August: Osage County

by

Tracy Letts

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Heat Symbol Icon

The characters of August: Osage County make reference to the stifling heat within and around the Weston family’s ancestral home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma multiple times throughout the play’s three acts. The heat is ubiquitous and crushing, and as the play unfolds, it comes to serve as a symbol of the oppressive, claustrophobic, and confining emotional atmosphere of the house in which the action takes place. Every time a character mentions heat—especially when Barbara makes reference to having a hot flash—a devastating or ludicrous emotionally-charged moment is about to unravel in the lives of the Westons.

Barbara and Bill complain of the heat when they arrive on the porch of the Weston home, preparing to confront the chaotic, dysfunctional family Barbara left behind for the first time in several years; when Violet needles her daughter Ivy about her mediocre appearance and her frumpy fashion sense, Ivy attempts to get away from her mother by complaining about the heat in the room; when Steve, Karen Weston’s sleazy fiancé, attempts to seduce Karen’s fourteen-year-old niece Jean, he engages in wordplay with her about the room being hot and Jean’s own “hot”-ness, both temperature-wise and appearance-wise—an obvious, and in this case telling, double-entendre which reveals the intense feelings of discomfort and entrapment Jean is experiencing in that moment. The recurring invocation of anger at, discomfort caused by, and disorientation rooted in the ever-present Oklahoma heat, as well as the exhaustion, crankiness, and feelings of suffocation and constriction it creates, symbolize the Weston family’s desire to escape one another, and the seemingly cursed place that has brought them all together. 

Heat Quotes in August: Osage County

The August: Osage County quotes below all refer to the symbol of Heat. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theatre Communications Group edition of August: Osage County published in 2008.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

BARBARA: Goddamn, it’s hot.

BILL: Wimp.

BARBARA: I know it. Colorado spoiled me.

BILL: That’s one of the reasons we got out of here.

BARARA: No, it’s not.

BILL: You suppose your mom’s turned on the air conditioner?

BARBARA: Are you kidding? Remember the parakeets?

BILL: The parakeets.

BARBARA: I didn’t tell you about the parakeets? She got a parakeet, for some insane reason, and the little fucker croaked after about two days. So she went to the pet store and raised hell and they gave her another parakeet. That one died after just one day. So she went back and they gave her a third parakeet and that one died, too. So the chick from the per store came out here to see just what in hell this serial parakeet killer was doing to bump off these birds.

BILL: And?

BARBARA: The heat. It was too hot. They were dying from the heat.

Related Characters: Barbara Fordham (speaker), Bill Fordham (speaker), Violet Weston
Related Symbols: Heat
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire August: Osage County LitChart as a printable PDF.
August: Osage County PDF

Heat Symbol Timeline in August: Osage County

The timeline below shows where the symbol Heat appears in August: Osage County. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
...to wipe her brow. He apologizes for the temperature in the house. It is sweltering hot—his wife, he says, does not believe in air conditioning, and has taped the edges of... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 1
Addiction Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
Mattie Fae changes the subject, complaining that it’s so hot inside the house she’s sweating. Charlie laments the heat, too, and asks Ivy when her... (full context)
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence, Abuse, and Power Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
...she isn’t. He urges her to take a second and prepare. Barbara complains about the heat. Bill asks Barbara if Violet has gotten an air conditioner yet. Barbara says there’s no... (full context)
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
...tries to touch Barbara’s neck, but she shakes him off, telling him she’s having a hot flash. Jean joins them on the porch, and together, all three of them enter the... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Addiction Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
...pitcher of iced tea from the kitchen. Barbara is grateful for it—she is having a hot flash. Karen brings the conversation back to her own impending trip to Belize. She asks... (full context)
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Addiction Theme Icon
Violence, Abuse, and Power Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
...telling her he smells pot on her. She denies smoking. Steve remarks that it is hot in the room, and tells Jean she must be hot, too. He asks Jean once... (full context)
Violence, Abuse, and Power Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
...not a cockfight.” Without a word, the men put their jackets back on, despite the heat. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Addiction Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
...at how earlier, at the doctor’s office, Violet was silent and wounded, like a “wilting hothouse flower.” Barbara felt that Violet was trying to make her daughter look like the crazy... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
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... (full context)