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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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LONESOME DOVE CHAPTER NOTES

CHAPTER 87

Summary

The scene switches to Clara’s home once more when she sees four riders approaching her house. Something about them strikes her memory. She’s still not sure who they might be and comes to the conclusion that it’s just some soldiers checking on them. They had come a few days before and told July the news about Elmira and Zwey, who had been massacred by the Indians. Clara just shakes her head at how faint with grief the man was over a woman who had done nothing but run away from him from the day they married.

As Clara comes downstairs from washing her face, she hears the voices of the company and recognizes that of Gus McCrae. She walks straight towards him, embraces him, and kisses him exactly on the mouth, astonishing her girls completely. Lorena hangs her head at the sight, convinced that she has lost Gus to this woman. However, Clara steps back to meet Call again and is introduced to Newt and Lorena. Lorena is surprised at how friendly she is. Gus is surprised to see July and notes that it truly is a small world while Clara thinks about how she had told Gus sixteen years before that she was marrying Bob, because she and Gus were like two racehorses which would always want to be in the lead. Life seems unfair for a moment, given that Bob is lying in a coma upstairs, but she won’t allow it to reduce the pleasure she feels at Gus’ arrival.

Call, Cholo, and July walk off to the lots so that Call can bargain for horses. Clara, meanwhile, gives the baby to Gus and begins to talk, laugh, and joke. Lorena begins to loosen up to Clara, admiring the sassy way she talked. Gus gives her the baby and she starts to lose her fear of this woman and enjoys sitting in her kitchen.

Later, Call returns to the house a little frustrated, because neither Cholo nor July will bargain with him over the horses. That job has always been Clara’s, and Call has never bargained with a woman in his life. However, he accepts the situation and asks Clara her price. She sets such a stiff price that Call balks for awhile, knowing that he could have done better with her husband. Furthermore, he is shy around women in business, and she stands up to him like no one has ever done before. He gives in reluctantly, while Clara just gets annoyed at his arrogance. Call also tells July that they hung Jake Spoon, but July no longer cares.

When Clara and Gus have a moment alone, she expresses her concern that Lorena is so young, but she insists that her greater concern is that he has spent all these years with Woodrow Call. She hates him and is bitter that he had more of Gus than she ever received, and she had a better claim.

Later, Clara organizes a picnic, and even Call comes along. It is a great success except for Call and July Johnson, both of whom feel awkward the whole time. Clara watches how Lorena enjoys the experience, a girlhood experience that she had never gotten to enjoy, and she tells Gus that he should leave Lorena there with her. She says if she goes to Montana with him, she’ll either die, get killed, or age before her time. They also discuss whether Clara’s going to marry July Johnson, which she says she’s not, and whether Newt knows that Call is his father. She has noticed that he’s the spitting image of the man, but Gus says that Call has never claimed him.

Clara tells Newt that if Montana doesn’t suit him, he’s welcome to come back and live with her. He wonders why they are taking the herd so far when Nebraska seems to have plenty of room. Also, he’s begun to see that a world with women in it seems very interesting. However, he won’t leave the Captain even though he’d like to stay. Then Clara offers him the sorrel gelding with a white star on his forehead and deducts the price from what Call will pay. Call is totally confused, because he just doesn’t understand women. Clara was willing to give fifty dollars back on the horse when she wouldn’t budge a nickel on the others.


Notes

This time at Clara’s home really reinforces the effect she had always had on Gus. She works the same magic on the others and shows her maternal instincts toward Lorena and Newt. She is feisty and sassy with Call and stands up to him, because she resents the hold he has always had on Gus. Her gift of the sorrel gelding to Newt is a gesture she makes to a boy who reminds her of her lost sons, but Call, who has little or no experience with women, will never understand the poignancy of the gesture. Furthermore, in spite of her fears of Clara and the hold she has on Gus, Lorena is drawn to her and the gentleness there she has never known.


CHAPTER 88

Summary

After Call and Newt leave with the horses, Clara takes Gus upstairs to see Bob while July and Lorena play games with the girls and care for the baby. She tells Gus that she wishes Bob would just die, because he’s of no use to himself the way he is. She reiterates that he should leave Lorena there so she can get some polish. He admits that he never planned to get into the situation at all, and even though he’s fond of her, the feeling is nothing like the one he has for Clara. But Clara says she won’t marry again, because there are so few honest men, and Gus isn’t one of them. They also agree that if Gus stays with her, he’ll destroy Lorie, and that’s not something he wants to do.

Clara returns to the kitchen and invites Lorie to stay with them. She tells Lorie that Montana is no place for a “lady,” and Lorena blushes at the thought that anyone would believe she is a lady. Lorena is also surprised at how much, in only a day, she has come to admire Clara, and how happy she feels sitting in the kitchen with the girls and the baby. It’s all so new and shiny to her. It feels like she is being given something back for what she had lost when her parents died, and she no longer had a nice house or the things that went with it. Lorena asks Gus if he will come back if she stays, and he promises her he will. She tells him that she’ll go with him if he wants, but that she likes this home, and it promises her security she hasn’t known for a long time. And so, with her decision to stay, Gus saddles up and rides off, leaving two woman who each have a part of his heart.

Notes

This leave-taking is especially poignant, given that neither Lorena nor Clara will ever see Gus alive again. Also, perhaps it seems unbelievable that Lorie would want to stay with Clara, given that she saw her as a rival before they visited, but it also makes a great deal of sense. Lorie had lived a very rough life and had never known what it was like just to be a girl with a home and family. She had always kept herself aloof from everyone, especially the men she serviced, because she wanted desperately to keep a private part of herself. Now, Clara’s invitation offers her the kind of life she could only ever dream of in the past, and Clara has earned her respect by her behavior in just that one day. However, with Gus leaving, there is a sense that both women may someday regret the decisions they have made concerning him.

 

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