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Angels in America

Tony Kushner

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?

Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice. God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching.

Harper: And then get up. And walk around.

Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.

This dialogue between Harper and the Mormon mother appears in Act Three, Scene Five of Perestroika. The Mormon mother's description of how people change is one of the most unforgettable passages in the play. The question of change and how it affects people is one of the central themes of Angels in America, pitting the Angel, who believes all change is destructive and should be avoided, against the characters who do change dramatically over time: Harper, Hannah, Prior. The Mormon mother's description seems to fuse elements of both positions. She would certainly agree with the Angel that change is threatening and destructive—so much so that her words sear us with their painful intensity. But for the Mormon mother change cannot be avoided, can only be endured—the question is not whether people should change but how we must live afterwards. What's more, this description of change is particularly realistic since nothing is added or taken away. People are not magically transformed by gifts from without; we must make do instead with what we were born with, rearranged and restitched, but very much our own.