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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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There are several other literary devices that pop up at various times in the story. One of the most prevalent ones is foreshadowing which frequently presents clues of something that will happen later in the novel. Some examples of foreshadowing include:

1.) The comment Jake makes about Montana is foreshadowing in that, combined with Gus and Call’s desire to move their company north, it seems as if it might be a place where they’ll eventually end up.

2.) Call believes Newt could handle the ranch they would build, because eventually he’ll leave it in the boy’s hands when he returns Gus’ body to Texas.

3.) In chapter eight, we see that Newt has hopes of going on his first raid into Mexico to steal cattle, but that there’s something he feels the Captain holds against him. We see Dish looking at Jake Spoon as a rival for Lorena’s affections, and we see two men looking to purchase forty horses. All these situations prepare us for events yet to come.

4.) Jake has so impressed Lorena with his promises and gentle, loving manner, that she is determined he won’t leave Lonesome Dove without her. This prepares us for the later situation when she decides to ride with them towards Montana. It also prepares us for a dissatisfied Jake who has spoken one promise too many when it comes to Lorie and will find himself taking her with him when he never really intended to.

5.) Chapter seventeen serves both as a means of foreshadowing and also to emphasize the bond that exists between Gus and Lorena, even though she seems unaware of it. He not only wants her for the sex he can buy, but he also seems determined to watch out for her well-being. His insistence on the afternoon of sex is more about an attempt to break the hold Jake has on her than anything else. He worries about her determination to go on the drive if it means staying with Jake, but he doesn’t intend to stop her. He’s only there to help. This foreshadows events which will follow when the drive north begins and how he will save her from Blue Duck later in the story.

6.) Deets, has a sense of foreboding about starting on such a long journey which foreshadows his death during the drive.

7.) It is significant that when Call makes his decision to leave the next day for Montana, he tells Newt first. Perhaps there is a great deal of love and respect for the boy that Captain Call never shows. This foreshadows his inability to tell Newt later that he is his son.

8.) Roscoe Brown looks back on the little town where he has lived most of his life - Fort Smith, Arkansas, - as he rides away with a strong premonition that he won’t be back. This foreshadows his death at the hands of Blue Duck.

9.) Chapter thirty three is a presentation of the aftermath of the storm. It gives a kind of list of all the characters and how they fared through the storm. Most handled the elements well, even the bull and the pigs. Only poor Sean O’Brien was unlucky in how he confronted the storm. This, as well as the constant emphasis on river crossings, is a kind of foreshadowing of the tragedy to come.

10.) Gus figures if they have too much bad luck on the drive to Montana, he himself probably won’t make it. He says he’s not as spry as he used to be and believes that could spell his doom. He will die at the hands of the Blood Indians.

11.) Clara’s Orchard reminds Gus of the time when he was the happiest. This foreshadows Call’s journey to bury him there.

12.) Call finds it unconscionable that Jake would leave Lorie alone in such rough country. This foreshadows her kidnapping by Blue Duck.

13.) Pea Eye has tormented dreams of being killed by Indians which foreshadows Gus’ death when he is with him.

14.) The feeling the story conveys when the plot is seen from the viewpoint of Elmira is that it’s only a matter of time before she comes face to face with some real danger.

15.) Gus can’t talk July Johnson out of coming with him to get Lorie back and fears to leave the inexperienced deputy behind with Joe and Janey. It foreshadows the deaths of all three.

16.) Jake has a strong feeling that soon the guns the Suggs Brothers carry will be pointed toward something other than deer. This foreshadows the murders they commit that lead to Jake’s hanging.

17.) Chapter seventy-seven ends with Clara telling July’s baby that they don’t care what his Pa thinks of them, because they already know what they think of him. This foreshadows Clara’s plan to keep July, and therefore his baby son, living at her home.

18.) Po Campo predicts there will be a shortage of water, and they nearly lose the herd because of it.

19.) The news about the Sioux is foreshadowing as July will later learn that both Elmira and Zwey will be murdered by the Sioux.

20.) 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. This foreshadows Deets’ death.

21.) Chapter eighty-three 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.

22.) Reinforcing the basic goodness of Gus’ character toward the end of the story prepares the reader for the tragedy of his death later in the novel.

23.) Gus’ desire to be buried in Texas is foreshadowing of Call’s last great journey.


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