A Lie of the Mind

by Sam Shepard

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

There are eight characters in this play.

In one family group, we have Jake, brother to Frankie and Sally, son of Lorraine. Lorraine explains at one point that Jake was dropped on his head as an infant, and it is possible that some of his mental challenges are the result of this accident. He's lived a violent life: kicking a goat so hard as a child that it broke his foot and her ribs (according to Frankie), masterminding the murder of his drunken father in Mexico (according to Sally), and then beating his wife, Beth, so hard that it actually causes brain damage. In fact, he believes her to be dead when the play opens. Frankie is the one who seems to look out the most for his brother, and he constantly tries to help him; in fact, he will likely die of septicemia as a result of his trying to help Jake by reassuring him that Beth is not dead (he is accidentally shot by Baylor when trying to check on Beth). Lorraine obviously prefers her sons to her daughter, and she isn't very kind to Sally, at least until the end, when the two of them decide to run off to Ireland together and leave everything at home behind.

In another family group we have Beth—who is Jake's wife, sister of Mike, and daughter of Baylor and Meg. Beth sustains major brain damage from Jake's beating, and Mike tries to help in her recovery. Mike hates Jake and Frankie, for obvious reasons. Baylor is an angry man who feels that he's wasted his life taking care of "feeble-minded women," and Meg seems to have some kind of mental illness (as did her mother, a fact to which several characters allude). None of them seems particularly well-equipped to deal with what has happened to Beth.

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