August: Osage County Summary & Study Guide

Tracy Letts
This Study Guide consists of approximately 49 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of August.
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August: Osage County Summary & Study Guide Description

August: Osage County Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on August: Osage County by Tracy Letts.

The play begins with a prologue, which consists of a conversation between writer / professor Beverly Weston and Johnna, the young Native American woman he is interviewing for a position as housekeeper. Beverly, who may or may not be somewhat drunk, refers to the difficult relationship he has with his medication-addicted wife Violet, who interrupts the conversation, behaves disrespectfully to both Beverly and Johnna, and then withdraws into a pill-induced sleep.

The action of the play as a whole begins a few days later, in the aftermath of Beverly’s disappearance and the resultant gathering of Beverly and Violet’s family: eldest daughter Barbara (along with her husband Bill and daughter Jean); middle daughter Ivy (long single, but in the middle of beginning a new relationship); and youngest daughter Karen (and new boyfriend Steve). Also present are Violet’s blunt-speaking sister Mattie Fae, her husband Charlie, and their son Little Charles. As members of the family arrive, bicker, and try to comfort each other in the aftermath of Beverly’s disappearance, old issues and conflicts resurface; new conflicts emerge; and tensions between Violet and the rest of her family intensify, partly as a result of Violet’s continuing use of pills. At the end of the first act, the family learns that Beverly’s body has been found, and Violet has disappeared into a pill-induced unreality.

The second act consists of a single extended scene set primarily around the dining room table. In the aftermath of Beverly’s funeral, the family gathers for a meal prepared by Johnna. As various family members attempt to have conversations on subjects ranging from family inheritances to vegetarianism, Violet (who has taken a large number of pills) interrupts with angry, very cutting comments. Confrontations triggered by those comments eventually leads to an eruption of anger and frustration from Barbara, which in turn leads to a physical confrontation between the two women. As family members break the confrontation apart, Barbara calls for a “pill raid” (i.e. a search through the house for Violet’s hidden pills) and shouts that she’s running things now.

The third act begins a few days later. Violet has managed to stay relatively clean of her pills, but still interacts with her family from a place of resentment and aggression. Barbara confers with her sisters about how the family can/could move forward, but meets resistance from both of them about how involved they want to be in Violet’s rehabilitation. Meanwhile, revelations of various family secrets (including various aspects of the identity of Ivy’s new boyfriend; the budding illicit relationship between Jean and Steve; and further, long-concealed details of the relationship between Beverly and Violet) lead to further confrontations. As a result of these confrontations, Bill leaves the house, Johnna intervenes violently between Steve and Jean; and Barbara, somewhat desperately, makes an effort to reconnect with an old boyfriend.

Eventually, and as a result of confessions made by Violet and one last confrontation between her and her mother, Barbara leaves the house. Violet, suddenly feeling very alone and deserted, finds comfort in the arms of the last person the audience might expect: housekeeper Johnna.

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