If audience members at the start were mourners, by the end of the play, they are a congregation blessed with life.

The Angel who dogged Prior is gone, replaced by an iron statue Prior says he likes better. The real Bethesda Fountain, says Louis, will flow again at the millennium. Prior specifies this is the "capital-M Millennium." The word millennium can refer to a prophesied thousand-year reign of Christ, or to a utopian period of happiness. Prior's "capital-M" millennium clearly means the latter: happiness on Earth, angels coming down to America. The epilogue balances with Harper's vision in the previous scene, which focused on how damage could be repaired by the souls of the dead. Prior blesses the audience, wishing them "More Life."

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