Lee to Austin, “I mean you never had any more on the ball than I did. But here you are gettin’ invited into prominent people’s houses. Sittin’ around talkin’ like you know somethin’?In fact I been inside some pretty classy places in my time. And I never even went to an Ivy League school either.” In the play “True West” Austin, the protagonist, is a kinetic character. In the beginning of the play he is depicted as being a prominent, upper class member of society, but throughout the play he devolves into an irrational, animalistic savage of a human being. In some ways he becomes just like his older brother Lee.
After reading the character descriptions before actually reading the play, the reader is led to believe that Austin is a traditionally dressed, “blue-collar” member of society. Lee on the other hand is described as being a grungy, grease-ball of a man, who doesn’t even take care of himself. These depictions are accurately proven in the first scene of the play. Austin is a hard-working author that is house sitting for his mother while she is out of town. This is seen when Lee says to Austin, “I’m not botherin’ you am I? I mean I don’t wanna’ break into yer’ uh-concentration or nothin’?I mean I realize that yer’ line a’ work demands a lota’ concentration.” Lee is the exact opposite; he is a short-tempered, unsuccessful “child”, who has amounted to nothing more than a petty thief. This is illustrated when Lee tells Austin, “Yeah. Houses. Electric devices. Stuff like that. I gotta’ make a little tour first?What’sa’ matter with this neighborhood? This is a great neighborhood. Lush. Good class a’ people. Not many dogs?Nobody’s gonna’ know. All they know is somethin’s missing. That’s all. She’ll [mom] never even hear about it. Nobody’s gonna’ know.” At this point in the book Lee almost seems envious of Austin’s success in life. He makes snide remarks such as, “Yer not gonna’ have to worry about me! I’ve been doin’ all right without you. I haven’t been anywhere near you for five years! Now isn’t that true??So you don’t have to worry about me. I’m a free agent.” However, as the play progresses Austin seems to become more intrigued with Lee’s lifestyle, and the reader begins to see a desire to be free from worries and responsibilities formulate within him.
Austin begins to show more of an interest in his brother in scene 2. He tells Lee, “I don’t know. I wish I wasn’t-I wish I didn’t have to be doing business down here. I’d like to just spend some time with you.” Later the reader finds out that Austin feels more of an obligation to seem interested in his brother. Lee manipulates Austin into doing him favors such as loaning him his car and later into helping him write a story. This is seen when the brother’s become frustrated with each other, and Austin says to Lee, “You think you can force me to write this? I was doing you a favor.” Lee refutes, “Git off yer high horse will ya’! Favor! Big favor. Handin’ down favors from the mountain top.” Later the reader finds out that both brothers are curious what it would be like to live each other’s lives. Lee says, “I always wondered what’d be like to be you. I used to picture you walkin’ around some campus with yer arms fulla’ books. Blondes chasin’ after ya’. Austin replies, “I always used to picture you somewhere. Different places. Adventures. You were always on some adventure. And I used to say to myself, ‘Lee’s got the right idea. He’s out there in the world and here I am. What am I doing?’” Here it seems as though Austin admires his brother for his lifestyle and is almost jealous of it. However, when he finds out that Lee convinced Saul, the producer, to promote his script and drop Austin’s project, he becomes very resentful. Austin tells Lee, “It’s a bull*censored* story! It’s idiotic. Two lamebrains chasing each other across Texas! Are you kidding? Who do you think’s going to go see a film like that?” His resentment then turns to denial when he says, “What’d you do, beat him up or something? Lee, come on, level with me will you? It doesn’t make any sense that suddenly he’d [Saul] throw my idea out the window. I’ve been talking to him for months. I’ve got too much at stake. Everything’s riding on this project.” After Austin decides to drink his worries away, the reader sees the first sign of the two brothers switching lifestyles.
In act 2, scene 7 Lee is sitting down at the table with his brother’s typewriter, and Austin is lying on the floor drunk with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand. Lee says to his brother, “I’m a screenwriter now! I’m legitimate.” Austin says laughing, “A screenwriter! Well, maybe I oughta’ go out and try my hand at your trade. Since you’re doing so good at mine.” By scene 8 Austin’s done just that. Both Austin and Lee are drunk in a now wrecked home filled with alcoholic debris and dead plants. Austin has stolen a variety of toasters and his very frustrated brother is thrashing the typewriter. Austin says, “There’s gonna’ be a general lack of toast in the neighborhood this morning. Many, many unhappy, bewildered breakfast faces.” Later on Austin makes a comment, “Like a beginning. I love beginnings. What if I come with you out to the desert?” which lets the reader know that Austin isn’t happy with his life as it is. He says, “There’s nothin’ real down here, Lee! Least of all me!” Lee responds, “Hey, do you actually think I chose to live out in the middle a’ nowhere? Do ya’? Ya’ think it’s some kinda’ philosophical decision I took or somethin’? I’m livin’ out there ’cause I can’t make it here! And yer bitchin’ to me about all yer success!” It is now apparent that Austin was never happy with his life. Even his success never truly gave him what he was looking for in life.
In the final scene of the play the Mom comes home to find her house a mess, and both of her sons drunk and acting crazy. Austin tells his mother, “Me and Lee are going out to the desert to live. Yeah. I’m taking off with Lee.” His mother replies, “Well you can’t leave. You have a family.” Austin’s only response is that he wants to “get out of here.” By the end of the play Austin has given up everything in his life to go to the desert. He wants to get away from the city and everything he has accomplished thus far. When Lee tells Austin that he isn’t going to take him with him to the desert, Austin flips out and begins to fight with him. In the final scene Austin has his brother pinned down on the floor with some telephone cord held tightly around his neck. Austin is seen choking his brother and tells his mom, “I can kill him! I can easily kill him. Right now. Right here. All I gotta’ do is just tighten up. This sudden change in temperament is very savage and seems like something his brother would do. Over the course of the play Austin changed from a good-natured, successful man into a raw, savage with no morals as depicted in the final scene.