(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Homer Bannon, the old cattleman in Horseman, Pass By, owns a ranch a few miles south of Thalia, Texas. In his eighties, he has spent his life building a cattle herd of exceptional quality. He is a prosperous rancher, whose joy comes in riding over his land among his cattle. Most of his affection goes to his land, not to his nagging second wife, Jewel, or to her son, Scott “Hud” Bannon. He loves his seventeen-year-old grandson, Lonnie, and tries to pass on to him his feeling for the land and for the traditions of the cowboy past.

Hud Bannon is the best and most reckless cowboy in Texas when he wants to be, Lonnie says, but the thirty-five-year-old Hud spends more time boozing and chasing wild women than working cattle. Hud values the land only for the money it can produce: He wants oil wells on the land, not cattle. Homer’s resistance to having holes punched in the land by oil rigs seems to Hud to be mere senility.

Seventeen-year-old Lonnie is narrator of the story. He loves and respects his grandfather, but Homer’s stories of the old ranching days can no longer satisfy the lonely and restless boy. At night, after everyone has gone to bed, Lonnie often climbs to the top of the windmill and sits, looking off at the lights of Thalia and Wichita Falls. The future confuses Lonnie. Neither Homer’s traditional values nor Hud’s materialism seems adequate. Even in love there is confusion. Halmea, the black cook, a strong, wise woman, understands Lonnie’s loneliness and his sexual needs, but there is very little that an older, black woman, half sexual object and half mother-surrogate, can do for a young white boy living in Texas in 1954.


(The entire section is 691 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Busby, Mark. Larry McMurtry and the West: An Ambivalent Relationship. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1995.

Lich, Lera Patrick Tyler. Larry McMurtry’s Texas: Evolution of the Myth. Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1987.

Neinstein, Raymond L. The Ghost Country: A Study of the Novels of Larry McMurtry. Berkeley, Calif.: Creative Arts, 1976.

Peavy, Charles D. Larry McMurtry. Boston: Twayne, 1977.

Reilly, John M. Larry McMurtry: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Schmidt, Dorey, ed. Larry McMurtry: Unredeemed Dreams. Edinburg, Tex.: Pan American University Press, 1978.