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Near the end of the novel it's revealed that Mattie is missing much of her left arm. How might this have influenced her life? She mentions that it doesn't do much in the way of attracting men. What do you think
the missing arm symbolizes, if anything?
Do you think Rooster and/or LaBoeuf feel guilty about what happened to Mattie's arm? Should they? Did they do the right thing by letting her come along, or not?
Mattie wears her father's overcoat throughout her hunt for his killer. Aside from keeping her warm, what might this be doing for her?
If you could interview Charles Portis about the novel, what questions would you ask him?
Do you think Mattie is a reliable narrator? What are some of the things she does to make her story seem believable? At one point, Mattie accuses Rooster of "stretching the blanket" (6.276), or exaggerating the facts in his storytelling. Do you think Mattie does this? If so, what parts of her story would you question and why? If she does play around with the facts, do you think she does so intentionally, for entertainment purposes, or because she misremembers, or both?
Did this book make you laugh? If so, what part(s)? Did it make you cry? In her afterword to the novel, Donna Tartt calls Mattie "humorless," arguing that the book is funny because Mattie doesn't know she's being funny. We, on the other hand, would argue that Mattie has a great sense of humor and is intentionally being funny to amuse her readers. What do you think?
What does the phrase "true grit" mean to you? How does the book seem to define it? Would you say that this kind of true grit is valuable in the 21st century, or is it more appropriate to "lawless" regions like the nineteenth-century frontier?
In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen also loses her father at an early age and takes on much of the burden of caring for their families. What are some similarities and differences between Mattie and Katniss?