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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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LONESOME DOVE FREE BOOKNOTES


CHAPTER 3

Summary

This chapter introduces the reader to Lorena Wood, the “sporting girl” of Lonesome Dove. She has a dream to someday make her way to San Francisco where she can finally be cool again. She is now 24 years old and once had lived in Mobile, Alabama. Her parents became worried when she was just about twelve years old that the Yankees were coming too close and decided to move west. Her father died at Vicksburg, and her mother only made it as far as Baton Rouge. Then, Lorena was alone at the age of seventeen. That was about the time she met up with Mosby Marlin, who made her believe that he would marry her. Instead, he brought her to live with his mother and sisters in a house without windows in a place called Gladewater. They burned smoke inside all day to drive off the mosquitoes, but it didn’t work. Also, the other women were meaner to her than they were to their nigras. Unfortunately, Mosby saw her as his own meal ticket and forced her into the sporting life by threatening to kill her if she tried to run away.

Lorena’s life continued in this vein to the point that Lorena ceased to talk any more than she had to. One night, Mosby needed gambling money and sold Lorena’s time to a man named John Tinkersley, who was the tallest, prettiest man she had ever met. He suggested she accompany him to San Antonio and Lorena agreed. Mosby was no match in a fight with Tinkersly so he gave in, and Lorena left with John. Once in San Antonio, living conditions were much better, because Tinkersley rented two rooms in a hotel for them. However, he proved to be no different than Mosby. He hit her when she talked back and set her up in the sporting life just as Mosby had done. He even discovered all the places she hid money from him and cleaned her out to the last penny. One day they headed down toward the border and ended up in Lonesome Dove. There, if she had known how to cock the trigger, she would have killed Tinkersley while he lay drunk on the bed. As a result, he decided to leave her there in Lonesome Dove, but not before trashing her reputation, calling her a murderous woman.


Lorena convinced Xavier Wanz, who owned the Dry Bean Saloon, to allow her to cook for him while she also continued making money in the sporting life. It was Augustus who helped her make a living by becoming a regular. She no longer trusted any man, but she realized that Gus was in a class by himself. He was never mean to her and didn’t treat her like a whore. She knew he would help her if she ever needed him, and he became a man she could talk to a little. Nonetheless, she still was a mystery to most of the men who sought her charms, because she never spoke to them, and she bore a small scar above her lip where Tinkersley had bit her in their last fight.

Gus was even different when it came to her silence. He found it amusing. One day he gave her a $10 gold piece instead of his usual $5 just so she would carry on a conversation with him. When she asked him why, he told her that a bit of talk with a female was worth any price to him, and he figured she had a story to tell and that he was available to listen. Lorena responded by returning the money, because she wasn’t interested in being someone’s temporary wife. Some of the other girls in the business would play this role for the cowboys who were heading up the trail soon and wanted a “little marriage.” But it wasn’t the life Lorena envisioned nor was she ready to tell Gus her life story. Gus just grinned and observed that he ought to have known better than to try to buy conversation.

Notes

Yet another interesting character is introduced in this chapter: Lorena Wood, the town prostitute. She is presented by the author as a very young girl who has been supremely abused by men since she was seventeen. Her experiences have caused her to shut down to the point that she barely speaks. She trusts no man, not even Gus, whom she realizes is the nicest man she’s ever known. Her experiences are a reflection of the little respect any woman can obtain in this ultimate macho world. For example, Call doesn’t want a woman in his house, Newt dreams of her as a fantasy, and Mosby and Tinkersley wanted her for their own needs, including money. No one ever thought of what was good for Lorena except Augustus, and she doesn’t trust even him. For this reason, her character seems to be one that will have a great impact on the men in this story. It’s also ironic that she won’t play the game of “little marriage” with Gus as later she will seek that exact promise from him.

 

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