What truths are referred to in the title of Sam Shepard's play True West?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Sam Shepard's play True West, the truths that the title refers to are the stereotypes and caricatures that are reflected in the depiction of a "true" American West. In the play, these truths are the depiction of the American West as rugged, outside of the law, wild (in a geographic and/or moral sense), and often a bit degenerate. Austin and Lee, two brothers who are at odds with each other, are staying at their parents' house, where they both come up with screenplay ideas for a western themed film. While Austin, the younger brother who is depicted as more serious and law-abiding, originally is the one who is working on a screenplay and invites a film producer to consider his outline, Lee ends up captivating the film producer with his out-of-the-blue western themed screenplay idea. Lee, the rugged, haphazard, and thieving brother, snags the screenplay opportunity from Austin in a manner that could be representative of the stereotypical American West.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sam Shepard's play True West is a play in a sense about the role of the west in popular culture. It is set in Los Angeles, a city that is associated with the false images Hollywood produces of the west. The coyotes outside suggest that geographically and historically Los Angeles is deeply connected with the "true west". The brothers' rival scripts, both western themed, both attempt to portray a filmic "true west"; Lee's script is preferred because it is seen by the producer as more authentically western. The suggestion is that Lee, an alcoholic thief is closer to a reality of the west than Austin, his more civilized brother (Note that the town of Austin is associated with the "new west"). The descent into drunkenness and the trashed house with the coyote as the final truths of the west with which Shepard leaves us.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial