Lonesome Dove Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1985

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Western

Time of work: The late nineteenth century

Locale: The Great Plains of the United States

Characters DiscussedAugustus McCrae

Augustus Lonesome DoveMcCrae, a former Texas Ranger (with his friend Woodrow F. Call) and co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company of Lonesome Dove, Texas, also with Woodrow. He decides to take their cattle herd to the richer grazing lands in the northern plains at about the time that railroads have made such cattle drives a thing of the past. Augustus convinces Woodrow and several of his other friends to make this romantic trek with him. Augustus is garrulous but affable, and just when it seems that he might be no more than a windbag, he demonstrates his intelligence and trail skills by bravely rescuing Lorena Wood from the evil Indian Blue Duck, the villain of the story. Augustus begins the drive in part to see, once more, the love of his life, Clara Allen, who lives along the route of the cattle drive.

Woodrow F. Call

Woodrow F. Call, Augustus’ partner, who is as taciturn and grim as Augustus is warm and friendly. He is the father, by a prostitute, of Newt, one of the boys on the drive. He never acknowledges this fact but symbolically recognizes Newt as his son by giving Newt control of the cattle ranch the men establish in Montana. He must leave the ranch to return to Lonesome Dove with the body of Augustus, who is fatally wounded in an Indian attack. Woodrow, who hides his dark side from himself, learns the most about his own life and how the world has changed around him during this final journey.

Jake Spoon

Jake Spoon, a former Texas Ranger and an old friend of Augustus and Woodrow. He arrives in Lonesome Dove on the run from an Arkansas sheriff. He is the first to suggest the idea of the cattle drive, hoping that if he is on the move, he will escape capture. He falls in with a gang of robbers and meets a tragic fate at the hands of his old friends. He serves to show how the gunplay and trickery at which Woodrow and Augustus are skilled must be kept under control lest they turn malevolent.

Newt

Newt, a teenage trailhand and unrecognized son of Woodrow. Augustus tells Newt who his father is. His role in the story gradually grows larger as he changes from a green kid to a young man who accepts and understands the responsibilities of adulthood. He remains bitter because Woodrow will not embrace him as his own.

Josh Deets

Josh Deets, a loyal and able black trailhand and longtime friend of Augustus, Woodrow, and Jake. He rode with Augustus and Woodrow when they were Rangers and is one of the key wranglers on the cattle drive. In one of the most shocking incidents in the novel, he is killed suddenly by a hostile Indian.

Clara Allen

Clara Allen, Augustus’ former lover, who has made a new life for herself on the plains. Her husband, disabled from a horse kick, dies, and she operates her farm more efficiently than he did. Strong, intelligent, and independent, she is one of the most admirable figures in the story.

Lorena Wood

Lorena Wood, a beautiful blonde prostitute in Lonesome Dove and the girlfriend of Jake Spoon. She goes on the cattle drive because Jake has promised to break off from the drive and take her to San Francisco. Instead, she is kidnapped and sold into slavery by Blue Duck. Augustus rescues her, and she winds up living on Clara’s farm.

Blue Duck

Blue Duck, an Indian raider, a longtime enemy of Augustus and Woodrow who dogs the cattle drive and creates trouble. He meets his end when he crosses paths with Woodrow.

July Johnson

July Johnson, the inept sheriff who is after Jake Spoon. He leads a group of drifters who fall in with him as he trails Jake, but he is the only one of his group to escape massacre at the hands of Blue Duck. He also makes his way to Clara’s farm, where he finds his child. The baby was abandoned by his wife, Elmira, who passed through on her way to a reunion with her reprobate lover, Dee Boot, who is hanged shortly after they reconnect. She is later killed by Indians. Clara convinces July to stay at her ranch and take care of his child.

BibliographyBooklist. LXXXI, May 15, 1985, p. 1274.Busby, Mark and Tom Pilkington. Larry McMurtry and the West: An Ambivalent Relationship. Denton, Tex.: University of North Texas Press, 1995. Offers a comprehensive overview of McMurtry’s fiction, including a chapter devoted to Lonesome Dove. Also includes bibliographical references and an index.Cawelti, John G. “What Rough Beast–New Westerns?” ANQ 9 (Summer, 1996): 4-15. Cawelti addresses the revival of the Western in print, film, and on television. He notes that the new genre reflects the loss of the mythic West of the past and shows how the contemporary Western, instead of glorifying the American spirit, now criticizes America’s shortcomings. Offers a brief assessment of Lonesome Dove from a mythic point of view.Kirkus Reviews. LIII, April 15, 1985, p. 341.Library Journal. CX, July, 1985, p. 94.Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 9, 1985, p. 2.Mogen, David. “Sex and True West in McMurtry’s Fiction: From Teddy Blue to Lonesome Dove to Texasville.” Southwestern American Literature 14 (1989): 34-45. Traces the sources of Lonesome Dove, particularly Teddy Blue’s account of an old-time cattle drive. Mogen also relates the book to the rest of McMurtry’s work.The New Republic. CXCIII, September 2, 1985, p. 26.The New York Times Book Review. XC, June 9, 1985, p. 7.Newsweek. CV, June 3, 1985, p. 74.Publishers Weekly. CCXXVII, April 19, 1985, p. 71.Reynolds, Clay, ed. Taking Stock: A Larry McMurtry Casebook. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1989. An exhaustive survey of McMurtry’s career up to 1989. Contains a section featuring several essays on Lonesome Dove. Thorburn, David. “Interpretation and Judgment: A Reading of Lonesome Dove.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 10 (June, 1993): 113-127. Comparing and contrasting McMurtry’s novel and the TV miniseries which was based on it, Thorburn argues that media texts, like literary works, can be critiqued and interpreted according to the criteria of “formal mastery” and “intellectual coherence.” He also asserts that critics’ reluctance to engage in comparative evaluation of non-canonical works impoverishes scholarship.Time. CXXV, June 10, 1985, p. 79.The Wall Street Journal. CCVI, August 15, 1985, p. 25.
Categories: Characters