Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The quest, journey, chase, and picaresque adventure all lie behind Portis's fictional methods. His technique is as old as Homer's and as new...

(The entire section is 346 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Central to all Portis's novels are abiding concerns for standards of decency in human conduct, fair play, justice, self-reliance,...

(The entire section is 729 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Garfield, Brian. “Song and Swagger of the Old West.” Saturday Review 51 (June 29, 1968): 25-26. Garfield differentiates the quality and scholarly accuracy of True Grit from those of hackwork Western novels. He sees Portis’s novel as one that raises the standards of the Western genre and as one that is imbued with truth instead of being rife with cliché and half-truth. He neglects, however, to mention the element of Southern honor that complements the integrity of the Old West.

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: Adventure Story or Entwicklungsroman.” English Journal 59 (March, 1970): 367-370. Shuman argues that True Grit is a “developmental novel” that traces the coming of age and psychological maturation of Mattie Ross and that its Western trappings are merely its format. Shuman insists that the most moving and important passage in the novel is not the achievement of revenge with the death of Chaney, but the description of Mattie’s falling into the “cave” and being rescued therefrom. With going so far as to see in this a version of the classical journey to the underworld, symbolic of conversion or rebirth to maturity, Shuman classifies it as an event of initiation.

Wolfe, Tom. “The Feature Game.” In The New Journalism. New York: Harper and Row, 1973: This chapter concludes with reference to Portis as a feature writer who realized the dream of achieving literary status. Wolfe surmises that the success of journalists as novelists may presage novelistic journalism’s superseding the novel as literature’s “main event.”

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Portis's literary forebears are Cervantes, Thomas Nashe (Jack Wilkie of Dog of the South is another unfortunate traveler like Nashe's...

(The entire section is 318 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Marguerite Roberts adapted both True Grit and Norwood for the screen. The film of True Grit was true to the novel with only a...

(The entire section is 189 words.)