What is the myth of the Old West? How does it shape American history and society? How does it strengthen people? How does it fail them?
Larry McMurtry’s novels are sometimes read as elegies to the Old West. In what way is that true? Yet, despite their elegiac tone, McMurtry’s works disavow simple nostalgia and refuse to romanticize life in the West. Discuss.
McMurtry presents at least three types of male figures: admirable men such as Homer Bannon, Gus McCrae, and Woodrow Call; bad characters such as Hud and Jake Spoon; and unformed or confused young men such as Lonnie Bannon, Sonny Crawford, and Danny Deck. How did the myth of the Old West contribute to their successes and their failures?
McMurtry presents readers with a diverse array of strong women. In what ways are they strong? Discuss their relationships with men. In what ways do both men and American society fail these women?
McMurtry’s characters often seem to have more capacities as human beings than society gives them opportunity to fulfill. How does this differ for men and women?
Beneath McMurtry’s snappy, humorous dialogue readers often find a bleak, dark view of life. Discuss.