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
BARBARA: Goddamn, it’s hot.
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.
BARBARA: The heat. It was too hot. They were dying from the heat.