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Author Sam Shepard
Type of work Play
Genre Naturalistic comedy
Time and place written California, 1979
Date of publication First performed July 10, 1980, at the Magic Theater in San Francisco; first published in July 1981
Publisher Bantam Books
Tone While the play is very violent and serious, it is infused with a hefty degree of the absurdly comic
Tense Present, with no flashbacks or flash-forwards
Setting (time) The present
Setting (Place) A kitchen and adjoining alcove in a suburb forty miles outside of Los Angeles
Major Conflict Lee's attempt to encroach upon Austin's "normal" way of life and success threatens Austin and causes him to reevaluate his priorities and goals
Rising Action Lee arrives and pesters Austin; Lee intrudes on Austin's meeting with the producer Saul Kimmer; Lee sells a story idea to Saul Kimmer while the two play golf; Austin has to work on the screenplay for Lee's story rather than his own; Austin gets drunk and steals toasters
Climax Austin cuts a deal with Lee: if Austin writes Lee's screenplay, then Lee will take him out to the desert.
Falling action Mom arrives home from Alaska; Austin strangles Lee with a phone cord
Themes The curse of ancestry; the old West vs. the New west; art as a business vs. art as an ideal; the fallibility of the American Dream
Motifs The desert; drinking; the old man
Symbols Austin and Lee; the houseplants
Foreshadowing Lee's remark that violence is more common between brothers than among the population as a whole prefigures the brothers' violence later in the play
Ace your assignments with our guide to True West!