The title of the book is True Grit. But what is true grit? Is it having courage? Is it being tough? Several people had this trait in the book, including Mattie Ross, Rooster Cogburn, and Lucky Ned Pepper. Several people lacked it, such as Tom Chaney. True grit isn’t necessarily a good thing either.
The dictionary says that “grit” means “having fortitude and courage”. Mattie, Rooster, and Lucky Ned Pepper all showed these traits. Mattie left home to avenge her father’s death. She was only fourteen years old. She didn’t really know how to use a gun and she didn’t really know how to manage rough terrain. No one wanted her to go and do it. Despite several people’s warnings, she set off on what would be her greatest adventure. In the end, she owed her life to one person. Rooster Cogburn is said to have grit throughout the book. “‘What is it?’ [Rooster] said. I said, ‘They tell me you have true grit.'” (Pg. 59) Rooster ends up proving he has true grit at the end of the novel when he selflessly risks his own life to save Mattie, who had been bitten by a rattle-snake. Rooster showed immense courage when he rode into a four against one battle with Ned Pepper and his followers. Rooster also stood up for what he thought was right. He wouldn’t really denounce any of his mistakes. “‘I was told in Fort Smith that you rode with Quantrill and that border gang.’ [said LaBoeuf]… ‘That is nothing for you to worry about. That nor Captain Quantrill either.’ [said Rooster]” (Pgs. 158-159). Another person who had this trait was Lucky Ned Pepper. Ned showed that he too had tremendous courage. Although he was an outlaw and a murderer wanted by the law, Ned faced everything calmly. He wasn’t worried that his gang had picked up an unwanted prisoner, Mattie. He was a rough man who didn’t care about anything except surviving. Although his part in the book was brief, he seemed like a polite and calm man. One person who did not have grit was Tom Chaney. Tom Chaney was not really a rough character. He didn’t stand up for what he thought was right. He didn’t appear to have any values. Tom was only concerned with living to see another day, even if it meant killing an innocent person. Ned had grit. But only Rooster and Mattie had true grit. They showed that they were courageous and that they could hold onto their beliefs. Having grit isn’t really a good thing. In this book, the people who had true grit were Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn. Both of them had determination. They achieved their goal in the end. Mattie’s revenge came with a cost, unfortunately. She lost her arm, and she became a recluse. “They say I love nothing but money and the Presbyterian Church and that is why I never married.” (Pg. 223) It is her grit, or her firm beliefs, that make it hard for people to be around her. Rooster’s grit didn’t help either. It only got his federal badge removed and led him to a lonely demise while he worked for a circus.
Although “grit” can mean sand, it also means having a rough (like sand) personality. A person with grit has to be courageous and they have to stand up for their beliefs. Mattie, Rooster, and Ned all did this, but it came with a nasty price. Just because a person is courageous and has firm beliefs doesn’t necessarily mean that they are heroes or that they have an easy life.