Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry|
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Jake is a longtime comrade of Gus and Call and rode with them in their Ranger
days. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the strength of character the other
two men project. He is drawn to gambling which ultimately gets him in
trouble in Fort Smith where he accidentally kills a man. This event seems
to cause an avalanche of bad decisions on his part that eventually lead
to his hanging for horse theft and murder. His looks and his charm had
always worked for throughout his life, but in the end, his weak character
proves to be his downfall.
Although she doesn’t appear in the novel until Part III, Clara is so much
a part of the lives of the men in the story that she seems to be a character
from the beginning. She is depicted as an attractive, charming woman who
was courted by both Jake and Gus. However, Gus has always been her greatest
love and he even asked her to marry him thirty times. She finally married
Bob Allen, a dullard horse trader, because she knows that he will at least
be home. Gus is too much influenced by Call, and Clara knows she can’t
compete with their “adventures” even though Gus doesn’t believe it’s so.
She has had tragedy many times in the sixteen years since she last saw
Gus, such as the loss of three little boys and the comatose state her
husband is in after being kicked by a horse. However, she accepts her
fate with strength and resolve and even offers a home in one day to Lorena
who Clara sees is in desperate need of the comforts a family offers. Gus’
death leaves a pain in her heart that will never dull, but she is able
to go on living which is she knows is the only option in a life like hers.
Much of the story is seen from his viewpoint as a seventeen year old boy becoming
a man. He faces many deaths and terrible conditions on the drive north
to Montana, but along the way, he also learns how to cope with all of
these setbacks. Like Clara, he knows that in work there is solace. However,
in the end, he appears a bitter young man. He has been trusted by Call
to run the new ranch in Montana, and because he’s Call’s son, he receives
the horse, gun, and pocket watch that Call holds dear when the man takes
Gus’ body back to Texas. Unfortunately, Call cannot bring himself to publicly
claim Newt, and the boy is left devastated that he has no kin and never
Deets is a black man who has been with Call and Gus since the end of the Civil
War. He is in many ways more competent and skilled than either of the
two men, and they both respect him beyond what any black man at that time
could ever have expected. He is also intuitive even about his own death,
and he is a comfort to others, especially Newt to whom he often offers
fatherly advice. His death is a very poignant moment in the story, because
his loss impacts so greatly on everyone with whom he shared the drive.
The sheriff of Fort Smith, Arkansas, he comes into contact with Jake Spoon
after Jake accidentally kills his brother. He really doesn’t want to pursue
Jake, but the demand from his sister-in-law sends him on a journey which
will forever change who he is. He is a shy man who seldom had any experience
with women until he met Elmira, a whore in Dodge City. She marries him
to escape the abuse of her trade, but has no feeling whatsoever for him.
He, however, falls deeply in love with her and finds himself pursuing
her rather than Jake Spoon. His obsession to find her and reclaim her
as his wife and her equally determined obsession to escape him create
on the greatest ironies of the novel.
She is a single-minded character, obsessively seeking freedom from the men in her life. Once a whore in Dodge City, she married July Johnson to escape the brutality of her trade, but she has no feeling for him nor for either of her two sons. She readily sends her twelve year-old son with July in search of Jake Spoon so she can run away from him and her husband. Then, she nearly dies giving birth to another son, but feels nothing for him and leaves him with Clara Allen with no look back. She is depicted unsympathetically, but the reader has to wonder what happened in her life to create such a hard woman. The attraction that other men feel for her drives part of the story as we watch her desperately run from any man who wants to control her.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Lonesome Dove".
. 12 May 2008