The city of San Francisco symbolizes both the failed society that the Angels try to perpetuate as well as the promise of an ideal, gay-inflected community that the play's ending promises. Heaven resembles San Francisco after the huge earthquake of 1906, the day on which God abandoned his people forever. His departure is as devastating to the Angels as the quake was to the city. But while Heaven remains in a state of permanent rubble and decay, the real San Francisco was almost immediately rebuilt, becoming, as Prior tells Harper, a place of "unspeakable" beauty. The San Francisco metaphor thus contrasts the untenable stasis of the Angels with the ceaseless energy and determination of human beings. The city also represents the longed-for ideal society the characters attempt to build in the epilogue. Westward migration has always represented hope in America, but earlier migrations like that of the Mormons only replicated the emptiness and isolation they sought to leave behind. Now, in the last scene, Harper is migrating even farther west, as far west as she can go in America, to a place famous for its tolerance, loveliness, and left-wing politics, a city that is not coincidentally America's gay capital. The gathering on the rim of the Bethesda Fountain could have easily been staged in San Francisco's Castro District—both locations represent voluntary community, inclusion, civic participation, and personal promise.
More main ideas from Angels in America
Take a Study Break!