Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Marriage

By Larry McMurtry


The phrase "tie the knot" has nothing to do with a lasso, but if you spend enough time around cowboys, you might think it did. Many men in Lonesome Dove go about finding a wife as if they were roping a steer—you gotta get your lasso around her, tie her up good, and make sure she ain't goin' nowhere.

Out of all the themes in Lonesome Dove, marriage may be the most speculated about but the least explored firsthand. Most characters are either single or divorced, and there isn't a single wedding in the whole book. But that doesn't mean everyone's not talking about it.

Questions About Marriage

  1. Why does July and Elmira's marriage fail? Why does she run away? Can you see Elmira ever being settled down with anyone, even Dee Boot?
  2. Do the cowboys see marriage as an end goal or as a pit stop along a longer trail?
  3. Why does Lorena want Gus to marry her? Is it out of love, fear, or something else entirely?
  4. Gus wants to marry Clara. Why doesn't Clara want to marry Gus? If they got married, would their marriage work out?

Chew on This

Gus has the most well-rounded view on marriage because he has been married three times. Still, that doesn't mean he won't make irrational decisions when love is involved.

Many of the men learned everything they know from watching cattle. They may know the birds and the bees (though some of them don't even know that), but that doesn't mean they understand marriage. It's a concept that doesn't exist in the animal world.

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