Beverly is the patriarch of the Weston family, a semi-famous poet and academic who only appears at the start of the play. He has a difficult relationship with his wife, Violet, who is addicted to pills. He himself is an alcoholic and has a rather melancholic if poetic soul. After hiring Johnna to be his housekeeper, Beverly kills himself, like the depressive poets he admires, John Berryman and Hart Crane.
Violet is Beverly's wife, a strong but cutting woman who has been diagnosed with mouth cancer and is addicted to pain pills. She goes on violent drug-induced rants that has caused a deep strain in her relationship with her family. As we learn in the course of the play, she had a traumatic childhood and was beaten and abused by her mother and her mother's various boyfriends. Abuse and her pride at being a member of "the Greatest Generation" has made her selfish and mean to those she loves. She cuts her daughters out of their father's will, keeping the money for herself, and later reveals that she knew where Beverly was the night he left and did nothing to go after him and stop his suicide. She is a complicated character, villainous and selfish yet at her core, deeply wounded and vulnerable.
Barbara is Beverly and Violet's oldest daughter who lives in Boulder, Colorado with her daughter Jean. She is separated from her husband Bill who is having an affair with one of his students. Different characters tell her she is either her mother or her father's favorite, and as the play progresses we see that she has more in common with her stinging mother than she would like to admit. She is witty and sardonic, which is turning into a cynical edge as she gets older and feels more hurt by the world. After Beverly is found drowned, Barbara attempts to keep the family together, but is met with violent resistance from her mother. While it seems like she might end up living with her mother and being drawn into her abusive codependent orbit, Barbara breaks free and leaves Violet once and for all.
Bill is Barbara's husband, a university professor who is sleeping with one of his students. He doesn't live with Barb and Jean, but when he hears Beverly is missing he comes to Oklahoma to be with his family. He struggles with Barbara because he loves her, but cannot make amends about his affair. He is loving towards his daughter Jean, and shares with her a love for classic cinema, but he is also a bit absent when it comes to parenting her through the rockiness of his marriage to Barbara.
Jean is Barbara and Bill's 14-year-old daughter. She smokes cigarettes and pot, loves old movies, and is a little lost, especially in the wake of her parents' separation. While in Oklahoma she befriends Steve, her aunt Karen's fiancé, who takes advantage of her. Jean is embarrassed by the event and blames all of her problems on Barbara.
Ivy is the middle child of the Weston sisters, and in love with her first cousin Little Charles, who turns out to be her half-brother, as her dad had an affair with her aunt, Mattie Fae. Ivy is the sibling who has had to stay behind and take care of mom and dad and she resents Barbara and Karen for leaving her behind. She believes it's her turn to leave and is determined to go to New York with Little Charles no matter what her mother says.
Karen is the youngest sibling of the Weston trio. She has dreamed of being married in a fairytale way since she was a little girl. She brings Steve, her sleazy fiancé, to her father's funeral. Even after being told that Steve molested Jean, Karen refuses to believe it and leaves with Steve in order to preserve her fairytale. She is presented as the most detached of the sisters, caught up in her own delusions and dismissive of her family's troubles.
Mattie Fae is Violet's sister. She is married to Charlie, and has a tendency to boss everyone around. She is cruel to her son Little Charles, constantly on him to such a degree that Charlie threatens to leave her if she keeps it up. We learn that she had an affair with Beverly, and Little Charles is not actually Charlie's son. Mattie Fae is not close with her venomous sister Violet, but she understands her the most, having endured the same abuses in childhood.
Charlie is Mattie Fae's husband, a kind man who is more thoughtful and understanding than most of the Weston clan. He loves his son Little Charles deeply and when Mattie Fae is cruel to him he defends him telling her that he will leave her if she keeps it up.
Johnna is the caretaker that Beverly hires just before his death. She is a Cheyenne woman who looks after Violet and the family in the midst of Beverly's passing. She protects Jean from being molested by Steve and decides to stay with Violet when given the opportunity to leave by Barbara. We do not learn much about her, but in her conversation with Jean, we learn that she is an orphan, and that she maintains a connection to her heritage through the necklace she wears, a turtle pouch that stores her umbilical cord.
Steve is Karen's fiancé, a shady businessman and sleazy child molester. He smokes pot with Jean in order to seduce her, but is chased off after Johnna catches them in the act.
August: Osage County Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for August: Osage County is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.