In ‘Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,’ Tony Kushner applies sophisticated dialogue in order to explore how each of his characters experience isolation and how they struggle to fill that void in their own way. Despite the numerous destruction of relationships, each character reaches out to another in desperate ways to discover more about their own identity such as when Harper and Prior meet in a dream and reveal things about each other to one another. Through complex discourse, Kushner reveals that one attempts to ease isolation by adhering to whatever feels most comfortable at the time, ultimately meaning that relief is temporary but aloneness is perpetual.
The notion of isolation is present in the play when Prior tells the story about his ancestor who was a ship’s captain that transported immigrants and when the boat got too heavy, a passenger was thrown overboard. Prior says, “People in a boat, waiting, terrified, while implacable, unsmiling men, irresistibly strong, seize…maybe the person next to you, maybe you…with time only for a quick intake of air you are pitched into freezing, turbulent water and salt and darkness to drown” (42). Although Prior here is telling a tale about the history of his family, he is also exposes this concept that is evident in the play for all characters. Life is unpredictable and overwhelmingly difficult; even more challenging because life is faced alone, that one confronts the tempestuous waters unaided. This does not stop the characters from reaching out for reassurance though. For example, Prior claims, “I want the voice; it’s wonderful. It’s all that’s keeping me alive” (64). Belize deems Prior’s behavior to be ridiculous; however, Prior finds himself latching onto this voice as a means of diverting his focus from his illness and from Louis leaving him. He feels the voice is keeping him alive not only physically but mentally too, providing him some comfort in his time of need.
Harper also feels the pain of isolation because Joe does not give her the proper attention she needs being that he is confused about his own sexuality. She isolates herself with her agoraphobia by physically cutting herself off from the outside world; however, she finds solace in her pill addiction and her hallucination. Harper pleads, “Mr. Lies, I want to get away from here. Far away. Right now. Before he starts talking again. Please, Please” (82). Harper cannot take facing her worst fear so she literally begs her hallucination to transport her to a different place. Through her hallucinations, she creates an alternate universe in which she is safe from Joe.
Joe also suffers from isolation and seeks consolation from Louis. Joe discloses to Louis that he showed up to work on a Sunday believing it was Monday; on the matter he says, “I just wondered what a thing it would be…if overnight everything you owe anything to, justice, or love, had really gone away. Free” (75). Such a simple event shows that Joe is very used to routine, even showing up to work when he is not supposed to. This occurrence also makes Joe start to think about how he wants to shed himself of his old life, the life he was never meant to live, and start a new life with the help of Louis. Louis sees through Joe, he sees the secret within him that he has painstakingly tried to kill over the years by marrying Harper.
Isolation is a struggle each character has to deal with in Kushner’s ‘Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.’ Through the conversations of these characters, it is evident that they attempt to ease their loneliness in many ways, but are only successful momentarily, therefore life must be faced on one’s own.