August: Osage County | Study Guide

Tracy Letts

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Course Hero. "August: Osage County Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 Dec. 2019. Web. 2 Dec. 2021. <>.

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August: Osage County | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



The play is set in August 2007, in a large house in rural Osage County, Oklahoma. Beverly Weston, a poet and retired professor, is interviewing Johnna for the job of housekeeper. Beverly wants a housekeeper to cook and clean for him and his wife, Violet, who suffers from mouth cancer and is addicted to painkillers and other prescription pills. Violet enters, high on drugs and slurring her words. Johnna is hired.

Act 1

Beverly has been missing for several days, and family members have gathered to support Violet. Beverly has disappeared before. Violet's sister, Mattie Fae Aiken, recalls one time when Violet put Beverly's books on the lawn and set them on fire. But Violet and Beverly's middle daughter, Ivy, says this time is different. Violet enters with bad news: Beverly's boat has been found, making it more likely something bad has happened to him. The oldest daughter, Barbara, arrives from Boulder, Colorado, along with her estranged husband, Bill Fordham, and their daughter, Jean. Violet picks on Ivy, criticizing her appearance and the lack of a man in her life. At five the next morning, Sheriff Gilbeau arrives and announces Beverly has been found drowned. Barbara goes to identify the body.

Act 2

Three days later, the family has returned from Beverly's funeral and is about to eat a dinner cooked by Johnna. The youngest daughter, Karen, has arrived from Florida with her new fiancé, Steve, and she chatters about her honeymoon plans. Ivy reveals she is seeing a man but won't say who it is. Little Charles, Mattie Fae's 37-year-old son, missed the funeral ceremony because he overslept, something for which his mother criticizes him. Steve and Jean discover they're both pot smokers, and Steve flirts inappropriately with Jean, who is only 14 years old. When alone, Little Charles and his cousin Ivy kiss and talk, revealing to the audience the identity of Ivy's mystery lover. At the funeral dinner, a wasted Violet rails against the other family members. Little Charles drops Mattie Fae's casserole on the floor, disappointing her again. Violet claims Barbara broke her father's heart by moving away, and Violet needles Barbara about her separation from her husband, Bill. Barbara fights back physically, and then she announces everyone must search the house to get rid of Violet's pills. The scene concludes with Barbara yelling, "I'M RUNNING THINGS NOW!"

Act 3

Barbara, Ivy, and Karen talk about Violet, who fuels her pill addiction by seeing several doctors for multiple prescriptions. Ivy tells Barbara and Karen that she and her first cousin, Little Charles, plan to run away to New York together. She is tired of being bound to the family home, caring for their aging parents. Ivy tells Barbara it was Violet, not Beverly, who was heartbroken when Barbara moved away. Violet enters, sobered up but as sharp-tongued as ever. She tells a story about her mother cruelly taunting her. In a private moment Violet and Barbara make up, calling a truce.

Mattie Fae taunts Little Charles, and his father, Charlie, blows up, threatening to leave Mattie Fae if she does not stop being so mean to their son. Barbara overhears the argument. She tells Mattie Fae about Ivy and Little Charles being lovers. Then Mattie Fae tells Barbara that she had a secret affair with Beverly, and that Little Charles is actually Beverly's son and the girls' half brother. It falls to Barbara to break up Ivy and Little Charles without telling Ivy the truth.

Steve and Jean smoke pot together, and Steve gropes Jean. Johnna comes upon them and hits Steve with a frying pan. Awakened by the noise, Barbara, Bill, and Karen turn up, and a big argument ensues. Jean defends herself by attacking her father, Bill, for having an affair with a student. Outraged, Barbara slaps Jean. Karen and Steve depart and so do Bill and Jean. Before he goes, Bill tells Barbara he is never coming back to her.

Two weeks later, a drunken Barbara tells Johnna she should quit and leave the Weston household, but Johnna stays. Sheriff Gilbeau comes by and reveals that Beverly had been staying in a motel in the days before he committed suicide.

Three days later, at dinner, Ivy tries to tell Violet that she and Little Charles are lovers. Barbara keeps interrupting, but Ivy finally blurts out the truth. Then Violet reveals to Ivy that Little Charles is Beverly's son. Barbara is shocked to realize her mother already knew about Little Charles's paternity. Ivy, distraught, says she will never tell Little Charles the truth about his father and will still go to New York. Violet and Barbara argue, each blaming the other for Beverly's suicide. Two weeks later Ivy leaves for good. Barbara also leaves soon after, and Violet is left alone with Johnna. Violet keeps repeating, "and then you're gone, and then you're gone," while Johnna quotes from the T.S. Eliot poem "The Hollow Men": "This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends."

August: Osage County Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Beverly disappears.

Rising Action

2 The extended Weston family comes home.

3 Beverly is found drowned.

4 Barbara and Violet brawl with each other after the funeral.

5 Bill, Jean, and Karen leave with Steve after Steve gropes Jean.

6 Violet tells Ivy that Ivy's lover is her half brother.


7 Violet admits she did nothing to prevent Beverly's suicide.

Falling Action

8 Barbara leaves, and Violet is completely without family.


9 Babbling, Violet crawls to Johnna's room.

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