August: Osage County

by

Tracy Letts

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August: Osage County: Act 3, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is morning, and the living room is bathed in light. Barbara and Sheriff Gilbeau are standing together in the living room. She offers him some coffee, but he declines. She tells him that he looks good, and he thanks her for the compliment. She asks if he’s going to tell her that she looks good, too, and he hurriedly does so. Barbara offers Gilbeau coffee again, and again he declines.
Barbara’s own behavior in this scene is decidedly erratic and off-putting. She has trouble keeping track of what she’s already asked Gilbeau and is seemingly desperate for his attention. Barbara is being changed by her environment and her extended proximity to her mother and her family’s ancestral home.
Themes
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
Barbara tells Gilbeau she feels a hot flash coming on, and then asks Gilbeau some more about his life—he is divorced, and she tells him that she’ll soon be joining his club. Gilbeau reveals he has three daughters, and that he often thinks about “the Weston sisters” when he looks at them. Gilbeau then asks if Barbara’s husband is still here—Barbara says that he went back home, but she can’t remember whether he left a few days ago or as many as two weeks ago. There is a silence between them, and Gilbeau asks Barbara if she’s okay. She tells him she’s “just got the Plains.”
Barbara’s hot flash symbolizes how stifled and claustrophobic she is beginning to feel. This scene implies that Barbara has settled into a routine here, but Gilbeau’s presence—something new, something non-routine—is perhaps shaking her out of herself a little bit and reminding her of the fact that she is in danger of becoming trapped here forever.
Themes
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
Gilbeau asks Barbara if she would like to get lunch someday and catch up. She says that she would. He then reveals the real reason he came—he got a call from the woman who runs a local motel, the Country Squire. When the woman saw Beverly Weston’s picture in the paper along with his obituary, she recognized him as someone who had patronized her motel not too long ago. She called the police and told them that he’d stayed at her inn for two nights—the first two nights of his absence. Gilbeau tells Barbara that he is going to check the phone records to see if any calls went out or came in while Beverly was at the motel. Barbara tells Gilbeau that his effort would be useless—no one knew where her father was staying.
The plot thickens here as Gilbeau reveals that there is perhaps more to the case of Beverly’s death than originally thought. Barbara, though, is hardly interested in this information. She has been trying to put her father’s death behind her and take up the mantle of his legacy, and doesn’t see any point in lingering over the fact of his death any longer.
Themes
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Patriarchy and American Memory Theme Icon
Gilbeau gets ready to leave and asks Barbara if he can call her sometime. In response, Barbara asks Gilbeau to come closer to her. He does, and she touches his face, as if in a trance. She kisses him, and then moves away. Barbara starts to say something but keeps trailing off. When Gilbeau asks her what the matter is, she says that she’s forgotten what she looks like. 
Barbara is profoundly unsure of what she wants any more—or, it seems, who she is. As she has become more and more entrapped within her family, she has begun to forget who she is, or what her “real” life looks like.
Themes
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
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