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Course Hero. "True West Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Dec. 2017. Web. 15 Nov. 2018. <>.

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Course Hero. (2017, December 11). True West Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from

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Course Hero. "True West Study Guide." December 11, 2017. Accessed November 15, 2018.


Course Hero, "True West Study Guide," December 11, 2017, accessed November 15, 2018,

True West | Symbols



The desert represents freedom, autonomy, and the ruthlessness of nature. The vast stretches of desert in the Southwest feature extremely hot and cold temperatures and unruly animals. They are ideal settings for westerns because deserts challenge the human ability to survive.

Deserts also represent escape and a kind of pilgrimage. When Lee and his father couldn't make it in a restricted urban society, they left for the desert. Austin realizes how shallow and temporary his own success feels and how alienating urban life has become. So he begs Lee to take him to the desert. Lee's own life is simpler out in the Mojave. He never has to accommodate anyone else or "sell myself down the river." Lee describes the harsh terrain as bringing its own peace, not like the calm of the suburbs, but a "Different kinda' heat. Out there it's clean. Cools off at night." The rising action of the play, trapped in the suburbs, only gets hotter. The tension is mirrored by the increasingly hot weather, which Austin and Lee can barely tolerate by Act 2, Scene 8. The play's final moment when the brothers face each other silently represents a freeze of the tension, not a comfortable cooling.

Toasters and Kitchenware

Toasters, plates, and other kitchen implements represent domesticity, ease, and comfort. They also stand for the suffocating limitations people accept in exchange for this comfort. The play takes place predominantly in a kitchen. At first the room is in pristine condition. Later it's destroyed as the double nature of the brothers emerges and they realize the kitchen's easy comfort is an illusion.

When Austin makes his first foray into theft to prove himself to Lee, he steals toasters from multiple homes. In Scene 8 he relishes having disrupted a quiet, happy domestic meal for the families in town, with their "many, many unhappy, bewildered breakfast faces." With their illusion of domestic tranquility shattered, the suburban residents—like Austin when he confronts his own dissatisfaction—won't know what to do next.

When Lee attempts to leave for the desert in Scene 9, he shatters his mother's domestic peace in his own way—by taking her antique plates. He wants to eat off real china as "somethin' authentic." Like Austin, Lee's seen the artificial nature of his world and wants to anchor himself in reality through "authentic" materials.


Austin's typewriter symbolizes the process of creation and the manufacturing of written art. Through the scripts Austin and Lee write on the typewriter, they create a dream world to sell to the public. But the world they create doesn't satisfy them.

Creation, particularly writing for film, becomes both promising and destructive. Lee breaks the typewriter with a golf club—another instrument from the higher-class world that keeps shutting him out of stability and security. Austin asks his brother to think of "all the writers who never even had a machine." In doing so he's appealing to the fragile sense of hope he gets from his own writing. Once the typewriter is gone, there's nothing to manufacture. The brothers can finally face each other in Scene 8 and demand what they really want, if they could articulate it.

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