Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Gender

By Larry McMurtry


Chapters 1-5

"The point I'm making is that all men ain't the same, so they shouldn't be the same price, or am I wrong? Maybe from where you sit all men are the same." (3.36)

Lorie gets a lesson in the Economics of Whoring from Gus. He's trying to convince her that she has a power over men, a power that men don't want her to know she has.

Chapters 11-15

"What a widow wants is someone fresh. It's what all women want, widows or not." (12.52)

We thought what women wanted was Mel Gibson? In all seriousness, though, dividing this up by gender is unfair. Men want someone fresh just as much as women do.

Chapters 16-20

"It's just that it's fearsome for a man to have a woman start thinking right in front of him. It always leads to trouble." (17.39)

Men being scared of independent women is an ongoing motif in the book. It almost makes Jake Spoon different, in that he doesn't care that Lorie does all the work… except for the fact that he still wants it to look like he's doing the work, which makes him both selfish and dishonest.

Chapter 21-25

The most surprising thing was that Lorena was wearing pants. So far as [Bolivar] could remember, he had never seen a woman in pants, and he considered himself a man of experience. (22.1)

Here is a good bit of context for the time period. Lorie is seen as different from other women just because she wears pants. Um, how else is she supposed to ride a horse?

"Jake can only be controlled up to a point, and Lorie's a woman. She can't be controlled at all." (22.53)

It's difficult to interpret exactly what Gus means here. Is Lorie's uncontrollable nature something he admires? And if women are universally uncontrollable, why do men still try to control them as if they're cattle?

Chapters 26-30

"If she wandered off, anything could have got her," Peach said. "Could have been an animal or it could have been a man." (29.23)

Just a reminder that sometimes a vicious wild animal and a man aren't all that different. Both can destroy people and things in similar ways. Why is it specifically men and not women who do this?

Chapters 36-40

Roscoe had never heard of a woman farmer. (37.31)

So, Bolivar had never seen a woman in pants, and now Roscoe tells us that he's never seen a woman farmer. These small incidences slowly ease us into the introduction of Clara later in the book; she's a woman who displays more masculine traits than feminine ones, at least as defined by this society.

Chapters 76-80

"Men have tears in them too, same as you," Clara said. (77.64)

Clara is teaching her daughters that men and women aren't as different as many of them would lead them to believe. She doesn't tell them that women should "man up" and not cry. She tells them it's okay for everyone to cry sometimes.

It was clear to her already that he was one of those men somebody had to take care of. He had fooled her for a few days into thinking he would do the taking care of, but that wasn't so. (17.4)

It's hard to tell sometimes if Lorena wants an equal 50/50 relationship, or, after having been in controlling relationships for so long, she just wants something different. Or perhaps she's just a product of the time, expecting a traditional relationship where the man is the caretaker. She will experience a few role reversals throughout the book.

"Mister Bob, he didn't know mares," Cholo said, remembering that ignorance had been his downfall.

"Nope," Clara said. "He didn't know mares." (92.53-92.54)

Cholo and Clara are talking about horses here, but Clara's response has a double meaning: she also means that he "didn't know women." Even before Bob was kicked in the head, Clara's relationship with him was strained, because Bob expected her to be a stereotypical subservient wife, the complete opposite of who she really is.

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