Charles Portis Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

All of Charles Portis’s protagonists are similar in a number of ways. However, what character traits contrast Norwood Pratt and Mattie Ross? What character traits contrast Ray Midge and Jimmy Burns?

Portis is said to be a regional writer. What universal elements, if any, can be found in his work?

How does Masters of Atlantis differ markedly from Portis’s other four novels?

In what ways can the quests of Mattie Ross and Jimmy Burns be compared?

Many American novelists have treated expatriates in their work. What common characteristics do Portis’s expatriates in Mexico and Central America share?


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Connaughton, Michael E. “Charles Portis.” In American Novelists Since World War II, edited by Kames E. Kibler, Jr. Vol. 6 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1980. Offers an account of the author’s journalistic pieces and an appraisal of his first three novels, noting that Portis’s best characters are “misfits, dropouts, and near lunatics on the fringe of society.”

Idol, John L., Jr. “Charles Portis.” In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the South, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. An appreciative summary.

Rosenbaum, Ron. “Our Least-Known Great Novelist.” Esquire 129 (January, 1998): 30-32. An admiring profile of Portis that discusses his stature in modern American literture, as well as some of his books. Useful as an introduction to Portis’s work.

Shuman, R. Baird. “Portis’ True Grit: An Adventure or Entwicklungsroman?English Journal 59 (1970): 367-370. Identifies the novel as “an Entwicklungsroman presented in the format of a Western.”