In “True West,” by Sam Shepard, two brothers find themselves struggling to figure out what they want in their lives. “True West” focuses on the relationship between Austin and Lee, brothers who seem to have very little in common.
Austin is a screenwriter on the verge of a breakthrough Hollywood deal, and Lee is a drifter and cat burglar. While they seem to have little in common, the distant brothers find themselves back together in their mother’s house in Southern California, just east of Los Angeles. As they are catching up, each begins realize that there are things missing in their individual lives that the other has done in his own life.
Lee realizes that Austin has made something of himself, graduating from an Ivy League school, working on screenplays, and “settin’ [him]self up for something,'”(26). Austin sees Lee as a free spirit, doing as he pleases and “always on some adventure.” (26) As it turns out, Hollywood and the film industry play a major role in the brothers’ struggle with their own self. Suddenly, Lee wants into the business, while Austin realizes that he wants more from life than what Hollywood and film has given him. “True West” exemplifies the dream and the battle to get into Hollywood and the film industry in addition to showing the dark and devious of the business by showing the brothers’ trials and tribulations as they try to find who they really are.The way that Shepard makes Lee and Austin completely different sets the stage for their internal struggles with themselves. At the beginning of “True West,” we immediately get an idea of what the two are like.
Austin is a clean cut, almost preppy, screenwriter house-sitting for his mother. Lee is Austin’s older, dirtier brother who immediately shows that he is a thief by announcing that his stay at his mother’s house depended on the neighboring houses and their possessions.Austin tries to stay passive and concentrate on his work as Lee tells his plans to “tour” the neighborhood. He even offers Lee money so he would not go snooping around his mother’s neighborhood, but the independent and proud Lee exclaimed, “Don’t you say that to me! Don’t you ever say that to me! You may be able to git away with that with thee Old Man. Fit him tanked up for a week! Buy him off with yer Hollywood blood money, but not me! I can git my own money my own way.
Big money!” (8-9) It’s already apparent that these two have handle things very differently and come from very different worlds. Even though it seems that Lee is very much against Hollywood, a big Hollywood producer named Saul comes into the story only to create tension between the brothers.As Saul enters the story, Lee begins to hint that maybe he wants to make something of his life like his brother Austin.
Austin has a meeting with Saul to talk about a project that Austin has been working on. Lee crashes the meeting, carrying a stolen television set, and immediately introduces himself to Saul. Lee slyly begins a conversation with Saul, first about golf, then about his “true to life western.”Saul convinces Austin to write and outline for Lee, which he does apprehensively. While they are together doing this outline, Austin tells Lee, “it’d be really fantastic if you could sell this. Turn it into a movie…
You could really turn your life around, you know. Change things.” (24) This gets Lee thinking more and more about making it in the world, while at the same time, Austin begins to think more and more about being like Lee. Austin says, “Lee’s got the right idea.
He’s out there in the world and here I am. What am I doing?” (26)As all of this is going on, Lee’s Hollywood dreams begin as Austin’s Hollywood nightmare start knocking on his door. This is where the true significance of Hollywood and the film industry are apparent in “True West.
” The morning after Saul has his meeting with Austin, he is out on the links playing golf with Lee. Lee comes back to the house to tell Austin that Saul has decided to pick up his story. Austin, of course surprised said:Austin: ‘Course there’s no contract yet. Nothing’s final until it’s on paper. Lee: It’s final, all right.
There’s no way he’s gonna’ back out of it now. We gambled for it. Austin: Saul Gambled? Lee: Yeah, sure. I mean he liked the outline already so he wasn’t risking that much.
I just guaranteed it with my short game. (29) Lee also told Austin that he was to write the script and stop writing his own, since Saul was going to drop his. Just as Lee’s Hollywood dream begins, Austin’s Hollywood nightmare begins as well.
This shows the two sides of Hollywood, the luck of getting in for Lee, and Austin’s bitter defeat as he loses his script in a bet. This is the type of situation that happens everyday in the not so glamorous world of Hollywood.Lee’s sudden Hollywood success becomes the catalyst for Austin’s sudden urge to be free, adventurous, and a cat burglar much like Lee. Despite being offered large sums of money to write the script for his brother, Austin is still in shock from having his own script dropped. In a conversation with Saul, Austin exclaims Austin :So you’re dropping my idea altogether. Is that it? Just trade horses in midstream?After all these months of meetings. Saul: I wish there was another way.
Austin: I’ve got everything riding on this, Saul. You know that. It’s my only shot. This sets Austin off, and there is an immediate transformation in his character. There is a sudden turn against Hollywood and everything that was Austin was defined as. Conversely, Lee has decided to pursue a Hollywood dream, even though he refereed the money earlier as “blood money.
” Each is beginning to take each others personas.Throughout this play, Hollywood and the film industry plays a large role in the development of the characters and controls all their actions in the end. Saul helps Lee begin a dream that Lee never though would happen. Saul also single handedly ended Austin’s dream work and changed his life and path.
In the end, Hollywood and Lee’s script is the thing that leaves the Austin choking Lee on the kitchen floor with their mother watching. They were both affected by the dreams and heartbreak of Hollywood. There isn’t always the glitz and glamour that everyone sees, and these two just realized the harsh reality of the film industry and Hollywood.