True West

by: Sam Shepard

Scene Four

Summary Scene Four

A very large thematic part of Scene Two has to with the violence inherent in the family. Austin would rather break a stained-glass window than hurt his brother, and is taken aback when Lee casually explains that most violence occurs within the family unit, between brothers. The discussion of brotherly violence lifts the brothers' struggle out of the realm of petty squabbling into the realm of Cain and Abel. Without irony, Lee chillingly talks about the fact that most murders take place in the home, and that there are documents that support his claim. It is unclear whether Lee is simply baiting his brother into violence or whether he is pontificating about the nature of violence itself. Either way, he has clearly thought about the subject, and to some degree expects the violent climax that the story eventually reaches.

Despite their seeming resentment, the two brothers are pettily jealous of the other's chosen lifestyle. Indeed, perhaps the tension and resentment result from this mutual jealousy. Lee touchingly recounts his daydreams about Austin's life as a big man on campus during Austin's Ivy League days. Austin, who so far has tried to deny any sense of heredity, sheepishly admits that he too thought about his brother's lifestyle as superior to his own. Though this mutual jealousy exists only as talk at this point in the play, it later matures into actual lifestyle changes as the story continues. These frank admissions of sibling envy are the beginning of the brothers' slow transformations into each other.

Austin and Lee also come back to the subject of their father, the old man. Lee is very excited by the prospect of making money from the screenplay and getting their father out of "hock," as he calls it. Austin, however, views the old man as sick and unworthy of any efforts to help him. Just as Lee understands the nature of familial violence, he also understands the debt one owes to one's father. Though their father may be a hopeless drunk lost in the desert, Lee refuses to turn his back on him.