August: Osage County

August: Osage County Summary and Analysis of Part 5


As Mattie Fae begins to criticize Charles, Charlie stands up for his son, saying, "I don't understand this meanness. I look at you and your sister and the way you talk to people and I don't understand it. I just can't understand why folks can't be respectful of one another." Mattie Fae tries to interject, but Charlie says, "We've been married for thirty-eight years. I wouldn't trade them for anything. But if you can't find a generous place in your heart for your own son, we're not going to make it to thirty-nine."

As Charlie exits, Barbara enters and Mattie Fae asks her for a cigarette. Mattie Fae asks Barbara if Ivy and Little Charles are in love, and Barbara reveals that they are. Mattie Fae quickly tells her that the relationship cannot happen, explaining, "Little Charles is not your cousin. He's your brother. He's your blood brother. He's not your cousin. He is your blood brother. Half-brother. He's your father's child. Which means that he is Ivy's brother." Suddenly Karen and Steve enter, but Barbara tells them to go back in the kitchen.

Barbara is shocked and asks who else knows. Mattie Fae tells her that Charlie and Violet do not know, but that Beverly did. "If Ivy found out about this, it would destroy her," Barbara says, and Mattie Fae tells Barbara that she needs to stop their affair somehow.

Scene 2. That night, while everyone is sleeping, Jean and Steve share a joint, giggling, while Karen is asleep on the couch. Steve aggressively flirts with her and asks if she wants a shotgun. He performs a "shotgun," inhaling some of the joint and exhaling it into Jean's mouth.

Steve touches Jean's breasts and asks her how old she is. When she tells him she's 15, he asks her to show him her breasts. "You're gonna get us both in trouble," she says, to which he replies, "I'm white and over thirty. I don't get in trouble." He turns off the lights, but soon after, Johnna turns them back on, holding a cast-iron skillet. She swats the skillet at him, hitting his knuckles, then his forehead.

Everyone wakes up and makes their way to the kitchen. Johnna tells Karen that Steve was "messing with Jean," and Barbara attacks Steve after hearing this. Bill pulls her away as she screams, "I'll murder you, you prick!"

Bill and Barbara pull Jean into the next room and interrogate her about what happened. "We smoked a little pot, and we were goofing around, and then everything just went haywire," Jean says. Bill tells his daughter, "The big deal, Jean, is that you're fourteen years old," and Jean fires back, "Which is only a few years younger than you like 'em." At this, Barbara slaps Jean, who bursts into tears and runs off, with Bill following her.

Steve and Karen both pack their things to leave. Karen tells Barbara that she thinks the incident was both Steve and Jean's fault. "It lives where everything lives: somewhere in the middle. Where everything lives, where all the rest of us live, everyone but you," Karen says. She leaves.

Bill comes back in and tells Barbara that he's going back to Boulder with Jean. Barbara comments on the fact that everything is a mess and guesses that Bill will not return to her, adding, "And I'm never really going to understand why, am I?" He goes to say something, then says, "Probably not." Barbara sobs and tells Bill she loves him, then he exits.

Scene 3. Barbara and Johnna are in the study. Barbara is drinking whiskey and monologuing to Johnna about the last time she spoke to her father, in which he said, "You know this country was always pretty much a whorehouse, but at least it used to have some promise. Now it's just a shithole." She waxes poetic about the failed experiment of America, then says, "Dissipation is actually much worse than cataclysm." Johnna asks, "Mrs. Fordham, are you firing me?"

Barbara tells Johnna she isn't firing her and Johnna tells her she's willing to keep working at the house. Barbara assures her that she'll keep paying her to stay on.

Scene 4. Morning. Barbara and Sheriff Gilbeau are in the living room, and Barbara compliments how he has developed physically. He tells her about his father, who has Alzheimer's, and she asks him if he's married. When he says he's divorced, Barbara tells him she's about to be. She vents to him about her daughter, who she labels a nymphomaniac, and tells Gilbeau that Jean is named after Jean Seberg, who killed herself.

Sheriff Gilbeau asks Barbara if she'd ever want to get lunch and then tells her that he recently heard from someone who runs a motel that Beverly stayed at for two nights before killing himself. He asks Barbara if she wants to know if anyone called him during that time. Barbara says she doesn't care, and kisses Gilbeau, but when he touches her, she pulls away. "I've forgotten what I look like," she says.

Scene 5. Barbara in her nightgown and Ivy in the dining room. Johnna is making food in the kitchen. Ivy asks her sister if their mother is off pills, and Barbara tells her that Violet is "moderately clean." Ivy tells Barbara she is nervous about moving to New York, and Barbara tries to dissuade Ivy from going in the first place, saying that she shouldn't continue her affair with Charles.

Johnna enters with catfish for dinner. "Bottom feeders, my favorite," says Barbara sardonically. Violet comes onto the landing upstairs as Barbara tells Ivy it's ridiculous to move to New York at her age. Violet enters and Ivy asks them why they aren't dressed. Johnna brings out catfish for Violet and Barbara orders her mother to eat. "EAT THE FISH, BITCH!" she screams, as Ivy tries to tell Violet that she is moving to New York with Charles.

To interrupt Ivy, Barbara tells Violet that Ivy's a lesbian, even though this is untrue. When neither Barbara nor Violet will listen, Ivy smashes her plate. Barbara breaks a vase immediately after, and then Violet smashes her plate. Ivy tries to tell Violet about her affair, saying, "Little Charles and I are—" when Violet interrupts her by saying, "Little Charles and you are brother and sister. I know that."

As Violet tells them that she's always known, Ivy is horrified and runs from the room calling them "monsters." Barbara follows her, trying to comfort her, but Ivy says, "I won't let you change my story." She tells Barbara that she's going anyway and she'll never come back.

When Barbara goes back in the house, Violet is smoking and insists that Ivy won't go because she's not strong. She then alludes to the fact that Beverly left a note and that she tried to get through to him at the motel, but not until she had already gone into the safety deposit box. "You had better understand this, you smug little ingrate, there is at least one reason Beverly killed himself and that's you. Think there's any way he would've done what he did if you were still here?" Violet says. Violet goes on and on about how strong she is, until Barbara kisses her on the cheek, gets her purse, and leaves the house.

Violet calls to everyone in the house, which has been abandoned, before finally going to find Johnna who is on the second floor. Johnna holds Violet's head and sings "This is the way the world ends," as Violet repeats "and then you're gone" over and over again.


While Mattie Fae does not share a pill addiction with her sister, it appears that they both have fairly well-developed stingers, and in this section of the play, Charlie calls his wife on her cruelty to their meek son, Charles. Mattie Fae digs into Charles at any opportunity that she can get, clearly her own way of coping with her abusive childhood. In the beginning of this section, Charlie finally comes to his son's defense.

No sooner has Charlie laid down a boundary for his son than Mattie unveils a devastating truth to Barbara, that Little Charles is not Charlie's son at all, but Beverly's. This makes Ivy and Little Charles' affair, already unorthodox, completely unacceptable, given that they are half-siblings. This is a climactic revelation in a play that is chockfull of devastating and climactic revelations. August: Osage County plays ruthlessly with the audience's expectations, moving quickly between moments of relative calm and complete upheaval.

The sexual inappropriateness of the Weston clan does not stop at Little Charles and Ivy. That night, Steve gets aggressive with the underage Jean, even after she has expressed her reservations. Steve is a complete predator, going after Jean while pretending to be a fun uncle figure. He ingratiates himself to her by pretending to be her friend, when in reality, he is only interested in her sexually, and he has no sense of personal responsibility, even saying at one point, "I'm white and over thirty. I don't get in trouble."

In spite of all of the horrible things that the other characters do, the blame seems to find its way back to Barbara, the long-suffering Weston sister. Even after Steve tries to seduce her underaged daughter, Barbara gets blamed by Jean, Karen, and Bill. The play shows the way that Barbara, in caring the most about how other people feel and trying to keep the family together, takes the brunt of much of the family conflict. She loses her husband to an affair, she loses the daughter she is trying to protect, and she even loses her sister to the man who molested her daughter.

The final tragic course that the play takes occurs when Barbara begins to turn into her addict mother, before deciding to abandon her. Staying in her parent's home, Barbara stays in her nightgown all day and becomes domineering in a way that bears quite a resemblance to Violet's attitude. Barbara, so determined to resist the influence of her pill-addicted mother, becomes her codependent enabler. As she tells her mother to "eat the fucking fish," one cannot help but see that she has transformed into her greatest fear: a mean and intimidating head of household. It is not until Violet delivers the final devastating news that she did not prevent Beverly's death that Barbara musters the courage to leave the miserable woman alone in her home.