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True West

Sam Shepard

Scene Two

Scene One

Scene Three

Summary

Scene two takes place on the following morning. Austin waters the plants while Lee sits drinking beer. Lee marvels at the degree of security measures their mother has taken to protect her materially worthless belongings, which include a plate with Idaho printed on its face. After a pleasant gripe about the subject, Austin asks whether Lee went out of the house the night before. Lee recounts his wanderings from the previous night. He was unable to sleep due to the noisy coyotes killing a neighborhood dog. Austin baits him, saying, "I thought you didn't sleep." Lee just stares at Austin.

The threat of physical violence is pervasive throughout the scene, but nothing actually occurs. Lee criticizes Austin's lifestyle as too fancy and stifled. Austin, surprisingly, says nothing to contradict Lee's generalizations, agreeing on some level that his domestic lifestyle is a sort of trap. Rather than argue about his chosen lifestyle, Austin wants to hear about Lee's time spent in the desert. He hangs on every word of Lee's recollections of his time away from civilization.

In spite of himself, Austin is curious about what Lee saw and what houses he might rob. On the whole, we get the sense that, as the older brother, Lee is clearly an object of Austin's envy and admiration. Lee indulges his younger brother's fancy, recounting a beautiful house he saw the night before, ripe for the picking. Austin, caught up in the romance of Lee's outlaw lifestyle, continues to ask questions about Lee's life in the desert, especially about whether Lee got lonely or not. Their conversation is quite amiable and seemingly loses all the threat that existed in Scene one. Lee is a born raconteur and Austin is a very willing audience.

The romanticized trip down memory lane comes to an end when Austin mentions the fact that his producer, Saul Kimmer, is going to come to the house later that afternoon, and Austin would prefer it if Lee were not around. Lee is outraged, accusing his brother of being ashamed of him. It is unclear whether Lee's reaction is the result of some tendency toward hypersensitivity, or whether he is faking his outrage. Lee jumps on every criticism of their father, and, as he has made himself in the image of the old man, even the slightest criticism creates tension. But the answer seems to come when Lee begins to propose that Austin should lend him his car. Austin knows full well that Lee will use the car to steal. However, Austin cannot have his brother around the house while his producer is there. There is no other choice but to lend Lee his car.

Analysis

Scene two begins as a pleasant scene of two brothers catching up: all of the tension seems to have dissipated. Austin obviously loves listening to his older brother tell stories of his wanderings, both from the night before and from his time out on the desert. Lee indulges Austin's wishes, answering every question put to him. In contrast to the highly dysfunctional home in which the brothers grew up, Lee describes seeing a suburban Valhalla, that seems to be the "kinda' place you sorta' wish you grew up in." Where and when the brothers grew up is unclear. It is unclear what relationship exists between their father and mother, the only clear thing being that the old man is currently living somewhere in the desert.

Lee has stumbled into his father's own image, and when Austin asks Lee to take off for a few hours, Lee takes it extremely personally. The idea of Austin being ashamed of him is too much to bear. It is not only an admonition of Lee's appearance but of his heritage. Austin does not want it known that he is related to a man like Lee, and, in turn, his father. His request for Lee to leave the house for a few hours seems like a practical concern, but runs much deeper. Austin has escaped the influence of his father, going to an Ivy League school and now a successful screenwriter. This afternoon he has a meeting with an important producer. Lee, on the other hand, is representative of everything Austin has escaped from. He is the physical manifestation of his father. For Saul to see Lee is to admit where exactly Austin came from: that he was once a part of the same dysfunction. Although he guises his request in politeness, Austin is unwilling to admit his heritage. There are other rooms in the house. He could ask Lee to stay in the bedroom. But Austin needs Lee to be physically out of the house, to be nowhere near him and the producer.

Lee senses this active disapproval and reacts accordingly. For such an aggressive man he is very sensitive to rebuke. Austin apologizes for not being able to spend more time with Lee. He wishes he did not have so much "business" to attend to. Lee thinks Austin is doing Art with a capital A. The two poles of the brothers' approach to life and toward art are apparent in this exchange. There is no real inspiration for Austin: his screenwriting efforts are nothing more than some business. After the negotiation of Lee's departure is settled, Lee suggests that he has his own stories to pitch if Austin's pitch to the producer is not good enough. Lee knows even at this point that Austin does not have the stuff of the real artist. Admittedly, he is probably skilled technically, and has connections within the business. However, if he cannot even regard himself as an artist, then he cannot begin to approach to produce real art. Lee quietly begins the takeover of his brother's business by politely asking him to let the producer know that Lee has his own stories that would make wonderful motion pictures. The scene ends without a reply from Austin. At this point he regards his brother's talk as petty jealousy, not as any real threat to his livelihood. Soon enough he realizes that Lee wants a lot more than his car keys.

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