Hannah vs. Joe
In Tony Kushners to part play, Angels in America, readers are introduced to a closeted gay man, Joe Pitt and are exposed to his relationship with his Mormon mother, Hannah. An underlying conflict occurs when Hannah finds out her son is a homosexual; a problem which forces her to question her love and acceptance towards her son and her strong Mormon anti gay sentiments and beliefs. This conflict between mother and son helps Kushner illustrate the complexity of sexuality and the changing views of homosexuality.
The conflict between Joe and Hannah initially arises when Joe tells is mom for the first time that he is gay. Joe’s mother is Mormon and Joe himself is born and raised Mormon. The religious prohibits homosexuality and this, Hannah is in shock when Joe tells her what is going on. It is even more shocking due to the fact that Joe is presumably happily married to Harper, also a Mormon. During This discussion with his mother, Joe tries to point the finger at his father who Joe claims didn’t love him enough and might have caused his homosexuality. Hannah can not seem to deal with the situation and delves into extreme denial. She hangs up the phone thinking the conversation came from Joe just being drunk.
Hannah’s Mormon background embedded in her strict beliefs about traditional love and marriages and the idea that being gay is unnatural and devilish. This background doesn’t allow her to accept Joe’s sexuality. It is in this upheaval that Hannah moves from Salt Lake City to New York in hopes to save her son and his dying marriage. Her arrival, However only makes the situation worse. She carries out responsibility as a mother-in-law and takes care of the abandonment and valium-dependant Harper and manages at the same time to dive Joe completely out of the picture.
By the second part of the play, Hannah is working at a Mormons visitor center in New York and simultaneously taking care of Harper. Joe meanwhile is beginning his first relationship with a man, Louis. Both Joe and Hannah are opening up; Joe living out his homosexual tendencies and Hannah being exposed to absurd circumstances such as the meeting of prior. Prior in many ways becomes Hannah’s first real recognition of homosexuality. Prior, who is surviving with A. I. D. S visits the Mormon center, where he falls severely ill and ends up being saved by Hannah. This seems to be Hannah’s first experience with a gay man and for not being very accepting of the lifestyle, she handles the situation maturely and responsibly. Hannah, in accepting Prior, seems to almost be accepting her own son. She explains to Prior that it isn’t necessarily Joe’s homosexuality that she cant accept and allow but rather the stupidity of two men in any configuration, that gets to her.
Joe and Hannah never get a chance in the play to talk about their problems and save their parent-child bondage, but through the conflict; birth grow. Kushner uses a Mormon man being Gay to illustrate the idea that people cannot determine their sexual fate by discussing two extremes. In coupling the strict religion of Mormonism with homosexuality, Kushner purposefully sets up a great conflict. The dynamic between mother and son isn’t the only interesting consequence, however. The conflict also illustrates Hannah’s growth. By the end of the play, the religious Hannah has saved a gays man life and has made out with a female angel; reaching orgasm. The conflict begins to focus less on Joe and Hannah and more on the acceptance of homosexuality in the constantly changing world. Even though Joe and Hannah do not end up living happily in a traditional family setting, both evolve from the conflict as new people. For changing, Joe grows the least. Instead of becoming a better man, he falls into whatever hole comes his way; either fighting for Louis or settling Harper. Hannah turns into a new and open-minded person who in the last scene of the play is hanging out in New York with three gay men (one of which who is an ex-drag queen). Kushner uses this underlying conflict and solution to show how unpredictable the world is. It also helps in his redefinition of homosexuality by showing how it effects everyone and how he embraces this contingency.