The Characters

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 607

Augustus McCrae is the dominant and most memorable character in Lonesome Dove. An engaging combination of rustic philosopher and confidence man, Augustus displays both humor and an adaptability to any circumstances, including physical danger, that make him likable and trustworthy. Augustus talks more than anyone else in the novel, a point about which his taciturn partner, Woodrow, reminds him frequently, but Augustus is not all blarney; when he rescues Lorena from a gang of desperadoes, he kills several men in a matter of seconds. When Augustus dies, it is as if a pillar supporting the structure of the novel has been removed.

Woodrow Call is similar to Augustus only in his ability to handle any physical trouble. Trouble of the other kind, devils of the mind and relations with other people, paralyze Woodrow. At the end of the novel, it is clear why Woodrow has been so quiet and withdrawn throughout; this behavior is a retreat from involvement and a defense against those who need him. He is friends with his apparent opposite, the affable Augustus, because both share a sense of honor and integrity, as well as many years and miles. Jake Spoon shows what might happen to a person with the rough frontier skills of Woodrow and the slyness of Augustus but without the sense of principle that defines his former ranger pals. Jake uses Lorena, since he has no plans to take her to San Francisco; furthermore, he abandons her in her hour of greatest need. When Jake falls in with a gang who murder for fun, he knows that he will be blamed for riding with them, but he is too cowardly either to confront them or to break away. This weak behavior leads to his death at the hands of his best friends. Clara Allen is the pioneer woman par excellence; when her husband falls into a coma, she takes over and runs their ranch more efficiently than he did. She is the only person capable of standing up to both Augustus and Woodrow. She refuses to renew her relationship with Augustus for a classic reason: She admires Augustus for his independence, and a lengthy romance would hurt either her (because Augustus would roam) or him (because his basic personality trait would be smothered). She also chastises Woodrow for his failure to live up to his responsibilities to Newt, and she is successful in making July stay with his son. Lorena is, like Woodrow, a frozen character. While in Lonesome Dove, she is indifferent to the men who pay her for sex (except for Augustus, whom she finds amusing), behavior that may be an emotional defense. Her desire to go to San Francisco with Jake reveals her dissatisfaction. She does not care much for Jake, but he is a ticket to a more exciting life. Traumatized after her abduction and rape by Blue Duck, she hardly speaks again, but her actions and passionate attachment to Augustus show that she has found what she needed all along—understanding, tenderness, and protection.

Newt slowly emerges from the background characters to become, at the end of the novel, the strongest character. A boy as the drive begins, Newt gains more and more knowledge and ability. When Woodrow savagely beats a soldier who attacked Newt, Augustus tells Newt that Woodrow is the boy’s father. Just before Woodrow leaves to take Augustus’s body back to Texas, he turns over the operation of the ranch to Newt, and this time Newt is able to handle a physical challenge to his authority by himself. Yet Woodrow’s failure to accept Newt as his son leaves Newt bitter.

Characters Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 720

Augustus McCrae

Augustus McCrae, 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, 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.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 201

The two central characters are Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, retired Texas Rangers who are partners in a failing cattle ranch in Lonesome Dove, Texas. Call is a rigid, driven man who is a natural leader; ambitious and ruthless, he is the one who becomes obsessed with the idea of a cattle drive and a new beginning in Montana. Gus is Call's opposite: lazy, garrulous, carelessly kind, successful with women. They are a wonderful pair: Call — worthy, full of the virtues that make for success, and yet, grating, somehow joyless; Gus — feckless and without ambition, yet demonstrating the unkind truth that people are drawn to other people, not for their worthiness, but by that most unfair of qualities, charm. He is capable of heroic bravery and callousness of immense proportions.

The novel is rich in secondary characters who are lovingly and delicately drawn. They include Newt, Call's unacknowledged son; Lorena, the beautiful whore with whom almost everyone is in love; Clara, the woman Gus loves and has lost; Deets, the black drover who does everything well; and July Johnson, an Arkansas sheriff tracking his runaway wife. The novel's great richness derives in large part from the many characters who inhabit it.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access



Critical Essays