The America Play is full of echoes—besides the Whispers that Lucy searches for all around the replica of the Great Hole of History with her ear trumpet, the most important is doubtlessly the “gunshot [that] echoes. Loudly. And echoes” throughout the second act. This echo is clearly the reflection of the gun that fires during the Foundling Father’s reenactment of the Lincoln assassination, which recurs over and over during Act One. In Act Two, then, the Lincoln assassination is constantly present to the senses even though it is visually absent. It is unclear whether it continues somewhere offstage, or if the past is simply leaving its mark on the present. At the very end of the play, the Foundling Father returns and appears to actually die by gunshot, and it is impossible to tell if this event is real, a reenactment, or simply an echo of the past.
Later in Act Two, Lucy—an expert on the signs left by the departed—explains to Brazil and the audience that there are a number of different kinds of echoes. There are echoes of “sound” and echoes of “thuh words” (which can be divided into “thuh words from thuh dead,” which are “unrelated,” and “thuh Whispers,” which are “related. Like our Fathuhs.” While all these echoes reflect the way the past (and the dead) speak to the present (and the living), Lucy’s insistence on “know[ing] thuh difference” between reality and the echo also speaks to the impossibility of distinguishing reality from illusion in this play: just as nobody knows what is and is not true of Lincoln and what truly happened to the Foundling Father after he moved West, or who is acting a character or truly performing as themselves.
Echoes Quotes in The America Play
On the way home again the histories paraded again on past him although it wasnt on past him at all it wasnt something he could expect but again like Lincolns life not “on past” but past. Behind him. Like an echo in his head.
BRAZIL: You hear im?
LUCY: Echo of thuh first sort: thuh sound. (E.g. thuh gunplay.)
Echo of thuh 2nd sort: thuh words. Type A: thuh words from thuh dead. Category: Unrelated.
Echo of thuh 2nd sort, Type B: words less fortunate: thuh Disembodied Voice. Also known as “Thuh Whispers.” Category: Related. Like our Fathuhs.
Echo of thuh 3rd sort: thuh body itself.
BRAZIL: You hear im.
LUCY: Cant say. Cant say, son.
BRAZIL: My faux-father.