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True West: Identity

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  1. Introduction
  2. Austin's loss of faith in the grand scheme
  3. The creative differences
  4. The mother's houseplants
  5. Conclusion

One acquires his own identity through his inner self and his milieu. His interpretation of his own needs and desires plays a big role in whether he decides to abide by society's norms or to completely disregard his ego by complying to the inner beast (or what psychologists refer to one's ID). Sam Shepard addresses this humanistic trait through two characters, Austin and Lee, in his play, True West. When both brothers' lives take an unexpected turn, each of them is forced to stray from the life he has allowed to become part of his identity and to partake in exploring what is left ? his inner self. Throughout the play, after both brothers involuntarily swap roles, they become misplaced souls, as they have lost the external identity that was once very familiar to them. As a result, their inner selves become insecure and lost. Through this storyline, Shepard implies the importance of harmonizing the inner self and the external self in order to fully acquire one's identity.

[...] Neither brother is in an environment familiar to him, so Lee and Austin are just two individuals who have been stripped of their own backgrounds and have nothing to show for it but stories to tell. However, Austin's and Lee's roles as a successful screenwriter and a desert dweller, respectively, are apparent in the beginning until Saul, the Hollywood producer, shows up. It is not until then that Lee sees an opportunity to show the amazing desert life to the world. [...]

[...] True West: Identity Austin is a straight-edged Hollywood screenwriter who lives in the suburbs with a wife and children. In the play, he is house -sitting for his mother, who has decided to visit Alaska for an undisclosed amount of time. Lee, his older brother, shows up unannounced. He is a somewhat nihilistic desert drifter who has no discipline or goals. He leads a spontaneous life where he lives day-to-day without any responsibilities. When their roles in society are regarded, Austin and Lee are polar opposites. [...]

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