Although he never appears onstage, the "old man" excerpts a powerful influence over the entire play. Indeed, a case can be made that he is the most important character in True West, as the boys talk and fight about him throughout. Skirmishes over how to regard the old man drive the action of the play. Lee is generally much more sympathetic to the old man than Austin, as he wants to make money writing screenplays so that he can help the old man out of his financial worries. Austin, on the other hand, proclaims that the old man is of "a different ilk" and will "never change." Nevertheless, the old man plays on both of the brothers' imaginations. They both have his genes, habits, and inclinations, and feel the need to escape the traps of modern life and move out to the desert, just as he has.