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Course Hero. "True West Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Dec. 2017. Web. 16 Dec. 2018. <>.

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Course Hero. (2017, December 11). True West Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 16, 2018, from

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(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "True West Study Guide." December 11, 2017. Accessed December 16, 2018.


Course Hero, "True West Study Guide," December 11, 2017, accessed December 16, 2018,

True West | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Act 1

Two adult brothers, Austin and Lee, are staying in their mother's Southern California home while she's on vacation in Alaska. Screenwriter Austin is working on a new script while homeless Lee drinks beer and annoyingly asks Austin questions about his job. Lee spends his time mostly in the Mojave Desert and earns a living by stealing appliances from wealthy suburban homes. The brothers' father—"the old man"—is an alcoholic living somewhere in the desert. Though his location is never revealed, and he never appears onstage, his presence is much felt.

Austin tells Lee he needs privacy for a meeting with Hollywood agent Saul Kimmer later in the day. Lee asks to borrow Austin's car, and Austin reluctantly lets him to get rid of him. Saul arrives for the meeting and praises Austin's script idea when the two are interrupted by Lee, who has returned early. Lee annoyingly engages Saul in conversation and gets Saul to agree to a golf game the next morning. Lee then mentions he has an idea for a "true-to-life" script for a western. Saul says he'll look at Lee's idea if Austin writes an outline.

After the meeting the brothers grudgingly work together on Lee's script as Lee dictates ideas to Austin. They argue over the plot, which Austin thinks is contrived and improbable but Lee insists it should unfold exactly as he's planned. The tension erupts in a demand from Austin that Lee return the car keys. Lee agrees and says he's leaving town anyway. Realizing Lee has nowhere to go if he leaves and will probably turn to crime, Austin encourages Lee to finish the work. Maybe the money from the script can change Lee's life for the better, Austin says. Lee agrees to continue with the script and dictates a dramatic scene to Austin in which two men chase each other through the Texas Panhandle.

Act 2

The next morning Lee returns from his golf game with Saul. He announces that Saul loves his idea for a western and plans to pursue Lee's script instead of Austin's project. Austin is shocked and asks if Lee threatened the agent. Lee denies using threats. Instead he and Saul gambled, Lee says, and Saul lost. Austin is outraged the two gambled with his script. He has staked everything on the script's success!

Saul returns to the house and explains Lee's idea to him has "the ring of truth," and he says he instinctively recognized Lee's story as a winner, so studios are competing for it already. Saul adds he and Lee discussed the poverty of the brothers' father. They can use the script profits to give their father a trust fund. Since Austin knows the material already, Saul says, Austin has to write the entire script. Furious, Austin refuses. He thinks Lee's story is ridiculous, and he insists he's more in touch with what audiences want. Saul won't change his mind.

At night Lee works on the script, frustrated, while Austin drinks himself drunk. As Lee struggles to write in the noisy house, Austin suggests he should try Lee's profession of stealing since Lee seems to be succeeding at scriptwriting. Lee bets Austin can't "steal a toaster without gettin' busted." While Austin keeps drinking, Lee begs for help writing the script's characters and dialogue. Lee promises to disappear after they've made money. Their father tried and failed to disappear, Austin reminds him. He tells Lee a wild tale how their father lost his teeth, and the two drink together.

By morning the house is a mess and the brothers out of control. Lee burns his script and smashes the typewriter. Austin lines up several toasters he's stolen during the night and makes great amounts of toast for no reason. Lee tries unsuccessfully to get the number of a woman in Bakersfield, California, for sex. Austin, enjoying the smell of toast as the sun rises, suddenly asks to join Lee when he returns to the desert. At first Lee refuses. Austin can't survive desert life, he says, and no one chooses to be a nomad. Austin protests he feels lost in city life, no longer recognizing his surroundings. Finally Lee, in control, agrees to take Austin to the desert if Austin will write Lee's script exactly the way he dictates.

The brothers work to finish the script by hand and create chaos and filth in the house. As they debate the wording of a line, Mom unexpectedly returns from Alaska. She's surprised the place is a mess and her houseplants are all dead since Austin promised to care for them. The brothers apologize, but Mom is more interested in a supposed appearance of the artist Picasso nearby. They can't attend, Austin says, because they're going to the desert. But Lee revokes his offer to take Austin with him. Austin demands Lee honor their deal. While Lee packs Mom's plates to take with him, Austin violently begins strangling Lee with the phone cord and forces Lee to return his car keys. Mom fears Austin will kill his brother. Despite Austin's pleas for her to stay she leaves for a hotel, saying she no longer recognizes her home.

Lee goes silent. Austin believes he's dead and moves quietly to the front door. Suddenly Lee gets to his feet and blocks Austin's exit. The two face each other, adversaries caught in the struggle, "still but watchful for the next move," as the play ends.

True West Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Austin tells Lee he's meeting Saul about a script.

Rising Action

2 Lee pitches his own script to Saul.

3 Austin learns Saul chooses Lee's script over his.

4 Austin asks to come with Lee to the desert.

5 Lee makes a deal with Austin.

6 Mom returns early from Alaska.


7 Lee reneges on the deal, and Austin strangles him.

Falling Action

8 Austin attempts to flee the house.


9 Lee gets up and blocks Austin's exit.

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