Study Guide

True Grit Mortality

By Charles Portis


Murder sets True Grit in motion and murder closes it out. (Well, killing, at least—whether or not it's murder is up for debate.) Mattie Ross wants Tom Chaney dead, but the question is: will he die by the hangman's noose, or by her hand? If that's not enough moral ambiguity for you, there's always the question of the triple hanging: would be you Judge Parker, forcing yourself to watch a punishment you've assigned but don't approve of, because someone has to bear witness; or would you be in the crowd below, stoked to watch three men lose their lives? Tough questions.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Do you believe in the death penalty? Would you have felt different in 1875? Do you think that the death penalty is appropriate in some times and places but not at others?
  2. What do you think is going on with Judge Parker, anyway? Why does he watch the hangings?
  3. How does the death of Mattie's father, Frank Ross, shape the rest of her life?
  4. Does Mattie show any remorse or sadness when Tom Chaney dies? Or does she simply see it as justice served?