The America Play

by

Suzan-Lori Parks

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Echoes Symbol Icon

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

The The America Play quotes below all refer to the symbol of Echoes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theatre Communications Group edition of The America Play published in 1994.
Act 1: Lincoln Act Quotes

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.

Related Characters: The Foundling Father (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Great Hole of History, Echoes
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2: The Hall of Wonders Quotes

A gunshot echoes. Loudly. And echoes.

Related Characters: Lucy, Brazil, The Foundling Father
Related Symbols: Echoes, The Great Hole of History
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Part C: Archaeology Quotes

BRAZIL: You hear im?
LUCY: Echo of thuh first sort: thuh sound. (E.g. thuh gunplay.)
(Rest)
Echo of thuh 2nd sort: thuh words. Type A: thuh words from thuh dead. Category: Unrelated.
(Rest)
Echo of thuh 2nd sort, Type B: words less fortunate: thuh Disembodied Voice. Also known as “Thuh Whispers.” Category: Related. Like our Fathuhs.
(Rest)
Echo of thuh 3rd sort: thuh body itself.
(Rest)
BRAZIL: You hear im.
LUCY: Cant say. Cant say, son.
BRAZIL: My faux-father.

Related Characters: Lucy (speaker), Brazil (speaker), The Foundling Father
Related Symbols: Echoes, Whispers
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The America Play LitChart as a printable PDF.
The America Play PDF

Echoes Symbol Timeline in The America Play

The timeline below shows where the symbol Echoes appears in The America Play. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1: Lincoln Act
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
...ha[d] witnessed,” which went past him—“not 'on past’ him but past. Behind him. Like an echo in his head.” At home, he “hear[d] the summoning,” which (unlike the echoes) turned out... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...and “slight deafness,” and finally proposes he “wear the blonde.” Act 1 closes with the echo of a gunshot. (full context)
Act 2, Part A: Big Bang
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Lucy and Brazil debate if the sound they hear is “him,” as the gunshot keeps echoing. They decide that it isn’t, and Lucy comments on the way “uh little gunplay” has... (full context)
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...“till you dig up somethin” and reminds him that “Your Daddy was uh Digger.” The echo continues, and after a pause, Lucy tells Brazil how important it is for her “tuh... (full context)
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...never repeat it. “Little Bram Price Junior,” who “burned [Lucy’s] eardrums,” died too. But “His Echo” came back “and [ate] up everybodys food just like he did when he was livin.”... (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...tuh know,” but has to keep digging! “Dig on. Dig on,” Lucy says, and Brazil echoes, “Dig on.” The gunshot echoes again. (full context)
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
The gunshot echoes again, and Brazil screams and “drops dead,” but Lucy knows he’s “fakin” just like his... (full context)
Act 2, Part G: The Great Beyond
History, Narrative, and Multiplicity Theme Icon
Theater and Reality Theme Icon
Family, Trauma, and Personal Identity Theme Icon
Death, Mourning, and Resurrection Theme Icon
...asks Brazil and Lucy for a hug, but neither is ready yet. There is another echo of a gunshot, and Lucy comments on how “That gunplay […] Comes. And goze.”  She... (full context)