“People do not give it 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 did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.”
True Grit is a riveting western that tells the story of Mattie Ross: a spunky fourteen-year-old who seeks justice for her father after he is murdered by the lowlife Tom Chaney. With the help of Rooster Cogburn, a tough, trigger-happy U.S. marshal, and LaBeouf, a Texas ranger after the bounty on Chaney’s head, Mattie sets forth into the wilds of Arkansas, determined to have Chaney’s life or die trying.
Much like Mattie herself, Portis’ style is punchy and to the point, while effortlessly keeping readers on the edge of their seats and eager for more. The most gruesome aspects of the Wild West are belied by a dry sense of humor. Toughened old cowboys cowed into submission by a skinny fourteen-year-old armed only with a “good lawyer” and her stubborn refusal to take no for an answer? Who wouldn’t laugh?
True Grit’s backdrop of daring gunfights and desperate escapes (enough to satisfy any adventure junkie) facilitates a blunt treatment of justice and “grit” that makes it a must-read for bibliophiles and John Wayne fans alike.
Works Cited: Portis, Charles. True Grit. 1968.