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True West

Sam Shepard

Scene Seven

Scene Six

Scene Eight

Summary

Now, Lee is at the typewriter pecking away with one finger while Austin lies on the floor, dead drunk. Austin is singing a drunken song about the sunset when Lee yells for him to be quiet. Lee needs to concentrate, as he is the screenwriter now. Austin, balking at the idea of Lee writing an entire screenplay by himself, makes the drunken suggestion that Saul Kimmer thinks Lee and Austin are the same person. Lee dismisses this remark as the liquor talking and asks for quiet again, assuring Austin that if it were not for the racket, he could rattle off the whole screenplay in one night.

Austin reasons that since Lee is now the screenwriter, he himself should now become the thief. Lee laughs heartily at the idea and makes a bet that Austin could not even steal a toaster. Initially the bet is for shared screen credit, but the stakes end up increasing to include Austin's house. All Austin wants in return, if he wins the bet, is a knick-knack from the days Lee spent in the desert. Lee, annoyed with the jabbering and with his own his inability to concentrate, smashes the typewriter into the table. Austin excuses himself, promising to see Lee in a bit.

In the same mocking vocabulary Lee has used in the play's opening scenes, Austin denounces Lee's efforts at screenwriting and pledges to take a look around the neighborhood for good places from which to steal. When Austin tries to leave, however, he only falls to the floor drunk. Lee offers to call Austin's wife, but Austin says that he needs no one's help and that he is going to steal a toaster and commit crimes bigger than anything Lee ever did. Austin manages to stand up and talks about the suburbia he is going to steal from as a sort of latter day nirvana—a speech Lee says resembles the way the old man used to talk.

Austin says that all three of them sound the same when drunk. When Lee once again mentions the prospect of bringing the old man out there with money earned from the screenplay, Austin takes a swing but then falls down. Austin says he does not want to have anything to do with the old man. Lee asks for help on the screenplay again: just a little bit, he says, just the characters. Austin insults Lee's story and his abilities as a screenwriter. Lee offers to leave on the condition that Austin help him with the screenplay, which piques Austin's interest. When asked where he would go, Lee says that he would just disappear. Austin denies the possibility of his brother disappearing, as it seems that the old man tried that once a long time ago.

Lee joins Austin on the floor for a drink, and Austin tells the vivid story of how the old man went to Mexico to get all of his teeth pulled and ended up losing his false teeth in a doggy bag of Chop Suey. Lee listens intently, unaware that the old man had any need for false teeth or that he had lost them. At the end of the story Austin declares that it is a story that is true to life.

Analysis

Austin's suggestion that Saul Kimmer thinks that the two brothers are the same person is the most explicit reference to the fact that the two men represent opposite sides of a single creative artist. Individually, each brother is unable to complete anything. Here, we see Lee struggling at the typewriter, begging for even the smallest assistance from Austin. The brothers' animosity is the fundamental relationship that exists in each act of creation. Looking at the play with this relationship in mind removes the story from its seemingly naturalistic limitations and transforms it into an archetypal examination of what it means to be an artist. The struggle for creation is an extremely violent one, as demonstrated by the brothers' bickering and fighting.

By this point in the play, the character reversal is complete. Austin is now the drunk and Lee is now the screenwriter. As Lee has invaded Austin's profession so easily, Austin thinks it is about time for him to become a thief. Austin boasts that he will commit crimes bigger than anything Lee has ever imagined, in an attempt to outdo his older brother in some new capacity just as Lee has outdone Austin in screenwriting thus far. Although Austin has been verbally aggressive with Saul in the previous scene, Austin actually takes a swing at Lee in this one. Such ferocity would have been almost unthinkable from the mild-mannered, polite screenwriter we see at the beginning of the play. In another signal of Austin's transformation, Lee remarks that Austin is beginning to talk like their father. Austin has heretofore attempted in every endeavor to be the opposite of his father, but drunk on the floor he regresses and actually uses the same ideas his father espoused.

Lee brings up the possibility of disappearing, but Austin argues that such an escape is now impossible. Just like it was for their father, the notion of escaping regular life is almost overwhelming for the brothers. Lee has come to the house from the desert where he has lived like a vagrant, while Austin is increasingly excited by the possibility of escape. Austin, in his life so far, has tried to escape his family through his work. When Lee takes that away, Austin realizes that his efforts have been unsuccessful. He now needs a different kind of escape. The opportunity presented to him is the desert, a different life from the one he had originally planned on making for himself. Lee, on the other hand, is taken with the idea of financial success. While his efforts to sabotage Austin may have begun as simply cruel, now that a large sum of money is waiting for him upon completion of the screenplay, Lee is reconsidering the manner by which he has lived his own life. Earlier in the play each of the brothers has wistfully dreamed about living the other's life. Now this dream is becoming a reality, as each is beginning to actually live the other's life. Lee has met with success, almost for the first time, and he likes the new taste of it.

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