Skip over navigation

True West

Sam Shepard

Scene Three

Scene Two

Scene Four

Summary

Austin and his producer, Saul Kimmer, are sitting at the table talking about Austin's "project." Saul is extremely positive about the project's marketability if they can get a bankable star. Austin is extremely pleased. Saul talks in typical Hollywood producer doublespeak, mentioning synopses, projects, and "really capturing something." Although Saul does nothing but flatter Austin, his words come across as cheap and hollow.

As the two are winding down their short conversation, Lee enters carrying a stolen television set. Austin is incredibly embarrassed and clearly does not want to claim Lee as his brother. After some awkward introductions in which Lee mispronounces Saul's last name, Saul and Lee begin talking about golf. Saul is more than willing to get off the subject of Austin's movie, and speaks about golf with real gusto. Saul asks if Austin plays and golf, and Austin ashamedly answers that he watches it on television.

Austin stands dumbfounded as his unseemly brother sweet-talks his producer. Lee proposes that he and Saul play a round of golf the following day. Though Saul politely declines because he will be very busy, Lee will not drop it. He says they can play at the crack of dawn, while the dew is just settling on the grass. Saul is clearly excited at the prospect. The two men insult Austin by suggesting that he could act as their caddy. Saul and Lee go on to muse about how they could give Austin a beginner's lesson in golf, about the different clubs and basic techniques. Everyone is laughing except Austin, who is reticent for the remainder of the conversation as Saul and Lee continue to fraternize.

The golf game is finally settled, and Austin tries to usher Saul out the door. It is of no use. Lee quickly asks Saul if he is interested in stories, and if so, what kind. Saul politely explains the basic requirements for the stories his production company develops—a love interest and lots of action. After Saul says that action is an integral part of a story's commercial potential, he chuckles at Austin, whose project is a period-piece romance.

Just as Austin makes one final attempt to get Saul away from Lee, Lee announces that he has a western that would be perfect for Saul's production company. Saul stays to listen, and Lee says that his stories are "true-life" stories, not the whims of someone who has never experienced anything. Lee then summarizes the plot of the Kirk Douglas movie Lonely Are the Brave, about a man who dies for the love of a horse. Lee recalls the movie in awkward detail, more adept at telling the story of his time in the desert than recounting his memory of an old movie.

Saul is visibly uncomfortable by the end of the story, and makes excuses to get out of the house. Before Saul can leave, Lee manages to ask him to take a look at one of his scenarios. Saul says that he is always looking for new material, and, after a final reminder about their golf game the following day, leaves. After Saul leaves, Austin looks at the stolen television set, and then back at his brother, angrily demanding the keys to his car. Lee does not give them back, but just stares at Austin with an ear-to-ear grin.

Analysis

When Lee barges into the production meeting carrying a stolen television set, Austin does not want to introduce him as his brother, as he does not want Kimmer to think he shares any similarities with this nomadic thief. Lee, however, makes sure that Saul knows exactly who he is. He is not the houseboy. He is not an appliance repairman. He is Austin's brother. Austin has spent most of his life trying to deny his family heritage—both to himself and to everyone else he meets. Lee is a nagging reminder of where Austin came from, and his physical presence is a fact that not even Austin can deny.

Indeed, all of Austin's efforts to escape his family are unequivocally denied. No one can escape his or her family. For Austin, this scene marks the beginning of the chickens coming home to roost. Lee knows he is supposed to stay away from the house until after six o'clock that evening, but comes home anyway. He claims to have lost track of the time, and maybe this is true. Nonetheless, we assume that Lee also wants to intentionally interrupt his brother's meeting with Saul, and that he knows how much his presence will embarrass Austin.

Scene three is where the real war begins. In the first two scenes there is hint and innuendo, but in this scene Lee actively begins to take over Austin's life. Whereas earlier Lee has represented simply a nuisance, he now begins to subvert and control Austin's screenwriting efforts. He sweet-talks Saul into a game of golf, and in the process effectively emasculates Austin by suggesting that Austin be their caddy. Saul, for his part, is taken with the mysterious stranger Lee. A character like Lee does not exist in his lexicon of Hollywood pleasantries and formalities. Lee is a wonderful salesman, and has none of the shame Austin has. By the end of the scene, Lee has secured the golf game with Saul, along with Saul's interest in an outline Lee plans to write.

Lee knows exactly how to sabotage his brother. Austin's professional success is the greatest sign of his independence from his family; by taking that success away, Lee begins to make Austin lose faith in the idea that he is "above" his family. The scene ends in silence, as Austin is flabbergasted by Lee's actions. Austin demands the return of his car keys, which were part of the original deal specifying that Lee stay away from the house while the producer was there. Unfortunately for Austin, Lee has no intentions of admitting any sort of breach of contract. The war is on. He refuses to return the keys, and instead gives Austin a big grin. Inside the grin is the invitation to war.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us