The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In Lat Evans, Guthrie has a protagonist who is far less noble than the mountain men of his earlier novels or Lat’s own grandfather, Lije, the protagonist of The Way West (1949). Lat does not seek freedom, adventure, or challenge. He wants status in the community, financial success, a wife who is a lady, and a family which will make him proud. Even his seeming rebellion—he leaves his poor, moralistic family, and swears, drinks, whores, and gambles—is belied by the fact that from the first he saves his money for the ranch he desires. Guthrie seems to realize that he risks losing the reader’s sympathy for Lat. Therefore he must stress the fact that Lat sends money to his parents, though he does not write to them or visit them, and that, as his old friend Mike Carmichael points out, he buys drinks and aids the poor. His marriage to the Indiana schoolteacher Joyce Sheridan, however, seems as much dictated by his mind as by his heart, and the fact that the marriage works is a result of Joyce’s fitting the pattern of respectability, as well as of her charm and goodness.

Lat’s cowboy friends are carefully differentiated. Mike Carmichael, the middle-aged little man whom Lat meets when he hires on to a cattle drive, understands the conflicts in Lat, perhaps because he came from a good family, as he confides late in the novel. Tom Ping, who ran away from home when he was ten, cannot understand Lat’s desertion of him when Ping marries a...

(The entire section is 548 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Albert Gallatin (Lat) Evans

Albert Gallatin (Lat) Evans, a ranch hand and later a rancher. Twenty years old as the story begins, he is an only child, strongly influenced by his strict, upright father and by his good, gentle mother. He is daring, intelligent, and courageous, and he is determined to see life and to make his own way. Although later he passionately desires to be a respectable community leader, he will risk his reputation and even his marriage to save old friends who once helped him.

Tom Ping

Tom Ping, Lat’s companion, in his late twenties when the novel begins. Tom has dark skin and hair with a forelock that hangs over his forehead, a strong mouth, and even teeth. Having run away from his Texas home when he was ten years old, Tom is more defiant of society and more experienced in life than Lat. Their friendship deepens on the trail and in Indian captivity, but it breaks when Lat disapproves of Tom’s marriage to a prostitute. Resentful of Lat’s prosperity, Tom insults him in bars, even after Lat has saved him from being caught rustling, but he finally acknowledges publicly how much he admires Lat.

Callie Kash

Callie Kash, a young prostitute, sweet-faced, considerate, slim, and pretty, with yellow hair and blue eyes. She goes to her aunt’s brothel in Montana after having been seduced by her West Virginia lover. Deeply in love with Lat, she becomes his mistress. It is Callie who loans him her life savings so that he can bet on a horse race and make his fortune. Shielding the black servant who had defended her,...

(The entire section is 658 words.)