Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Gender

By Larry McMurtry


There's a classic saloon song from last century that perfectly illustrates the gender dynamics of the time period: "Any damsel that's in distress be out of that dress when she meets Jim West." Women were often seen as objects meant to be saved—and when a woman was saved, then her savior was entitled to her body as a reward. Lonesome Dove explores this dynamic from a variety of different angles, sometimes conforming to it, sometimes defying it.

Also, that "classic saloon song" we mentioned is Will Smith's "Wild Wild West" from 1999. Gotcha. Looks like some things just don't change.

Questions About Gender

  1. Which men and which women fall into traditional gender roles? How do certain characters defy gender roles?
  2. How do men, like Call or July, react to women, like Clara or Janey, who display certain masculine traits?
  3. In what ways do women use their femininity to their advantage? How do they sometimes surprise men by behaving differently from what is expected?

Chew on This

Jake is attracted to Lorena's ability to take charge, which is a masculine trait, but at the same time he wants to control her. He can't have it both ways.

Clara is able to successfully run a family on her own because she has a balance of masculine and feminine traits.

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