Ideology and the Actual

In Angels in America Kushner presents the ideal social movement , represented by Prior, who embodies ideology combined with real life, in contrast to Louis and Belize, who hold on to either ideology or the real, without the ability to embody the two together. Louis embodies the Hegelian ideology that relies on the world to constantly move forward, even if that means ignoring real life such as those with AIDS and racial minorities that impede on that ideological “progress”. In contrast to Louis, Belize’s view of life is concerned with the real, these hindrances, the diseased, and the discriminated, which through his job as a nurse he wishes to increase their wellbeing. Belize, although not subscribing to a prominent ideology, does still live his life with an ideology, even if that ideology is not his main concern and incorporates a wealth of different views of the world.

“[We] Think. And [We] IMAGINE! Migrate, Explore, and when [we] do:” we can create change and progress in society (Kushner, 175). Kushner presents us with a world where the potential for change rests on humans, where change is so radical that angels cannot create change and actually despise any change due to their foreseeing the future of the world. Can all progress be bad? With Prior’s declining his prophetical role and wish to cling to life he believes that humans can struggle through terrible things much worse than AIDS.  We see that he means it, even “when they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony,” humans will struggle through oppression but society will progress (266).

Prior wishes to keep being part of the movement forward, a social movement of change towards the acceptance of minorities of class, race, gender , and sexual orientation . He embodies his ideologies into real life just as the goal of any successful social movement is to do as well. Through his acceptance of life rather than

The success of a social movement may be seen in its ability to facilitate its ideologies with actual implementation during its time through legalistic or social change that it’s able to get across to the public. As Prior continues to live instead of transcending into a prophetical state he is able to continue implementing his ideologies into everyday life and interactions with those around him. Even with the failure of a social movement to enact an immediate legalistic change, as well as Prior’s AIDS, progress continues and “Paradise itself Shivers and Splits” from the inequalities and ideologies they bring to reality (176).

The Angel continues to explain to Prior and Belize that humans must stop progress in the world because the future is bleak if we do and our current progress has already has shaken the heavens too much. The Angels hope that by reverting back or stagnating any sort of progress that has caused God to flee will therefore cause God to come back. It is ambiguous whether there is a specific issue that will cause humanities’ destruction or a philosophical ideology such as modernity that would turn humanity away far away from God. All change to the Angels results in the destruction of humanity. As seen with Prior though, even “if that’s just the animal” part of humans we will continue to live and to progress (266).

Though Prior is the ideal representation of a successful social movement , Kushner shows the challenge that social movements have with combining ideology with actual life between the relationship of Belize and Louis. With just an ideology a social movement will not be able to face the challenges and different viewpoints of individuals and continue its success. So too is a social movement not successful if it lacks any ideology to grasp the further implications of their everyday actions.

Louis represents the social movement that takes ideology to the extreme and lacks any real life implementation. Louis’s takes hold in his Hegelian ideology so strongly that he is unwilling to accept white racism as a big issue because the US, unlike others such as “the Brits [racism] matters to them, not their political destiny” (97). His views on political progress as solely important, that only “in politics does the miraculous occur” eliminates to him the issue of racial discrimination. To Louis racial discrimination is only used to gain further power in politics and does not have implication beyond that.

Louis’s blatant denial due to placing ideology above the real leads Louis to leave Prior in his time of need after being diagnosed with AIDS. For Louis any thing that stops “progress towards happiness or perfection” such as AIDS must be ignored not in hope to miss the possibility of infection but because he can’t “incorporate sickness into” his ideology of the world. How very real it must have seemed to Louis, while giving him no place to fit AIDS into political progress, theory unable to mess with the real.

Belize represents the social movement that lacks a prominent ideology and instead may go against the prominent ideologies, focusing on real life relationships. Where Louis finds solidarity in loving America for what he believes as political destiny Belize hates “America,” seeing it as a place with nothing more than “big ideas, and stories, and people dying” (228). Although he may have personal views of his place in the world there is no overarching theory that represents to him a connection between the relationships he has with his significant others or casual acquaintances. He lacks an end goal where he sees the world going. Instead he focuses on caring for his friends and enemies such Roy Cohn, which even through Belize’s hatred toward his bigotry he makes sure Roy will not receive a deadly treatment of chemotherapy.

Just as God left the world of Angels in America so too in our own reality we were provided with the ability to leave God with the creation of modernity. We created an ideology that could be implemented to our actual lives, even if that meant eliminating the need for religion. This marriage of ideology to the actual is key to social movements. Without the influence of “true theory married to actual life” social movements would not be successful (148). Without this marriage we would have to move back from Modernity, into a world which the Angel’s the Angels in America wish to do in hopes to bring back God and curb any progress which they see as bad as they are unable to change anything by themselves.

Looking at Louis and Belize’s conflict of merging their different lenses of ideology and actual life throughout the entire play we see the challenge that social movements struggle with daily. Both Belize and Louis’s views do not change in these areas even as the epilogue comes to an end. As Belize, Louis, Hannah, and Prior sit five years later the topic of ideology vs. living is brought up again. Although Louis may believe the world has become so different and larger “to be encompassed by a single theory” he still insists “only in politics does the miraculous occur”, a theory, against Belize’s opinion that “the world is faster than the mind”, where theory is not sufficient to keep up with the ups and downs of life (278).


Works Cited:

Kushner, Tony. Angels in America. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2003. Print.

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