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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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The perspective of the novel changes with this chapter to a character weíve only learned about through the observations of others - Clara Allen. As the chapter opens, she is milking a mare when her oldest daughter, Sally, announces that someone is coming. The company they usually get is horse traders, and few have come recently since her husband, Bob, has been injured when a horse kicked him in the head. He hadnít died as they thought he would, but he also hasnít recovered and exists in a kind of coma from which he probably wonít awaken. She will have to bury him in the cemetery on the hill alongside the three sons already buried there. She and her daughters live in a two story frame house that she eventually had forced Bob to build along with the piano she forced him to buy. Her only help is a Mexican cowboy named Cholo, who is totally devoted to her. She also reminisces about how Bob could never figure out why she had chosen him over Augustus McCrae. They actually had few quarrels, except over money, because Bob knew when he saw that look in her gray eyes, heíd better back off. As a result, he often felt lonely, because Clara always got her way, a way that often left him out. But life is often hard for Clara, especially because of the loss of her sons. The memory of the fear she felt as they approached death was so strong that she can never quite forget it even though she blocks it out as much as possible. She also reproaches herself for her own selfishness and recognizes that something has been held back in her that makes her so. The pleasures she feels in life have to do with her daughters, her magazines and books, and her weak attempts at writing.

The people who arrive at her home are Elmira, Big Zwey, and Luke. When Elmira asks if they know Dee Boot, Cholo nods and calls him a pistolero. Elmira is all for leaving immediately, but collapses after she steps off the wagon for a moment. Sheís in labor with her baby and only her collapse will even make her stop for that. Eventually, Elmira gives birth to a baby boy, his birth almost killing her, but she refuses to even look at him or hold him. She does agree later to try to nurse the baby, but still wonít look at him while she does. Elmira just worries that Cholo called Dee a pistolero, at the same time she congratulates herself for having her baby where there are people to care for him.


This chapter reinforces the idea that there really are no coincidences. For Elmiraís baby to be born in the home of a woman who had lived in Texas is unusual, but just shows how lifeís path cross each other. Itís interesting, however, that July Johnson would be in love with a woman who is so single-minded that she canít even afford the time to love her baby. She can only think of Dee, and heís so single-minded that he canít give up the search for her.



Elmira insists on leaving as soon as possible, but Zwey is worried that sheís leaving without the baby. Itís a puzzle to him, because in his simplistic mind, a mother always wants her baby. Luke realizes that Zwey doesnít have a clue about men and women and how they make babies. However, before they even get five miles, Elmira is delirious. By morning, they finally find the wagon track and pull into Ogallala. Elmira is awake enough to ask if any of the cowboys they meet know Dee Boot; they tell her is in jail. She asks Zwey to carry her over to the window of his cell, and when Dee comes to the window, she is surprised at how much older he looks. He tells her he is going to be hanged, because he killed a young boy. Then, Elmira begins bleeding heavily, and they rush her to the only doctor in the town.


The ultimate irony occurs in this chapter - Elmira comes all this way to find Dee Boot only to learn that he is going to be hanged. Like so many of the other characters who become obsessed with how they want their lives to unfold, like Jake Spoon, Elmira only faces tragedy when her goal is reached.



July Johnson is cursing himself as a man in a worse position than Job. He keeps having setbacks and accidents in his search for Elmira. First, his horse goes lame, and he has to walk back to Dodge and buy another. Then, near the Republican River, as he is sleeping, he is bitten by a snake, and his right leg becomes so swollen and painful he has to cut his pant leg. He assumes he is dying, because he becomes delirious and thinks he is talking to Roscoe, but he doesnít die. However, he has to ride belly over his horse to get close enough to the edge of the river to get water. It takes him three more days before he can go back and get the saddle for horse and five days after the snake bit him before he can actually saddle up and cross the Republican. Nonetheless, he keeps riding on.

Three days after he starts out again, he sees the Platte River and finds a wagon track. About noon, he comes to a lone frame house with corrals and a few sheds, and he feels like crying, because he isnít lost anymore. An old man appears on horseback as he approaches the house and introduces himself as Cholo. Coincidence or not, July has arrived at the home of Clara Allen not long after Elmira has left there for Ogallala.

As they ride up to the house, Clara emerges with a baby in her arms, and July canít take his eyes off her. Clara soon notices his leg and makes him dismount so she can care for it and feed him. When he introduces himself to her, Clara nearly drops the fireplace poker in surprise. Luke had told her that Elmira was married to a sheriff named Johnson from Arkansas, and now here he is. It also occurs to her that the baby Elmira had left there just might belong to this man, a thought that annoys her, because she is becoming attached to the baby. She tells July that Elmira had stopped there about three weeks ago, and in his amazement over the news, he begins to cry. She also tells him after he composes himself that the baby must be his. Itís too big a notion for July to take in, because Elmira had never told him about the baby. Clara says they have named him Martin.

July also explains that Elmira had another son Joe who was killed by Indians, and that he had been with July in the search for Jake Spoon. This too surprises Clara, because Jake Spoon had been a part of her past as well. She finally tells July to do his arithmetic, because by the dates he has given her of his marriage to Elmira and when Martin was born, July is definitely the babyís father. The chapter ends with Clara telling the baby that they donít care what his Pa thinks of them, because they already know what they think of him.


In spite of setbacks that might have stopped an ordinary man, July Johnson continues to follow his obsession for Elmira. Perhaps itís coincidence or perhaps itís divine intervention or perhaps itís just plain luck, but he finds himself about three weeks behind Elmira and at the home of Clara Allen where his son is being cared for. This follows the idea that there are really no coincidences in life, and that one ends up where heís supposed to be. July needs a diversion to make him realize that his quest for Elmira is futile. She doesnít want him, and she doesnít want his son. Perhaps there is some hope for a future right there on Clara Allenís ranch.


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