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.
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.
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.
Mattie Fay witnesses a private moment between Little Charles and Ivy, and begins to harangue him again. Charlie tells her that if she does not lay off Little Charles, their relationship is over. Barbara overhears Mattie Fay confessing that Little Charles is actually Beverly's son, and that he is a half brother to the girls. Mattie Fay refuses to tell Ivy and Little Charles this fact, leaving Barbara in the position of potentially breaking her sister's heart.
Meanwhile, Steve is trying to seduce a naïve Jean, whom he has plied with marijuana. Johnna comes across the scene and whacks Steve with a shovel, bringing Karen, Barbara, and Bill running. Karen, who selfishly refuses to believe anything bad about her shady fiancé, blames the situation on Jean, and leaves with Steve. Bill decides to take Jean back to Colorado, and tells Barbara they are officially over, even though she tells him she loves him.
A couple of days later, we find Barbara drinking excessively and entertaining the idea of kissing Deon Gilbeau. Gilbeau has come by to tell them that Beverly stayed in a motel before his death, but he cannot follow through with this disclosure.
At a later dinner with Ivy and Violet, Ivy tells her mother that she is going to New York, after which Violet tells her that Little Charles is her half brother. Ivy runs away, saying that she won't tell Little Charles that the two are half brother and sister. Violet confesses to Barbara that she knew what motel Beverly was staying at the night before he killed himself but did not attempt to help him. Barbara leaves, horrified and disgusted, and Violet is left alone in the house with Johnna.
Characters & Self-Preservation
The characters in 'August: Osage County' are all members of an extremely dysfunctional family, and treat each other terribly. A prevalent theme is that of self-preservation, or the need to protect oneself from the needs of the group. Karen, who knows Steve tried to attack Jean, still defends him in order to maintain her fairytale ending. Ivy finds out that Little Charles is her half brother, but refuses to give up the small happiness she has achieved. Bill leaves his family, despite his feelings of duty towards them, to continue his affair.
Tracy Letts's play, August: Osage County, examines the dynamics of an estranged family that is brought to the brink of disaster by the suicide of its patriarch. The mother and daughters pursue their own desires, while further destroying their family bonds. Johnna, the young housekeeper, witnesses these deteriorating bonds and is the only one left with Violet when everyone else has abandoned her.
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