Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Principles

By Larry McMurtry

Principles

Chapters 6-10

But the three of them were compañeros still, no matter how many dentists he killed. Call and Gus had been the law themselves and didn't always bow and scrape to it. They would not likely let some young sheriff take him off to hang because of an accident. (6.13)

This quote illustrates Gus's integrity and also provides some grim foreshadowing: Gus will be the one to hang Jake Spoon. It won't be because of an accident, though; it'll be the result of purposeful actions Jake commits.

Chapters 11-15

It was puzzling that such a muddy little river like the Rio Grande should make such a difference in terms of what was lawful and what not. (11.82)

Moral values seem to be different on either side of the river. One of the basic differences is that people on one side think it's okay to steal from people on the other. For as much as he hates horse thieves, Call as no qualms about stealing horses from the Mexicans.

Chapters 61-65

"Well, taxed," Dan said. "People can't go on driving cattle just anywhere. If they want to cross certain rivers at certain crossings they've got to pay for privilege. If they won't pay in cash, then they've got to pay in cattle." (64.43)

Dan Suggs has no principles at all. This little plan of his is actually the least evil thing he comes up with. But someone else must have cooked this idea up, or else we wouldn't have toll roads.

Chapters 71-75

"Ride with an outlaw, die with him," [Gus] added. "I admit it's a harsh code. But you rode on the other side long enough to know how it works. I'm sorry you crossed the line, though." (72.123)

Do you think Gus is surprised that Jake Spoon ended up falling in with this group? Or was it only a matter of time for a man with no morals to do what he did?

Chapters 95-102

"You're horsethieves, and that's a sin in my book," Call said. "Where do you people come from?" (100.16)

If we know anything about Call by the end of this book, it's that being a horse thief is the worst possible thing you could be, in his opinion. Strangely, Call goes a little soft here, relaxing his principles and not hanging Big Tom the horse thief. He soon regrets it, because after asking Tom to work for him, Tom tries to steal another horse. Once a horse thief, always a horse thief, it seems.

"I'm leaving my half of the herd to Lorie, and don't you dispute with me about it. Just see she gets what money's coming to her." (96.118)

Gus has always wanted to make sure Lorena has a fair shot at an honest life, and his integrity stays true until the end, when he gives Lorena all his money. It takes an honest man to make an honest woman.

When the Indians left, [Call] felt like tracking them and revenging his friend—though he didn't know which braves had done it. (98.68)

Some men might just go on a random killing spree, but Call will only kill someone who deserves it. What a guy.

"You won't know if I do it," Call said. "I reckon I'll do it, since you've asked." (96.111)

Call is a man of his word, always, and Gus knows it. He knows that Call will enact his final wishes, no matter how ridiculous they seem, because Call is an honorable man.

Actually, Jake couldn't fairly be blamed for any of the deaths, though he could be blamed for Lorena's troubles, which were worth a hanging by Augustus's own reckoning. (67.56)

Here we have more foreshadowing, and we get to see where Gus's priorities lie. Accidentally shooting a mayor? Okay. Letting Lorena get hurt? Not okay. But after seeing just how destructive Jake Spoon's neglect is, we have to agree.

"A man that will go along with six killings is making his escape a little slow." (74.107)

This is an understatement regarding Jake Spoon's principles—or lack of them. No man of any moral standing would have stood by as the Suggs brothers committed these heinous crimes. But Jake did. And that makes him despicable by association.