Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 21-30

Welcome to week 3 of our Lonesome Dove Read Along!

Admittedly, after week 2, I was not feeling very motivated about this book -- but I really enjoyed our week 3 chapters!  Finally some action!  The Hat Creek Cattle gang gets on the road, while Lorena and Jake make their parallel trek.  We get a glimpse of what damage Jake left behind in Arkansas and the folks there seem unwilling to forget that he left them without a dentist.

I was in charge of discussion questions this week -- check out Amy's, Leah's and my thoughts below: 

1) Xavier issues an impassioned plea to Lorena to stay in Lonesome Dove and marry him. Do you think his motives are sincere? Or is he doing it for business? Also, here is another chance for Lorena to bypass the cattle drive and go directly to San Francisco (which we are to believe is her goal), but yet she turns it down. Why?

Amy: I think Xavier was sincere based on Gus's observation that some men fall hard and have a hard time getting over it. Yet part of me thinks, why not just marry her before she threatened to leave? I think Lorena also wants to prove it to herself that she can do this and do it on her own. Sure she's somewhat dependent on Jake, but she's coming to realize how much more dependent he is on her and that he's kind of worthless.

Leah: Yeah part of me wonders why Xavier waited so long to ask her to marry him if his motives are 'sincere'. I guess maybe it's that old adage of not knowing what you've got till it's gone but it makes me think he liked have her around and it was good for business and all and now that she's going to uproot herself and leave this is just kind of a last ditch effort. As for Lorena not taking his money, I am inclined to agree with Amy. I feel like Lorena wants to go on this journey and see what's out there in the world and I don't think she's that nervous about this group of men for some reason. I also sense that she didn't quite believe Xavier when he told her that she could just get to SF by boat. However, Jake is her ticket out of town. She's made already made her bargain with the devil so to speak as to that being her way out so she was going to keep it.

Melissa: As sappy as this sounds, I thought this was one of the most emotional passages I’ve read in a long time! The writing gave me hope for the rest of the book! I could honestly feel Xavier’s anguish at the thought of Lorena leaving. But, I couldn’t quite tell if it was a selfish anguish, a lusting anguish, or a true love anguish. My first reaction was, “of course he wants to marry her, he is losing his cash cow!” But later on in our reading, he revisits his thoughts with Gus (or was it Call?), and I really think he loves her. But like what you all said, why didn’t he proclaim his feelings earlier? I still can’t figure Lorena out, or her intentions…I would have bypassed the cattle drive, taken Xavier’s money and his offer and headed to San Francisco. Obviously Jake has something to do with it, but I wonder if she has second thoughts now that she’s stuck caring for his infected finger, his drunken stupor and the impending storm! Can you imagine how smelly they must be at this point?! Blech!

2) We are shown Newt’s inexperience and youth when he asks, “how far is it, up north?” To which Captain Call responds, “it’s a ways farther than you’ve been.” But the reader is privy to Call’s internal thoughts that reflect more directly on Gus:

It struck Call that they should have educated the boy a little better. He seemed to think north was a place, not just a direction. It was another of Gus’s failings – he considered himself a great educator, but yet he rarely told anyone anything they needed to know.
What do think about Call’s assessment of Gus? Any thoughts?

Amy: That's pretty interesting and I think it's a great demonstration of the difference between these two men. Gus is all ideals and high thought and Call is about practicality and knowing what you need to survive. Call seems to have little patience for anything that's not strictly needed whereas Gus DOES have a fondness for classical education, like including Latin on the sign.

Leah: I also think that the reality of the situation is the fact that life out in the West at the time was they just plain didn't have time to teach Newt as much as Gus probably would have liked to. Sure, Gus was sitting around drinking all day but that was because he'd paid his dues as a Ranger so to speak. Newt was still a young man and needed to learn how to be a cowboy which would be far more useful in life than Latin and, well maybe not geography but you get my drift.

Melissa: When I read this statement, I knew I wanted this to be a question – as it struck me as profound – but I wasn’t sure how to answer it myself! I love Gus’s “pontification” on life and his lofty thoughts and ideas, but, in their situation, what good does it do out in the Texas desert? And obviously, as important as he thinks his “education” is, he isn’t doing very well at passing it along to those who need it most.

3) We finally see the flip side of Jake’s story– Ft. Smith, Arkansas – what do you think of July? Roscoe? Elmira? Peach?

Amy: I had no idea we were going to get this glimpse! I feel sorry for July to be honest, thought Roscoe was kind of funny, Elmira a bit annoying--though she gives us a glimpse of a different kind of woman, and Peach...well no clear feelings about her yet!

Leah: I loved this part of the book - another angle! I too felt bad for poor heartsick July! Is there going to be a fun run in with our fair travelers to the North and July will really shoot 'em up? Roscoe was a crack up. Elmira made me sad. She really had no control over her life. She thought she could make herself better by being married but really it didn't do much for her. Loneliness was rampant no matter what kind of life she led. Peach was the town gossip clearly. Every town has to have one of those!

Melissa: Oh Leah, me too! When I flipped to Part II and started reading I thought, “Ok, I can keep going with this!” Poor, pathetic July, how did he get himself in this mess? And Elmira – to bring this full circle, I now know why Lorena didn’t go with Xavier, because she would have ended up just like Elmira. I can’t wait to see if Roscoe finds July and Joe – and I know Elmira will turn up at some point, and I can’t wait to see how McMurtry takes these story lines and works them all together. And it’s like a comedy sketch…can you imagine losing someone you’re are supposed to be keeping an eye on? On a personal note, trust me, next time I’m driving thru Ft. Smith – I’m stopping in the historic district and taking a look around!

Below, from the National Park Service, a picture of the Old U.S. Courthouse and Jail in Fort Smith, circa the late 1800's -- possibly where Roscoe did his whittling? Hmmm....

What are your thoughts from week 3?  Leave your comments and website so I can link you in future discussions.

For other readers' thoughts, check out:
Lilly's Reading Extravaganza


Unknown said...

I have to say that this book is also growing on me with every week. Now I almost have to control myself not to read ahead of the schedule.

Amused said...

I'm so glad to hear the book is growing on you and I love that you found a photo to go with this weeks discussion - so cool!

I think our discussion's are really adding a great layer of dimension to the reading, btw!

Shelley said...

I have never seen so many cry in a book! I think that Lorena does not want to go with Xavier because it involves marriage and she wants to get to a point where she's independent.
Gus and Call are different, but I'd like to think that the group will need both of their perspectives to thrive. I'm hoping that Call will learn how to "live", as he is encouraged by Gus.
I loved the change in the story line--it came at just the right time. It was interesting to see a former "sporting woman" and how her married life has been. I like July, but it makes me sad that he loves Elmira so much and doesn't even realize she has no feelings for him. That seems to be a frequent situation in this book!