August: Osage County


Tracy Letts

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Themes and Colors
Parents, Children, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Patriarchy and American Memory Theme Icon
Addiction Theme Icon
Violence, Abuse, and Power Theme Icon
Familial Responsibility and Entrapment Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in August: Osage County, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Parents, Children, and Inheritance

August: Osage County is fundamentally a story about the inheritance of trauma. As the extended Weston clan comes together under one roof for the first time in years after the death of their patriarch, Beverly, the relationships most keenly tested are those between parents and children. Through his examination of several fraught parent-child relationships under pressure, playwright Tracy Letts suggests that behavior both benign and abusive, and legacies both mundane and traumatic, are inevitably…

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Patriarchy and American Memory

The disappearance of the Weston clan’s patriarch, Beverly, structures the play’s first act, and the void left in the wake of his loss forms both the logistical and emotional framework of the rest of the action. Beverly becomes an almost mythical figure as the drama unfolds—an archetype symbolic of the death of a vision of America that no longer exists. Set in mid-2007—a crucial moment in American patriotism and paranoia—August: Osage County uses…

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The inciting incident of August: Osage County—and almost all the action that follows —is calibrated around the emotional and logistical vacuum created by addiction. In the play’s prologue, Beverly Weston hires Johnna Monevata to look after him and Violet, whose addictions, according to Beverly himself, “have over time made burdensome the maintenance of traditional American routine.” As the play unfolds, Letts—whose real-life family was plagued by addiction—demonstrates the ways in which addiction cripples…

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Violence, Abuse, and Power

Violence and abuse, both psychological and physical, have seeped into every corner of the Weston household—and into nearly every line of August: Osage County. The play is about a family that does not know how to be good to one another as a result of generational trauma, addictive behavior, broken promises, and dangerous secrets, and it seems, for much of the action, that violence and abuse are inevitable byproducts of such sadness, tension, and…

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Familial Responsibility and Entrapment

The atmosphere of the Weston clan’s ancestral home is stifling and tightly-controlled, and the effects of such an environment on the individuals made to endure it become increasingly sinister as the play unfolds. As tensions mount and horrible secrets come to life, Letts paints a picture of the mechanisms of responsibility and entrapment that keep people tied to abusive and miserable families. Letts ultimately suggests, through his careful examination of the three Weston sisters—Barbara

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