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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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BOOKNOTES FOR LONESOME DOVE

CHAPTER 82

Summary

Even though his thoughts are of going after Elmira, July instead begins to help around the ranch. That day, he, Clara, and Cholo geld fifteen young horses, and July begins to feel stronger. However, he later places his rifle on the porch and has every intention of taking off to find Elmira again, when Clara suddenly places the baby in his arms. She tells him that this little baby needs him much more than Elmira does. She screams at him to stay there with them, because he doesn’t really know his wife at all. Then, when the baby begins to cry, Clara goes back into the house, telling July to sing to him to calm him down. The only song he can remember is an old saloon song, but he begins to sing it anyway. Ironically, the name of the song is “Lorena.” The baby stops crying and watches July with a solemn little face. It’s enough to stop him from leaving right then, but he still feels not going would just be giving up. Clara tells him later that night that “it doesn’t do to sacrifice for people unless they want you to.”

Notes

Clara’s intentions seem to be working for July’s benefit, but in reality, she has become attached to the baby and needs to find a way to make him stay. However, even though her intentions are somewhat false, her advice is not. Elmira will never want him and he needs to realize that before he follows her into danger.


CHAPTER 83


Summary

The action returns to the Hat Creek Company where the hands only have minds for Ogallala and the whores they can buy there. Soon, Deets returns to camp to tell them that they are only ten miles from the Platte River and so quite close to Ogallala. Even though he brings happy news, Deets seems as subdued as he has been since Jake was hung. When Call questions him about his mood, Deets tells him that he doesn’t like the north - “the light’s too thin.” Call is worried about this comment, because he has noticed a look in Deets’ eyes like an animal stares before it dies. When Call mentions his concern to Gus, he tells him that Deets has extra sensitivity and that who knows? He might know that they’re all going to be killed by Indians before too long.

Gus, however, is more concerned with how agitated Lorena is. She won’t be comforted by Gus’ comments that Clara will be no threat to her. And although he has grown deeply fond of her, he feels a yearning to be loose again and have nothing to do but win at cards. He talks to Deets about what he would have if he could have what he really wanted. Deets tells him he’s want to be back on the Rio Grande and their old ranch. This conversation comes to an end when US Calvary soldiers ride up to the herd. The two men who speak to Call and Gus are Captain Weaver and his scout, Dixon. Weaver assumes, because he is prejudiced, that they’re lost, because their scout is a “nigger.” Call becomes annoyed by the comment and emphasizes that Deets is a black man. Then, Weaver tries to forcibly requisition the Company’s horses. Call looks over the men Weaver has with him and sees no threat, because they’re all exhausted and their horses are skinny. So Call refuses Weaver’s orders, and Weaver warns him if he sees him in town, he’ll box his ears.

Notes

This chapter is full of foreshadowing. First, Deets exhibits symptoms of a man about to die, which will come true in the near future. Call says that he probably has a premonition of all their deaths at the hands of some Indians, but the truth is only Deets will be killed by an Indian. Finally, Weaver threatens to box their ears if he sees them in town, which will come true for Newt when Weaver later tries to take his and Dish Boggett’s horses in Ogallala.

The character of Weaver is an odious one, but it will serve to reveal the inner nature of Captain Call. Call has a great deal of respect for Deets and is annoyed that anyone would call him a nigger. Furthermore, he sees by the condition of his men and his horses that Weaver is not a very good leader and that annoys him as well. Finally, when Weaver later makes good on his threat and begins to beat up Newt in Ogallala, Call will come to the boy’s defense in a way a good father would.


CHAPTER 84

Summary

That afternoon, the herd crosses the Platte River and turns northwest toward Ogallala. Gus decides along with the hands to go into town and tries to convince Lorena to go with him to pick out some pretty dresses. However, she refuses, because she’s afraid he just wants to find a whore and doesn’t really want her. Gus carries on, but feels rather strange as he lopes toward town, because it hits him just how much he misses Jake Spoon. Gus thinks he was a fine companion right about supper time. He also thinks about Clara and whether he would be smarter not to see her and just head right on into Montana. Lorena has proved to be sweeter than any woman he has known, and he ought to leave the past be.

When he gets to town, he persuades a dress shop to remain open long enough for him to buy Lorie a whole new wardrobe. Then, he finds the best saloon he can and sits down for a drink. He is approached by a middle-aged gambler who says his name is Shaw. He suggests they have a game, but Gus isn’t interested in one with only two players. Just then, the door opens and a young girl, painted up like a whore, enters and walks toward their table. Her name is Nellie and Shaw tells her to away, because they are trying to get a game of cards to together. Instead, she offers herself to Gus upon which Shaw cuffs her across the face. He tells Gus he hit her, because she’s a “tart,” and he won’t have her interfering in his pleasure. Gus reacts by offering a chair beside him to Nellie and telling Shaw to go away, because he won’t play cards or drink with a man who hits women. Shaw warns Nellie that she’ll get a beating she’ll never forget if she interferes with him again. At that, Gus hits Shaw so hard he knocks him back into the next table. After Shaw leaves, Nellie explains that he’s Rosie’s husband, and she works for Rosie. Rosie has sent her out to work, but Shaw always runs her off, because he doesn’t like his wife. Gus gives her twenty dollars to bribe Shaw not to beat her and then takes a bottle of his own and leaves. When he gets home, Lorena is sitting outside the tent waiting, because she’s afraid the other woman will take him. Gus refuses to discuss it, talking instead about the beauty of the moon and the gift of singing. Lorie is annoyed that he won’t reassure her and thinks it would be better if they were both killed. At least then, she wouldn’t have to be alone.

Notes

In this chapter, we see how Gus treats and loves women. He wants to buy Lorie a whole new wardrobe and tries to get her to go with him. She refuses, but he never holds it against her. Once in town, he does buy her all those clothes, because he is truly fond of her. Then, when Nellie, one of the town whores, is mistreated by Shaw, he stands up for her by hitting the man and giving her money to bribe him. Finally, when he returns to the tent, even though Lorie only wants to talk about her fear of losing him, he instead tries to find a way to calm her by talking about the beauty he sees in the world. Reinforcing the basic goodness of Gus’ character at this point prepares the reader for the tragedy of his death later in the novel.

 

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