August: Osage County by Tracy Letts: Summary & Characters

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

In this lesson, you'll find a synopsis of ''August: Osage County'', the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, and explore the troubled pasts and relationships of the Weston family. A short quiz follows the lesson.

August in Osage County

In Tracy Letts's Pulitzer winning play, August: Osage County, which premiered in 2007, the dysfunctional and estranged Weston family is brought back together after the disappearance of their patriarch, Beverly. Once reunited, they quickly resort to their old destructive patterns, while a newly hired housekeeper bears a mostly silent witness. At the end of the play, the family splinters once again, more broken than before, with secrets brought to light that have been hidden for years. Let's take a look at the members of the Weston family and what happens to them in August: Osage County.

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Characters & Plot Summary

The play opens with Beverly Weston, the patriarch of the family, speaking with Johnna about Beverly's wife Violet, a drug addict with mouth cancer. Beverly, an alcoholic and a poet, is interviewing Johnna for a position as a live-in housekeeper and caretaker for Violet. Violet barges in during the interview and argues with Beverly, while obviously under the influence of drugs. Beverly hires Johnna and gives her a book of poetry.

A couple of weeks pass, and the house has descended into chaos. Beverly has gone missing, and Violet is trying to find him. Violet's daughter Ivy and Violet's sister and brother in law, Mattie Fay and Charlie, who are keeping her company, bear the brunt of her sarcasm and meanness. The family learns that Beverly's boat is missing, which causes them a great deal of worry.

Violet's oldest daughter, Barbara, comes in from Colorado with her husband Bill, and teenage daughter Jean. Barbara and Bill are estranged due to an affair he has with a student, but try to keep it a secret from the family. Jean bonds with Johnna and smokes a joint in her room, telling Johnna about her parents' separation. Later, Violet insults Barbara and blames her absence for Beverly's disappearance. Sheriff Gilbeau, who dated Barbara in high school, arrives to tell the family that Beverly has been found - drowned.

The family goes to Beverly's funeral, and Johnna makes them a large meal. Violet's youngest daughter Karen, and her fiancé Steve, have come in from Florida. Karen talks incessantly about her wedding plans, annoying Barbara.

Ivy reveals to Mattie Fay and Violet that she is dating someone. Mattie Fay is cruel to her son, Little Charles, because he overslept and missed Beverly's funeral. Charlie takes Little's Charles's side and encourages him. When the family sits down for dinner, Violet begins to harangue the members of her family and tells everyone that Barbara and Bill are separated. Barbara assaults her mother and enlists the rest of the family to find Violet's pills and get rid of them.

The three sisters gather in their father's study and talk about their mother. Barbara tells Ivy and Karen that their mother has brain damage, and they discuss the need for someone to take care of her. Ivy tells her sisters that she and Little Charles, whom she is secretly sleeping with, are going to run away to New York. She refuses to give up more of her life to take care of Violet. Then Violet comes in and talks to Barbara, creating an uneasy truce.

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