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Angels In America

The play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, by Tony Kushner, contained situations in which characters’ personalities underwent great changes from the beginning of the play to the end. One of the most significant and noticeable changes was that of Harper. She was married to the character named Joe, who she knew was gay and the way she dealt with this came to relate directly to her own sanity. In part one, Harper spent a lot of time with her imaginary friend and travel agent Mr. Lies. He was her escape mechanism from the horrible reality she could not deal with that was her life. In part two, Harper came to grips with her husband’s homosexuality and the fact that she was not going to change him. As Harper learned to deal with her husband’s sexuality she became more in touch with her own sanity.

In part one Millenium Approaches, everything is falling apart in Harper’s life. She is well aware that her husband is gay. Despite not being told from his mouth, Harper knows and it bothers her that she is in a marriage where her husband secretly desires a partner of the opposite sex from her. Nothing seems to be going right and instead of dealing with reality, Harper takes Valium to escape from reality. Her imaginary friend and confidante Mr. Lies becomes her only companion. She can not function in real life anymore. She takes trips all over the world (imaginary world) just to get away. In Act Mr. Lies explains “We mobilized the globe, we sent people adrift, we stir the populace and send nomads eddying across the planet. We are adept of motion acolytes of the flux. Cash, check or credit card. Name your destination.” This quote illustrates the freedom that Mr. Lies allows Harper to experience. With the help of Mr. Lies, Harper could go anywhere in the world and have any experience without the burdens of real life travel. In Harper’s mind, she gained all of the real life advantages of getting away such as the feelings of escapism and relaxation, but did not have to deal with life’s hassles to obtain them.
An example of the above is when Harper had Mr. Lies take her to Antarctica. Her reason for going there was to find people and the trip would ultimately numb her feelings and freeze her tears. “This is a retreat, a vacuum, its virtue is that it lacks everything; deep-freeze for feelings.. You can be numb and safe here, that’s what you came for. Respect the delicate ecology of your delusions.” Harper,part I,Act III,scene 3. Stated as it is above, this notion makes sense. Harper knows that she is delusional and out of touch with reality, but she is appreciating her current condition and taking it for everything it is worth. In actuality, Harper is in a park in NYC, but in her dream world she is in a cold desolate place where it is too cold for her feelings to bother her.
In part II, Perestroika, Harper begins to come back to reality. Part two starts off with her literally trying to chop down a pine tree in Prospect Park by chewing on it. She is shocked back into reality because her task is impossible by the means she is using. However, at this point in the play, she is still not prepared mentally to deal with the events of her real life. Even though Harper is not completely turned around yet, she has made progress from the beginning of the play. Now that Harper is coming to grips with her marriage and her life as a whole, she is in the position to do something about them. It is often said that the first step to recovering from something is realizing and admitting that you have a problem. Harper knows that she is hallucinating and that her dependency on Valium is bad for her mental and physical health, but she appreciates what the drug is doing for her. The Harper of Part Two is at an advantage to the Harper of earlier acts in the play because she is able to look at her situation from a rational point of view and see what is wrong with it. Harper starts being sarcastically open about her problems. In part II, Act I, scene 7 she said, “I could be a witch. Why not? I married a fairy.” This quote is an example of how Harper was making sarcastic jokes about the problems that have been driving her to create a dream world that she can bear to live in. At this point though, Harper can deal with her husband being gay. Instead of trying to escape her life which only made things worse, in part II Harper is dealing with her marriage in other ways then entering an imaginary world to escape it.

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As the play winds down, Harper knows for sure that her husband is homosexual but she wants to hear the words from his mouth. She asked Joe, “When we have sex, why do you keep your eyes closed?” She knows that the answer is because he is attracted to men, not her. Harper has come so far as to dealing with his sexuality so she is testing herself to see if she can handle hearing it from her husband himself. Harper is ready to let her husband go in Part Two. She has made a big progression within herself. Harper was afraid of everything in Part One, but by the end of the play she is taking the initiative to deal with her problems and more importantly take steps towards making things better in her real life. Towards the end of the play when Harper starts working out the situation with Joe’s homosexuality, Mr. Lies is around less and less. She did not need him anymore. He was simply an escape from having to deal with her real life. After Harper learned to handle what was thrown at her by life, she did not need Mr. Lies to take her away anymore.
The interactions that Harper had with Mr. Lies represented her ability to deal with the truth. In Part One when he took her away all of the time and she went to him for advice, it was apparent that she could not handle her marriage and her life. Taking Valium and confiding in Mr. Lies was the only way that Harper knew out of her reality. In part II, Harper confronted her problems and was prepared to change what was wrong, she did not need an escape mechanism because she could now face the problems of her life that she could not admit and take care of when she would run to Mr. Lies. Harper grew from part I to part I, and the more she grew was the less she needed Mr. Lies to take her away.
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