Course Hero. "True West Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Dec. 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/True-West/>.
Course Hero. (2017, December 11). True West Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/True-West/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "True West Study Guide." December 11, 2017. Accessed March 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/True-West/.
Course Hero, "True West Study Guide," December 11, 2017, accessed March 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/True-West/.
This quotation shows Lee's longing for a home base and a relief from his "driftin'" lifestyle. He'd rather not be reminded of or "invaded by" faraway places like Idaho, which represent danger, not promise. Lee expresses his motivation subtly. Superficially, he appears proud of his lifestyle. But from the beginning, he's looking for a way out.
Here Lee's describes a tragic scene in the western film Lonely Are the Brave. His description encapsulates the big loyalties, risks, and stakes at the heart of the mythology of the American West. The Wild West of the movies is a frontier where men love their horses so desperately they die without them. Lee wants to infuse his script with this same sense of high risk and larger-than-life feeling.
Family people. Brothers ... Real American-type people. They kill each other in the heat mostly.
Lee sees through the respectable veneer of the average American family who lives, like Austin, in the calm suburbs. Behind closed doors, they're most likely to "kill each other." The oppressive desert heat unleashes primal and instinctive urges in otherwise reserved people. The uniquely strong emotions families bring out in one another make them capable of surprising acts of violence. For better or worse, family members remind each other of themselves and play shifting roles in their relations. Austin and Lee embody this in Act 2, to the shock of the audience.
As Lee explains what's at stake in the chase scene, he unwittingly describes his and Austin's psychological states. Austin thinks he's the only one with something to lose, hampered by responsibilities and high expectations. Lee thinks he's the only one who has to hustle and work hard to survive. As the characters progress and realize how similar they are, they learn they can't escape their fears, even by switching places.
The brothers' relationship often mirrors the dynamics of a protagonist and antagonist in a western movie—challenger and challenged, hunter and hunted, pursuer and pursued. But the brothers are switching places as the power dynamics shift between them. Neither "know[s] where he's going." Like the "one who's being chased" in Lee's story, they're running away from something and not sure where they're headed. The metaphor of the unresolved even circular chase highlights the play's sense of claustrophobia and inability to escape.
Despite Lee's poverty and the possibility of his arrest for theft or violence, he believes Austin's the one who's really trapped. Austin's "stuck" with investments like a house and family and a career in which he has to impress the rich and powerful. Lee, however, can come and go as he pleases. No one's depending on him, and no one can force him to do anything. Here Austin begins to wonder if he truly is "stuck" and whether he can be freed.
Saul describes the authenticity he saw in Lee's script. What he means, according to Austin, is but a familiar image of the West, full of competitive, hyper-masculine cowboys, dramatic gun-slinging showdowns, and high-speed chases. This image, Austin thinks, is manufactured as much as any other script. Wealthy Californian Saul is intrigued by Lee's view of the world. It's gritty, unsanitized, and novel compared with the Hollywood bubble. But he overlooks Lee's true hardship and struggle.
The alienation and despair of urban life are frequent topics in literature. Austin will later talk about how lost he feels on a freeway he no longer recognizes. Here he tries to convince Saul his perspective is more "in touch" with filmgoers than Lee's because Austin performs the city's repetitive, mind-numbing rituals. He "swallow[s] the smog" and deals with the nuisance of urban development, and he understands how consumer ease can make life harder, not easier. He begins to wonder if he'd really be better off in the desert without all that.
Are the brothers really "the same person"? Austin refers to Saul's assumption the two men can work easily on a screenplay together, and Saul's willingness to discard Austin's idea for Lee's. But to the audience, the brothers might stand for different sides of the same personality, sides always in conflict. The same person can have both a need for approval, like Austin, and a hunger for freedom, like Lee. The brothers first represent a civilized, rational side and a violent, primal side of human nature. The representation is clear and even exaggerated. Austin's extremely rational while Lee's unusually violent. The play shows either extreme can lead to trouble.
Austin and Lee both witness suburban homes from the outside and describe their soft lighting and cleanliness as "Paradise." Austin thinks modern life has made residents forget the perfection of their surroundings. But he and Lee are stuck outside the safety of that "Paradise," watching the illusion of everyone else's perfect life. This image and Austin's distance from it further illustrate the gulf between on-screen perception and offscreen reality.
Austin has challenged the brothers' notion of truth with a real anecdote about their father. The story involves their father misplacing his extracted teeth after a night of drinking. Like life, Austin thinks—and unlike a blockbuster movie—the story is messy, tragicomic, and full of failure. It lacks a clean resolution and is absurd.
While Austin prefers the beginnings of stories, Lee prefers endings. Where Austin sees potential and possibility, Lee sees a dead-end road. The play analyzes the process of creating art and contrasts the brothers' differing perspectives on their lives through the bookends of a story. Austin thinks his life could go either way. Lee is no longer so sure he or Austin can change course.
In Scene 7 Austin criticized Lee's characters as "illusions of characters." Now Austin feels he himself has become a character or illusion in a narrative. He can no longer distinguish the streets and freeways he drives on from the landmarks in his memory. Here the play reflects on the mirages sold by art, and how easily mirages and myths can destroy people's sense of control over their lives.
This quote indicates Austin doesn't intend to kill Lee, only to keep his brother from returning to the desert without him. But Austin also wants to stop Lee from usurping his own role as the visionary and the successful brother. He wants to prevent Lee from making the escape Austin can't make himself. Austin represents a failed attempt to stop the more primal, brutal part of the brothers' double nature from overwhelming the rational, civilized part he may still cling to in his rational side.
Throughout the play characters have observed unfamiliar scenes, found familiar scenes unrecognizable, or felt an urge to leave a home they can no longer identify. Mom identifies with these feelings in her last line. After visiting Alaska—the new Western frontier—her perspective and surroundings have shifted, and she can't return home again. Like her sons she's lost the sense of stability and security home represents.