Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Respect and Reputation

By Larry McMurtry

Respect and Reputation

Chapters 6-10

"Oh, my, they done put a gun on you, ain't they," Deets said with a big grin. "I guess next thing you'll be boss of us all." (9.141)

Newt may be young, but after he's given responsibilities by the Captain, he starts to earn respect from the older men.

Newt thought he had better do what the others were doing, but to his embarrassment could not make water. All he could do was button up again and hope nobody had noticed. (10.3)

Men can be a silly bunch, and that is well illustrated when Newt feels the need to pee with the rest of the bunch just to keep up his reputation as part of the group. In fact, he has to pretend to pee, because he's pee shy.

Chapters 16-20

Newt went on chopping wood, a little bothered by the fact that Jake had such a bad reputation with the men. They all considered him to be a man who shirked his duties. Mr. Gus worked even less and nobody seemed to feel that way about him. (19.116)

Reputation is a valuable currency in this world, and it's shocking to Newt to learn that the riches of reputation possessed by Jake Spoon are counterfeit.

Chapters 41-45

"Besides the liquor, I think we'll require a little respect. […] If you care to turn around, you can see our pictures when we was younger." (42.50)

This is the beginning of a lengthy scene during which Gus and Call are treated like dirt and have to remind a young bartender who they are. It's the Texas Ranger version of "Do you know who you're speaking to? Do you know my name?" In this world, age doesn't necessarily earn you respect. You have to keep your reputation alive by continuing to do whatever it was that made you famous in the first place. And when you get too old to do that? Good luck. This is no country for old men.

"Well, what's that to me? […] I never heard of them and I won't have these old cowboys coming in here and making this kind of mess."

"They ain't old cowboys. […] They're Texas Rangers. You've heard of them. You've just forgot." (42.75-42.76)

It's humbling and insulting to Gus and Call to be called "old cowboys" by this twerp. They probably never thought that their reputations might have an expiration date.

Chapters 91-95

They were not normal men, as he understood normal, and he had never reckoned with the possibility that either of them might die. (94.158)

Maybe the scene from the bar in Chapter 42 should have popped Gus and Call's bubble a bit. They deserve respect, yes, but they're not immortal. It's important to keep a realistic perspective and not let your head get too big.

Chapters 95-102

Call had expected the fight and watched impassively, pleased that the boy had fought so hard. Winning would have been beyond his powers. […] Newt was popular. (100.55)

Here we see the end of Newt's climb to respect. He gains popularity with the men and, in Call's absence, becomes their leader. As Call slowly loses his reputation to the public, his son starts gaining respect. Is that the way life always goes?

Augustus McCrae

"Yes, that's my favor to you," Augustus said. "It's the kind of job you was made for, that nobody else could do or even try." (96.100)

Gus boosts Call's ego here, and he, maybe unwittingly, gives him a new reputation—as a crazy man carrying his friend across the country. Some people might respect that. Some might not. But either way, he'll be remembered.

When the Civil War came, the Governor himself called them in and asked them not to go—with so many men gone they needed at least one reliable troop of Rangers to keep the peace on the border. (7.92)

The Mexican border is long, so it says a lot about Gus's and Call's reputations as Rangers that they were the ones chosen to keep the peace there. Also, it's interesting to think about how the border between U.S. and Mexico has been an issue of national security, in one way or another, for a long, long time.

"Oh, well, I never even noticed them dern pictures. […] I ought to have thrown all that old junk out, but I never got around to it." (42.83)

It gets worse here, as Gus's and Call's careers are reduced to "old junk" being thrown out. In a way, Lonesome Dove is a tribute to the work of men like these guys. McMurtry lets us know why they're important and why we should remember them.