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True West

Sam Shepard

Scene Five

Scene Four

Scene Six

Summary

It is the next morning, just after Lee's game of golf with Saul. Saul likes Lee's story so much that as part of his advance money he has given Lee his own golf clubs and bag, which Lee proudly carries with him. Austin is absolutely flabbergasted, though for the moment happy for his brother's quick success. Austin demands a run down of the exact events that transpired in the deal. After Lee explains that Saul gave him a verbal guarantee, Austin reminds his brother that nothing is certain until it is in writing. Lee, however, does not need a contract because he gambled with Saul on the back nine of the golf course. He won, and Saul agreed to produce the movie.

Austin gets champagne from their mother's refrigerator to celebrate when Lee matter-of-factly explains that Austin will get a very good fee for writing the script. Austin explains that he does not have time to write both Lee's script and his own. Lee, however, tells his brother that Saul has decided to drop Austin's project. Austin, in disbelief, demands to know everything that Saul said on the golf course. Saul said that Lee's story was the first authentic western to come along in many years. At the news of Saul's apparent mistake, Austin becomes furious and insults Lee's contrived story idea. So unbelievable is Saul's preference for Lee's story that Austin begins to accuse Lee of physically harming Saul. Lee firmly denies that any physical violence was necessary and takes personal offence to the suggestion.

Austin continues his accusations, and Lee lunges at him with a golf club. He stops short, holding the golf club over Austin's head. Lee sits down at the table, and Austin asks a final time if Lee harmed or threatened Saul. Lee indignantly denies the accusation and says that Saul's decision was based purely on his reaction to Lee's story—that and the fact that Lee beat the producer at golf. Austin pleads with Lee to tell him the truth, but Lee sincerely admits to no wrongdoing. Not satisfied with the heartfelt denial, Austin demands to know where Saul is so he can verify Lee's story. When Lee says that Saul is shopping the outline around town, Austin becomes enraged because he wrote the outline, not Lee, and that Saul has no right to peddle the outline without Austin's permission.

Desperate to do something, Austin asks for the keys to the car so he can take a drive and cool off. Lee tells Austin he has nowhere to go, but Austin just wants to drive out to the desert to clear his head. Lee refuses to give Austin the keys, instead telling him to sit down and relax, that the house is the perfect place to get necessary thinking done, and that Austin should start getting used to the fact that from now on they are partners.

Analysis

Lee's great assault on Austin's career continues. Lee is uncannily successful at sabotaging his brother's screenwriting efforts. In one round of golf he manages to not only secure a screenwriting deal but also to make Austin's contract for the same deal null and void. The question becomes why Lee is trying so hard to ruin Austin's life. Lee came to his mother's house under the auspices of petty theft, but now wants to write a screenplay—an endeavor in which he has hitherto shown absolutely no interest.

In his actions in this scene, Lee is systematically removing his brother from his previously stable life. Screenwriting is a large part of Austin's identity, as his success in the industry is his only proof of having escaped the influence of his dysfunctional family. Lee serves as the reminder that Austin was not as successful at escaping as Austin might have thought. As Lee takes away all the roles by which Austin defines himself, Austin is forced to reconsider his own identity. Austin, however, cannot accept the fact that his beloved screenwriting deal might be taken away from him. He accuses Lee of lying and then of coercing Saul with violence, but Lee is not willing to be insulted by his brother. He may be a thief and a drunk but, so far, he is no killer.

At this point, it is unclear what actually happened on the golf course. Lee's story seems extremely implausible, almost as bad as the outline he wrote, which Saul apparently loved and considered the most authentic thing he had read in years. Saul's judgment serves as an easy criticism of Hollywood: when the representative of Hollywood in the play has terrible taste, then Hollywood itself is a failed organism. In this regard, Shepard points out a dichotomy between what is real and what Hollywood thinks is real. For Saul to think Lee's outline is not only good but also the most authentic outline he has read in years means that the values held in Hollywood are absurd.

Furthermore, the violence merely hinted at in the last scene become acutely real here. Lee takes a golf club and raises it above Austin's head, but stops it the top of its arc, just showing Austin what can happen if he further crosses the line. On a symbolic level, Lee's deal-making abilities represent Lee's half of the creative artist. Indeed, Austin would be totally incapable of showing as much chutzpah. Although he has absolutely no real experience in the industry, Lee has the smarts and charisma to immediately sweet-talk Saul into canceling Austin's deal. Though each brother can be seen as representing one half of the creative artist, Lee is actually bringing the deal to the both of them, so that they can both work on the project. When Lee relates the fact that Saul is busy trying to sell Lee's outline around Hollywood, Austin lodges the protest that he himself—not Lee—wrote the outline. This is technically true, as Austin is the one who does the actual typing. However, Lee is the one with the ideas and the means to get the script into the right hands. This small detail reflects their roles in the creative process: Lee is the idea man, while Austin is the executor of the idea.

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