Study Guide

True Grit Gender

By Charles Portis


People do not give credence that a fourteen-year-old-girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it didn't happen every day. (1.1)

Things have changed in the fifty years since Mattie was a girl. Pros: Women can vote! Cons: Teenage girls can't just run off on blood-quests. Hm, sounds like a toss-up to us.

He had mistaken the drummers for men. "The wicked flee when none pursueth." (1.16)

Mattie has some strong ideas about how a real man should act. The drummers she's talking about don't play drums but are traveling salesmen who "drum-up" business, which apparently isn't a manly profession. (Marshaling, on the other hand, is about a dudely as you can get.)

The Indian was next and he said, "I am ready. I have repented my sins and soon I will be in heaven with Christ my savior. Now I must die like a man." (2.13)

Manly ways to die include hanging and being shot while trying to keep your hired hand from heading off to shoot some gamblers; unmanly ways to die include … what? Probably anything involving whining or begging.

"It was a tragic thing. May I say your father impressed me greatly with his manly qualities. He was a close trader but he acted the gentleman." (3.14)

This is Colonel Stonehill talking. It's nice to see "manly qualities" associated with being a "gentleman" rather than just riding a rose and swearing a lot. It looks like Mattie does think there's more than one way to be a man.

"I don't believe you have fifty dollars, baby sister, but if you are hungry I will give you supper and we will talk it over and make medicine. How does that suit you?" (3.285)

When Rooster is drunk he has some nasty things to say about women, but he can be kind, too. Of course notice that he calls her "baby sister": maybe to Rooster, Mattie isn't a woman yet. Just give it a few years and see how he treats her.

"Earlier tonight I gave some thought to stealing a kiss from you, though you are very young, and sick and unattractive to boot, but now I am of mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt."

"One would be as unpleasant as the other. […] Put a hand on me and you will answer for it. You are from Texas and ignorant of our ways but the good people of Arkansas do not go easy on men who abuse women and children." (4.70-71)

LOL Texans. But also, notice that Mattie is all about standing up for herself here. She's not the type to whine that women aren't treated fairly; put your hand on her, and you're going to regret it for a long, long time.

Your mother will make no decision without you, nor will she sign anything, not even common receipts; hence nothing can move forward until you are here. You are her strong right arm now, Mattie, and you are a pearl of great price to me, but there are times when you are an almighty trial to those who love you. Hurry home. (5.9)

Sure, it sounds like bragging—but all the things Lawyer Daggett says in this letter are true. Plus, notice how Mattie succeeded as a businesswoman because her family encouraged her. They're not telling her to leave the bookkeeping to her brother; they're telling her to come on home so they can get the family moving again.

"She said, 'Goodbye, Reuben, a love for decency does not abide in you.' There is your divorced woman for you talking about decency. I told her, I said, 'Goodbye, Nola, I hope that little nail selling bastard will make you happy. She took my boy with her too. He never did like me anyhow. I guess I did speak awful rough to him but I didn't mean nothing by it. You would not want to see a clumsier child than Horace. I bet he broke forty cups." (6.259)

A lot of funny and sad mixed up together in this quote. Notice that divorced women aren't considered decent—but no word about divorced men, right?

"I don't like that kind of talk. It is like women talking." (6.347)

LaBoeuf is trying to convince Rooster that he is a good guy, but Rooster sees all this talking about feelings as "womanly." To him, men should just shut up and ride. (We bet Mattie agrees.)