Unrealistic elements may be used in a variety of different ways for a variety of different purposes in plays and other types of dramas. In Act I Scene ii of Reed’s “The C above C above high C,” the play opens with a discussion between Eisenhower and Kay Summersby. While Act I Scene i was similarly full of unrealistic action and diction, Scene ii is much more fragmented than the previous scene.
Act I Scene ii begins in a pseudo-realistic manner, with Eisenhower discussing a dream he had the previous evening. He says: “I had a dream that it was the year 2000. That China had the world’s 25 largest economy and that Africa was moving up. Maybe Douglas MacArthur was right. Maybe we should have nuked China” (Reed). This discussion about the potential devastation of China is purposeful, a direct contrast to the discussion Gloria and Armstrong were having in the previous scene about the happenings in Little Rock, Arkansas. Where Gloria and Armstrong felt kinship with the victims despite the long distances between them and the differences in their social situations, Eisenhower appears to feel remote from the possibility of dropping nuclear bombs on and devastating China (Reed). This cognitive dissonance merely sets the stage for the progression of the scene; it wrong-foots the viewer, and even moreso the reader, because the reader cannot see the change of actors.
In some ways, “The C above C above high C” breaks the third wall between the audience and the actors, as there are incongruities between the action on the stage and possible reality. When the so-called Black Woman enters the scene in Act I Scene ii, it is directed that she appear the same as Gloria, who exists in the audience’s mind in a completely separate time and place. When the woman begins to speak about Little Rock, Arkansas and the lynch mob she saw there, it is clear that the woman is not Gloria, but the similarities are still seared into the minds and emotional response of the audience.
In addition, the Black Woman who appears does not seem to speak to the two characters who are having a dialogue in the scene; neither Kay nor Eisenhower react in any way to the woman’s statement that she saw a lynch mob in Little Rock. As the scene continues on, the characters of Kay Summersby and Eisenhower speak, and the black woman, Mamie, speaks as well; however, they do not acknowledge each other. They exist on the same stage but are presenting two different stories, and two completely varied perspectives.
Reed also uses the unrealistic action to demonstrate that black people themselves, regardless of social status, were not invisible to each other in the same way that they were invisible to white people. Mamie and Lil Armstrong, despite being from different walks of life, communicate with each other; while Lil Armstrong sees herself as above Mamie, she does not paint her into the backdrop in the same way Kay and Ike did.
Reed’s presentation in Act I Scene ii is meant to mimic the ways he believed that black people and white people conducted their lives in American society. White people were conditioned to ignore black people, and black people were only aware of white people in the same way that deer are aware of wolves. Reed’s presentation of unrealistic action on the stage reflects his belief that black people and white people lived two separate life narratives, and were continuously unable to communicate effectively with each other.
Reed, Ishmael. "The C Above C Above High C". 1997. ENGL 200: Composition and Literature. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Web. 3 July 12.