Lonesome Dove, part 1. Lorena Wood: Love Isn’t Here / But It’s Somewhere

HI 83 / LO 54, sunny

For the rest of the summer, I am going to do a series on Lonesome Dove, even though doing so is probably right out of “9 Easy Ways to Alienate Your Readers.” I’m doing it anyway. I intend to spoil everything because there’s no other way to discuss these characters without discussing the whole dern book.

Yes, I’m beginning to talk like Pea Eye–a character I won’t cover because as I said, I only have a few weeks.

When I said it was a book about love and friendship, I started thinking of song titles or book titles or other phrases with the word “love” in them to describe each character. So, here are a few I won’t be covering:

Pea Eye Parker: Love Will Find a Way

Dish Boggett and July Johnson: Lookin’ for Love (In All the Wrong Places)

Xavier Wanz: Burning Love

Blue Duck: Loveless

But you’ve gotta start somewhere. I’ll start with Lorie.

 

Love Isn’t Here / But It’s Somewhere: Lorena Wood

(from Patty Griffin’s “I Don’t Ever Give Up.” You didn’t think I’d cover a Western without mentioning Patty Griffin, did you?)

“Lorena had never lived in a place where it was cool — it was her one aim.”

This sentence in chapter 3 introduces us to Lorie. Is it any surprise then that she ends up in Nebraska?

Lorie is 19 and a prostitute, due to being an orphan and falling in with a man who basically pimped her out. Then another man does the same thing. Finally she gets free and sets up shop doing the one thing she knows how to do. She has no education — she can’t even read anything except her own name.

Lorie knows her love has an effect on men, but she almost never picks the right one. Jake is a mistake. Xavier Wanz offers her money, almost $100, to marry him, and he would have taken her to San Francisco and been good to her. And Dish Boggett travels through blizzards to get back to her in Nebraska as soon as he can after the cattle ranch gets established. But she doesn’t care for either of them. She only loves Gus.

“Dish loved you and took the only way he had to get your attention,” Clara said.

“He didn’t get my attention,” Lorena said. “He didn’t get anything.”

“And Gus did the same and got everything,” Clara said. “Gus was lucky and Dish isn’t.”

Lorie is the perfect woman for Gus because he’s a “blabber” and she is silent. “Silent happened to be how she felt when men were with her.”

That silence probably saves her life when she’s abducted by Blue Duck: “Now speech had left her; fear took its place.” If not for her silence, she might have been dead when Gus reached her.

But Gus understands: “Gus was perfectly patient with her silence. He didn’t seem to mind it. He just went on talking as if they were having a conversation, talking of this and that. He didn’t talk about what had happened to her but treated her as he always had in Lonesome Dove.”

After Gus saves Lorie, he tells Call, “She won’t forget it, but she might outlive it.” What he doesn’t count on is that she never outlives her love for him.

Lorie comes out of her silence briefly when she leaves Gus to stay with Clara, but returns to it after Gus dies. From then on, she only talks with Clara’s daughter, Betsey. We begin to see that although Lorie survives, she’ll never really recover, not enough to love anyone but the man who saved her.

Lorie’s story ends when she faints beside Gus’s coffin. Her final word is silence.

 

Comments

  1. Wow. I’ve never read that book, but it makes me curious to read it. One of my good friends at work has a husband who works on production design and he did the design for Lonesome Dove. Hmmmm.

  2. I love this post and will look forward to the rest of summer spent in Lonesome Dove! I’ve seen the movie but never read the book…although we might have a copy of it somewhere around here…

  3. that’s it…i’m not going to ever read your blog again…
    until i get that book.

  4. just kidding…

  5. I’ve always felt that Lorena is the symbolism for the title, and that her character is the main character in the story. “Lonesome Dove” is a story about Lorena Wood.

    Now, before you say, “This guy is crazy!”, hear me out. Lorena was stuck in the town. She was the only real attraction in town, as it was. She was a “soiled dove”, as prostitutes of the time we often called, and she never had true love. She never had a real companion, and she always longed for more. She was the epitome of lonesomeness.

    We see her in the beginning of the story and learn about her as it progresses. She’s always there, always along with the cattle drive. You see her fondness for Gus turn into love, and the story becomes a great adventure. Her great adventure in a sense, and her story only ends when she loses the one man she truly loved.

    All the characters encounter her. All the characters know her and know who, and what, she is. And in the ultimate irony, we only learn the name of the saloon in Lonesome Dove, the Dry Bean, after she leaves, and after Gus makes a reference to “your bean” in reference to sex. In a saloon that no longer has a whore, and in a town with nothing else, the bean will remain dry.

    It’s the ultimate symbolism. “Lonesome Dove” is the story of Lorena Wood, the ultimate lonesome soiled dove, and her quest for adventure, and to possibly find love along the way and to no longer be lonesome.

    • Love your thoughts! I could talk Lonesome Dove all day.

      • Me too. I love it. I love everything about it. My wife thinks I’m crazy in that I’ve watched it over 20 times, read the book, watched all the other parts of the sagas and also read those books.

        I actually posted my thoughts on Lorena Wood and the play on the title a few years ago on a different “Lonesome Dove” forum, and received a private message from an author with the initials “L.M.” basically saying, “If met thousands of people who’ve seen or read my my works, and the title is missed by 99% of them. You get it! Most do not. Good job!”

        Not saying it was him or it wasn’t for sure, but I’m pretty convinced it was.

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