Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Love

By Larry McMurtry

Love

Chapters 1-5

"I figured out why you and me get along so well. You know more than you say and I say more than I know. That means we're a perfect match, as long as we don't hang around one another more than an hour at a stretch." (3.30)

Gus and Call have a perfect bromance. Their love is a fraternal one, but it might be the strongest bond in the book. What makes this a lasting relationship when other relationships in the book are either temporary or nonexistent?

Newt was deeply in love with Lorena Wood, though so far he had not even had an opportunity to speak to her. […] He wanted to speak to Lorena, of course—it represented the very summit of his life's hopes—but he didn't want to have to do it until he had decided the best thing to say, which so far he had not, though Lorena had been in town for several months, and he had been in love with her from the moment he first glimpsed her face. (2.29)

Newt has a very childlike view of love. But he is very young, so it's understandable. What is surprising, as we'll soon find out, is that many of the grown men have the same view of love that Newt has, even though they are much older than he is.

Chapters 31-35

Young Dish, skilled cowhand that he was, might not live to see the whores of Ogallala, and the tender feelings he harbored for Lorena might be the sweetest he would ever have. (35.24)

Gus often teases the older men for loving the way Newt does, but he realizes that Dish might never have the chance for another kind of love: he might die before they complete their journey. So he stops being hard on Dish. It's not like Dish can help it, right?

Chapters 61-65

"Why do you always want to talk about that?" Call said.

"Because it was as close as you ever came to doing something normal," Augustus said. (63.73-63.74)

Gus is talking about Call's brief relationship with Maggie. Gus thinks love is a universal experience, and he doesn't understand why Call would shun it. Call's weird for doing so, in Gus's mind.

Chapters 71-75

In some way Lorie would always be as distant from him as the Kansas stars. (73.63)

This is a heartbreaking line, and it comes when Dish finally realizes that he can never bridge the gap between himself and Lorena. Lovers can't be star-crossed if one of them never wants to cross the other.

Chapters 76-80
Elmira Johnson

"I left July," [Elmira] said. "I couldn't do it. All I could think of was you, the whole time." (76.74)

Elmira thinks she's in love with Dee Boot, but we're not so sure. What she feels seems more like an obsession. But if we forgive Newt for his juvenile view of love regarding Lorena, does this mean we have to understand that Elmira is experiencing something similar? Or are these two totally different cases?

Chapters 81-85

Once started, love couldn't easily be stopped. He had started it with Lorie, and it might never be stopped. (83.53)

Gus loves Lorena, but in a way different from the other men. The other men love Lorena and want to marry her or possess her in some other way. Gus loves her, and he wants her to be happy, even if it's not with him. There's a difference.

Chapters 86-90

[July] was almost too weak to walk and was worthless for several days, faint with grief over a woman who had done nothing but run away from him or abuse him almost from the day they married. (87.8)

This is what July thinks love is. He kind of acts like a teenager who can't get over a first break-up. On the other hand, it is his first break-up, and that's a painful experience no matter what the person's age.

Chapters 91-95

[Clara] herself didn't care one way or the other about July Johnson, but the dumb quality of his love annoyed her. (92.45)

Clara isn't as forgiving as we are regarding July's immature love, but she has to live with him. We don't. She gives him a year to smarten up. Do you think he will?

The men who made up the Hat Creek outfit were not great respecters of feeling, particularly tender feeling. (2.29)

Maybe this is why many of the men have a simplified view of l-o-v-e: they never talk about it. Can something grow if it only occurs in secret?