True Grit: Male Companionship vs. Female Companionship In Charles Portis’ classic western novel, True Grit, Mattie Ross recounts her adventures as a young girl, seeking retribution for her father’s murder. Throughout the novel we see Mattie’s internal development from a young girl to a strong and wise woman. It is clear by Mattie’s habits, decisions, and personality that she is more masculine, and is more comfortable with the company of men to the company of women.
It is evident from the beginning of the novel that Mattie is extremely fond of her father and looks up to him with the highest regards. As her father mounts his horse to set off to Fort Smith with Chaney to purchase ponies, Mattie proclaims that he “might have been a gallant knight of old” (14). Much like a knight, her father is courageous, thoughtful and kind-hearted, which is shown by his gesture to help Chaney. He is a man virtue, but his views of the world are ‘old’ and outdated and in the end, lead to his demise at the hands of Chaney himself.
This would be the last time Mattie would see her father alive again. She was raised mostly by her father, having her morals and values instilled by him; he raised her to be strong-willed, intelligent and independent, much like the men of their time. After the untimely death of her father, Mattie seeks revenge upon Chaney. In order to carry out her quest, she would need help. She sought out the aid of the toughest deputy in the district, U. S. Marshal Reuben J. Rooster” Cogburn, as he is “a man with true grit” (59). The relationship between Mattie and Rooster starts off rocky, with neither of them truly trusting the other, and Rooster trying to escape her presents several times, they eventually grow a bond between them, though neither of them would ever admit to it. Rooster becomes fond of Mattie when she shows her toughness and determination, she reminds him a little of himself; she has grit. Her true grit is shown when she comments on the robbers’ cabin.
Even though it is worn down, dark, dirty and surrounded armed guards, she says they are “rather cozily fixed” because they have a warm fire and delicious turkey to eat; she sees the bright side despite all the negative things (131). Mattie truly enjoys Roosters company because he does not treat her like a girl but rather, an equal; he does not go easy on her or give her the upper hand, which is just the way she prefers to be treated. He is constantly challenging her to prove herself and makes her stronger. Her trust in Rooster is cemented when he stand up for against LaBeouf by threatening him with his gun, unless he stops whipping Mattie.
Rooster becomes somewhat of a father figure for Mattie; he is truly the only man she can rely on. From an early age, Mattie is surrounded by powerful, passionate men and lacks a strong female figure in her life. Although her mother is present throughout her life, she plays a very minimal role, she is more of a background character, Mattie learns almost very thing she knows from her father. She was brought up by a male, instilling masculine traits in her, and after the passing of her father, Mattie migrates to another strong male figure, Rooster.
Every female character that Mattie comes across within the novel, her mother, Mrs. Floyd, Victoria, and Grandma Turner, is rather unremarkable. Each is indifferent, uneducated, not respected, and lives to service men in some way or another. But Mattie is the complete opposite, she is predominantly more masculine; she seeks revenge through violence, she can be cold and emotionless, she is strong and independent, she is smart and witty, traits which were uncommon for the women of her time.
Mattie was in charge of her family finances, rode horses and shot guns, activities all largely associated with men. She enjoys being a women with her resilient personality that causes the men around her to constantly push her and challenge her; as Mattie sets off for her adventure Lawyer Daggett tells her that “Fort Smith is no place for a young girl alone, not even a Mattie“ which inclines her to push forward and prove him wrong, much like any man of that time would have done (26).
It is her primal upbringing that makes Mattie possess more male qualities and allows her to communicate better with men. Being surrounded by men who are strong and passionate and important to her, along with her childhood upbringing it is clear that Mattie is much more masculine and audacious. It is because of all these factors that Mattie prefers the company of men over women. In a male dominate world Mattie Ross strives to be drive from the average women; she chooses to be strong, independent, smart and to surround herself with male companionship and those like herself, those with true grit.