Author: noelle

The Role of Fear in Angels in America

There are a lot of factors that make up Angels in America by Tony Kushner, such as social expectation, labels, sexuality, disease, and so on, but what really ties them all together is the presence of fear. As is said in Als’s summarizing article ‘“Angels in America”: Brilliant, Maddening, and Necessary‘, “fear defined the times.” Roy Cohn, the highly recognized lawyer in the novel that is despised by some, is diagnosed with AIDS by his doctor but refuses to be called a homosexual, due to his contraction of AIDS. As he claims, “AIDS is what homosexuals have. I have liver cancer” (47). There is a level of fear in Roy as he starts to realize his place with the disease growing in him, as well as having death loom over him more and more each day. He also fears the reception of people if they were to know he is somewhat a homosexual, especially in his career and with his colleagues.

Joe is scared of what his actual sexuality means in terms of his religion, marriage, and standing in his life at that moment. He takes all those walks in the park instead of immediately coming back home to his wife in order to contemplate, even when he wasn’t in full realization of his homosexuality. Harper is scared of facing reality and thus indulges herself in Valium, reality being that she is actually alone in the world and probably the only person she ever has is Joe, but even he’s leaving. Louis leaves Prior because he is scared of the inevitable of Prior’s condition, and for himself. Prior is scared of what this prophecy means to him and to the world, scared of death due to his contracting AIDS as well. Fear is what drives certain people to do certain things, and perhaps this is what really pushes the narrative forward in Angels in America: people are scared and they do irrational things to relieve that fear, not knowing that those actions can harm other people.

Why Read The Plague Today?

Disclaimer: Article contains spoilers of the narrative of the book.

The Plague by Camus is a novel published in 1947, set in the 1940’s, about a plague epidemic that arises in Oran, French Algeria… so how does that apply to us living in 2019, where living sanitary and health conditions are far more advanced compared to the state it was in 1947? An article in The Guardian by Ed Vulliamy touches upon the many different reasons why the story of Camus’s is actually beneficial to read in our time and even in future times. Vulliamy describes Camus’s novel as best in describing and depicting man’s confrontation of death, especially in such a context that we, as the readers of the 21st century, cannot comprehend. Camus allows us to question what exactly the plague signifies now, in our time and day. Additionally, Vulliamy brings up an interesting perspective where The Plague can tell the story of a different kind of plague: “that of destructive, hyper-materalist, turbo-capitalism.” Camus very well describes the town and townspeople before the plague had started to spread, as well as when the plague started to manifest itself into the lives of the citizens who inhabited the unfortunate space: how people started to drink more because they thought it could cure them of the state of their town, how more and more people started attending the Sunday church sessions in order to feel some sense of relief against the growing despair. Perhaps it is that Camus’s novel serves as a way for us contemporaries of today to visualize what happens during an epidemic and what productive ways we can do to go about it, if the occasion ever arises.

In the Eyes of Contemporaries: Documentation

Anne Frank’s diary documentation of living through World War II
Daniel Defoe’s title page of his novel

We mentioned today about what it means for Defoe’s piece of writing to be considered a journal, in all that it has encapsulated for us in terms of illustrating the events of the plague outbreak in London in 1665. A journal may be considered a medium of documentation of news and events in a personal nature: a diary, almost. To better explain how a journal may be perceived as a better medium for such writing of Defoe’s for the time of the outbreak, let’s take famous Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. It is a book of the regular writings of a young girl, Anne Frank, while she was in hiding with her family for two years during World War II in the Netherlands. The diary was received positively by many, it created a lost and unknown narrative into what it felt like to be in place during World War II. Her diary was a point of reference to many victims and casualties that had been targeted and died during the war, especially to those who survived till the end. Her journal created a voice to those who didn’t have it within themselves to explain or elaborate on such experiences, it created a voice for the dead; it was, you could say, crucial for their experiences to be known. Without the writings of this once 12 year-old girl, we wouldn’t have known exactly how one person, even if just a young girl, had felt during that exact time and moment of World War II. Putting this into Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, even while it is a piece of fiction factly present in the back of our minds, it is interesting to read this piece after all the background knowledge we have accumulated about contagion and contagion theory, and how people have responded to these kinds of outbreaks. Even while it is unreal and not presented by an actual eye witness of the time, we can feel, or at least imagine, how the people of London went through their lives during this devastating period in 1665. As people living through the 21st century, we cannot and will not be able to say we fully know what it felt like to be in their situation, in the situation of those who were suddenly subjected to such a tragedy that seems almost surreal for our own selves. Therefore, the fact that Defoe used such a structure of a journal and diary almost, creates the sudden change of perspective that we are able to directly see and live through a citizen’s eyes experiencing that specific time, even while we know the information being presented to us is fictional.