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True West

Sam Shepard

Scene Nine

Scene Eight

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

It is later the same day. A midday sun beats down on all of the debris in the alcove, making the total obliteration look worse than it did in the previous scene. Austin is at the table desperately writing on a pad, while Lee prowls around the table without a shirt, demanding that to hear what Austin has just written. Though Austin reads back exactly what Lee has dictated, Lee Lee is unsatisfied, saying that the dialogue sounds clichéd. The brothers squabble over a line, but finally decide on: "I'm on intimate terms with this prairie." The decision made, Lee begins to pour beer on his chest and arms.

As Lee douses himself, Mom appears at the door with her suitcases. The brothers eventually spot her, and in act of chivalry, Lee offers to take he heavy suitcases. Unfortunately, there is nowhere clean enough to set them down, so Lee just holds them awkwardly. Austin clumsily asks about the trip to Alaska, explains that Lee sold a screenplay, and says that the mess is due to an extended celebration over the screenplay. Austin then announces that when the screenplay is completed the two of them are going to go live in the desert. When Mom asks if the brothers plan on living with their father, but Austin assures her that they will be going to a "different desert."

Austin asks Mom why she came back so soon. She says she missed all of her plants, all of which have unfortunately died. Though Mom is temporarily saddened, her spirits are raised when she remembers that someone very important is in town for the weekend. The boys wonder who it could be, and she tells them it is Picasso. Austin tells Mom that unfortunately Picasso has been dead for some time, but she refuses to believe it.

Lee suddenly decides that he has had enough of the screenwriting trade, and makes plans for his immediate departure to the desert. Austin cannot believe what he is hearing, and loudly protests the decision. Lee pushes Austin away violently, and collects some antiques and silverware for his trip. Austin picks up the ripped out phone cord and throws it around Lee's neck. There is a terrible struggle and Austin chokes Lee, unwilling to let Lee leave without him. Austin demands his car keys, which Lee quickly produces, all the while thrashing and gasping. Mom becomes angry and says that she is going to a motel if the boys are going to fight. Austin begs her to stay, but she picks up her luggage and goes, remarking that she does not even recognize her own house anymore.

With the cord still tight around Lee's neck, Austin tries to make a deal with Lee: all he wants is a little head start. He is willing to release the cord if Lee will let him get a little bit of a head start in his escape. By the time he does release the cord, however, Lee has stopped moving. He seems to be dead. After a moment's consideration, Austin makes a move toward the door. Just as he does Lee is on his feet, blocking Austin's exit. They begin to circle each other slowly as a single coyote cries in the distance.

Analysis

The artistic combination of the two brothers finally arrives in this scene. Lee stalks around the kitchen with his shirt off while Lee sits scribbling furiously. The two halves of the creative artist are, at long last, collaborating in something close to harmony, able to produce something. While as individuals their artistic efforts have been unfruitful, together they seem unstoppable. It is a working relationship—Lee the idea man, Austin the scribe—with each man utilized in his correct role. The struggle for creation that has been waged throughout the entire play seems to find an inevitable end. Until of course, Mom comes home.

Mom's arrival on the scene reminds the audience and reader just how out of control things have gotten. The brothers have completely destroyed her kitchen, not merely in a literal sense, but also in that they have brought about a chaos that is unfamiliar and unwanted in the orderly life of the suburbs. Mom does not know how to respond to the upheaval that has arrived in her kitchen. Her reaction, however, is not nearly as severe as it should be. Rather than becoming outraged at the state of her home, she speaks about the fact that Picasso is coming to town. At first, this odd detail may seem incongruous in play about brothers fighting and reevaluating the American Dream. Picasso is the twentieth century's most endurable vision of the artist, the ideal of art that Austin and Lee are trying their best to emulate.

Mom is not able to deal with this new vision of chaos that has descended upon her kitchen. She leaves the house in disgust, heading for the relative normalcy of a motel. Lee decides he is going to leave for the desert as well, but this decision does not go over well with Austin, who views it as a very large breach of contract according to the deal he and Lee have established. When Austin takes up the phone cord, the two brothers' struggle for dominance comes to a final, shattering conclusion. Austin is not willing to be left behind in this suburban nightmare, as he needs the new promise of reevaluating his own self worth in the vacuum of the desert. He does not want to kill Lee, but merely wants to get his just desserts in the desert. Austin cannot allow his brother to leave him, as Lee is the key to Austin's attainment of new sense of himself. As the play ends, we are left with a haunting image of the two brothers facing off in what must surely become a fight to the death. It is impossible to say who will win. What is certain, however, is that the struggle will determine who can lay claim on a new identity, an identity appropriated from the other.

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