True Grit is one of the great American classics—a sensational, dryly comic coming-of-age tale set after the Civil War. Appealing to adults and teens alike since its first publication in 1968 to it’s double adaptation for the big screen, and its chart-topping stint on the New York Times bestseller list, Charles Portis’s masterpiece is a model in enduring literature.
Now available in a new YA edition (read an excerpt here!) complete with reader’s guide and afterword from renowned critic and author Leonard Marcus, TRUE GRIT features one of the pluckiest, fiercest heroines in literature. What makes for a heroine with staying power? Who are the most memorable little ladies out there? We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites below, including our own “legendary” (Washington Post) Mattie Ross.
On the very first page, we meet our no-nonsense narrator Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old girl setting out to find the hopeless coward who shot down her father in Arkansas. Mattie wastes no time in enlisting the toughest U.S. Marshal—the only one described as possessing true grit—to track down her father’s killer. Mattie’s tenacity, courage, and single-mindedness elicit both anger and admiration from the gruff, hardened frontier men she teams up with on her moral mission. She is not one to back down, but simply cows them with her gumption (we won’t spoil the ending)!
We’ve found a kindred spirit in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, the supernaturally-gifted daughter of idiotic, unappreciative parents who overcomes her wretched home life—and one monstrous school principal—to find happiness with her beloved teacher, Ms. Honey. The best thing about Matilda Wormwood is that she, just like us, loves books! Early on in Matilda, she journeys to the library all on her own, and soon is conquering the literature in the grown-up section, much to the surprise of the librarian. Now this is a girl we could spend some serious time with.
And how we could forget Jean Louse Finch, aka Scout? In To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s tomboyish heroine for the ages watches as her righteous lawyer father overcomes the racism endemic to their Southern town. A faithful, assertive girl by nature, Scout finds her faith tested numerous times throughout the book, but in the end absorbs her father’s lessons about equality and justice. Aside from her precocity, we praise her for her charm and for her ability to embrace all people, even Boo Radley, the town outcast.
Who are your favorite wee heroines in literature?