Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry|
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The novel, Lonesome Dove, is set first in Lonesome Dove, Texas,
and later in various states the characters pass through on the cattle
drive, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, as well as Arkansas when
July Johnson first appears in the story. The final setting is Montana.
The time period is approximately 1875 through about 1878.
Woodrow F. Call
He is part owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company along with Augustus
McCrae and is the hardest worker of the two. Like Gus, he is a former
Texas Ranger and because of his leadership role in the outfit, he is often
called the Captain. He is a taciturn man who believes in completing his
duties above all else, living an ethical life, and responsibly caring
for those whom he employs. However, he lives in denial about what’s really
important and often hurts those for whom he cares the most.
Also a former Texas Ranger who won a merit award from the Governor
of Texas for his courage under fire, he is the more sensitive and understanding
of the two partners, although as Call says, he’s also the laziest. He
has a deep understanding of what makes life work, and yet he, too, often
makes mistakes that directly impact on people he least wants to hurt.
She is the “sporting woman” of Lonesome Dove and has such an
impact on the men who live there that much is blamed on her when things
go wrong. She is the prime example of a woman of the Old West who ends
up always dependent on some man while seriously pining for the right to
her own independence.
He is a former Texas Ranger and a dashing gambler who lives a
“love ‘em and leave ‘em” life until he runs across Lorena Wood. His relationship
with her will have a seriously adverse effect on the decisions he makes
and as a result, he will lose his life as a young man.
The former lover of both Gus McCrae and Jake Spoon, she is now
married to a comatose husband and is keeping their horse farm together.
One of Gus’ motivations for going on the cattle drive is to find her again
and see if there’s any hope for a future with her. She is a strong, opinionated
woman who has a keen eye for the needs of those she loves, but is often
frustrated by the choices she made in life.
A seventeen year old boy who has lived for ten years with Call
and McCrae, he desperately desires to know who his father is and to be
taken seriously as a cowboy. He goes on the cattle drive with the two
men and learns that Call is his father, but never hears the man publicly
admit he’s his son. He grows up in a bitter way on the long drive north.
A black man and an excellent hand for the Hat Creek Company,
he has known Call and Gus since their Ranger days. He is probably more
competent at his job than any of the white men in the company, but dies
on the long drive north. Gus laments after his death that there were many
things they had not done for the man while he lived, and he leaves his
award of merit on Deets’ grave in his honor.
Pea Eye Parker
The most loyal member of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, Pea Eye
is not the smartest of the group, but he would die for Call and Gus if
they asked him. He has a hard time with change, but turns to his work
whenever he feels confused about the loss of what he comes to know best.
The sheriff from Fort Smith, Arkansas, he goes in search of Jake
Spoon for killing his brother. However, he finds his attention diverted
to finding Elmira, his wife who runs away as soon as he is gone. His is
rather innocent in many ways and also feels too passionately about her
when she has no desire for him. His search takes him across the path of
the Hat Creek Cattle Company and Clara Allen.
A former “sporting girl” from Dodge City, she marries July Johnson
to escape the abuse of the buffalo hunters. However, she a single-minded
woman who only desires something for herself, and she allows no one to
infringe on that dream, including her husband and her children. Her desperate
desire for independence eventually leads to a horrible death.
An extremely competent cowboy, he signs on for the drive north
and is very happy when Lorena ends up on the same drive. He has a deep
love for her that she spurns, but he never gives up hoping to win her.
He is an evil Indian who roams the plains in search of people
to kidnap, sell, or just to murder. He steals Lorena with the intention
of giving her as a plaything to the men who roam with him and then to
allow them to murder her. He is the ultimate symbol of evil in the story.
The deputy sheriff of Fort Smith, Arkansas, he is forced by the
townspeople to search for July Johnson to tell him Elmira has run away.
He is totally inept for the journey, but it’s a decision made by July
Johnson, his sheriff, that leads to his death.
July Johnson’s sister-in-law, she pressures July to bring back
Jake Spoon for killing her husband and later forces Roscoe to look for
July to report that his wife has run away.
The piano player in the Dry Bean Saloon, he goes on the cattle
drive even though he has an open wound in his stomach.
The owner of the Dry bean Saloon, he begs Lorena to stay and
marry him rather than go with Jake on the cattle drive. He later commits
suicide by burning down the saloon as he sits in Lorena’s room.
The Mexican cook for the Hat Creek Cattle Company, he is obsessed
with ringing the dinner bell. He goes on the cattle drive, but when his
mistake costs them their wagon, he resigns, only to return to the old
ranch, because he really has nowhere else to go.
The new cook for the cattle drive, he has predictive abilities
and gains the men’s respect for his food and his advice.
A Mexican, he serves as the right hand of Clara Allen.
Allen and Sean
Two Irishmen who end up in the cattle drive, their songs sooth
the O’Brien cattle, but one ends up dying a horrific death and the other
longs to go home to Ireland and his wife.
Jimmy and Ben Rainey, Soupy Jones, Needle Nelson, Jasper Fant,
and Bert Borum
These are other hands hired by Call to help on the cattle drive.
The slow thinking buffalo hunter who falls in love with Elmira,
does whatever she asks him to do, and dies with her in a Sioux massacre.
Another buffalo hunter who travels with Zwey and Elmira, Zwey
has to nearly kill him to make him leave Elmira alone.
The Suggs Brothers
Three bandits who roam the plains and towns of the west seeking
to steal whatever they can. The oldest, Dan, enjoys killing and is judged
by Jake Spoon, who ends up in their company, to be insane.
The black man who rides with the Suggs Brothers, he, like Dan,
enjoys killing for killing’s sake.
Joe Boot and Janey
Two youngsters, they end up with July Johnson and later Roscoe
Brown. Joe is Elmira’s son and Janey is a girl who had been taken as a
slave wife by a viscous old man. She escapes him and hooks up with Roscoe
for safety. Both youngsters die at the hands of Blue Duck.
Capt. Weaver and Dixon
Two members of the US military post-Civil War, they try to forcibly
take horses from the Hat Creek Company and beat up Newt.
Monkey John and Dog Face
Two white men who roam with Blue Duck, they have half ownership
of Lorena. Dog Face is more caring, but Monkey John is very abusive. They
both die when Gus finds them.
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