Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Race

By Larry McMurtry


The Wild West of Lonesome Dove is predominantly white, and tensions between the cowboys and the Native Americans (here called "Indians") are dicey at best. This is historical fiction, so nothing will actually be done to solve these deep-seeded race issues here, but the book does explore them from a few different angles.

Questions About Race

  1. Are racial minority characters treated similarly to women in the novel? Who is at more of a disadvantage in Lonesome Dove—a black man, a Native American, or a woman?
  2. Why do some men, like Call, treat men the same, regardless of the color of their skin, while others have racist attitudes?
  3. How is the depiction of Native Americans in Lonesome Dove different from other Westerns you may have seen or read? How is the depiction similar?
  4. Is the rivalry between Texans and Mexicans racially motivated?

Chew on This

There are two black characters in the novel who basically serve the same role, one for the "good" guys and one for the "bad" guys. Yet Deets and Frog Lips are both treated as inferior to the white men they ride with, and neither gets a real name. Gus honors Deets by putting his real name—"Joshua"—on the sign marking his grave.

The more the men, and especially young men like Newt, learn about Native Americans, the less frightened they are of them as people.

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