True Grit

Ok! I finished True Grit!

I read this because it’s a selection of The Big Read, and it was the first one that I found of those listed that I haven’t yet read.

It’s not my most favoritest book evah, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit since finishing it, and the more I think about it, the more respect I have for it.

It took me two days to read, so it’s short and also action-y.

It’s the story of a 12 year old girl, Mattie Ross, who goes on a vengeance quest to kill the man who killed her father. The story is told from her POV, first person, but relayed as a memory many decades later.

What makes this book so phenomenal is the characterization of this gal. She’s a twelve year old, but she’s a twelve year old from 1870, from the US. She’s religious and has strong political opinions. She’s very grown up, makes up her own mind, and is totally self sufficient, self aware, and self reliant. She and I don’t agree on a lot of things. I would find her overbearing, righteous and racist. She would find me lazy, immoral and soft. But through the telling of her story she earns the respect of her reader.

In the story, Mattie hires a vicious US Marshall, Rooster Gibbons, to track down her father’s killer. She hires him because “he’s a man with true grit”. She’s determined to not only hire him but to go with him and track this outlaw down. Rooster is joined by a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf, and all three disagree on everything, most especially Mattie’s role in the whole adventure.

The plot has a morbid driver, but it’s got these out-of-body sort of comical moments, like when she’s disgusted with Rooster’s drunkeness and gives him the big old Protestant snob-down.

It’s a Western, but it takes place in Arkansas and eastern Indian Territory, which was to become Oklahoma: west for the time, but not the Wild West as is commonly assumed for the western genre. There was a lot to learn from the book about perceptions and attitudes of the time. Like Campbellite.

I’m really entranced by the way Mattie just assumes total control over every situation. She doesn’t manipulate, wheedle, whine or prod. She’s just flat out an excellent leader. There are only ever three nail-biting moments at which she is left to the mercy of someone else. Though she so admires Rooster Gibbons, we discover that it is Mattie Ross who is characterized by true grit.

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