Full title  True West

Author Sam Shepard

Type of work Play

Genre Naturalistic comedy

Language English

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

Protagonist Austin

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