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Quest Heroes Essay

1439 words - 6 pages


An explorer by the name of Wade Davis once said, “Heroes are never perfect, but they’re brave, they’re authentic, they’re courageous, determined, discreet, and they’ve got grit.” Having grit or perseverance is a common attribute of a quest hero as well, who is usually the star in quest novels. Charles Portis’s Mattie Ross from the quest novel True Grit undoubtedly falls under the quest hero category, and her supporting character Rooster Cogburn is clearly the wise old man type, with LaBoeuf fitting in as the assistant, or helper type.
Mattie Ross, True Grit’s protagonist, clearly matches the quest hero description. One aspect of quest heroes is that they see the ...view middle of the document...

For example, even from the outset of their journey, LaBoeuf and Rooster Cogburn fiercely attempt to dissuade Mattie from joining them. First, the two officials boot her off of the ferry crossing the river, but showing her tenacity and desire to go on the quest, she fearlessly spurs her mount to the river and manages to cross the frigid waters before Rooster and LaBoeuf, who are watching with irritation from the ferry. Later, LaBoeuf drags Mattie off her horse and gives her a humiliating whipping. In the face of all these trials at the mere beginning of her quest, Mattie still has the fortitude to journey on. LaBoeuf scornfully tells Mattie, “‘Criminal investigation is sordid and dangerous and is best left in the hands of men who know the work’”(83). In other words, Rooster Cogburn and LaBoeuf alone are qualified, but Mattie is not. However, she, being a precocious and defiant 14-year old, takes on the challenge of the quest regardless of the difficulties and opposition she may face. Despite this resistance, she still possesses the willpower to embark on her risky expedition for revenge. Indubitably, Mattie Ross is the hero in the quest novel True Grit because she acknowledges the need for change in her environment and she has the intrepidity and the resolve to undertake the quest.
Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn of Fort Smith, Arkansas steps in as the wise old man figure in this novel. In quest stories, the wise old man often offers unique knowledge to aid the hero on her journey. As a deputy marshal of the Federal Court, Rooster has had experience with outlaws and knows their bands, lairs, trails, and ways. When Tom Chaney is suspected of banding with the well-known outlaw Lucky Ned Pepper, Mattie turns to Rooster because he is renowned for being tough and pitiless, exactly the kind of man she requires to deal with outlaws. She asks him if he was acquainted with Lucky Ned Pepper, and Rooster replies, “‘I know him well. I shot him in the lip last August down in the Winding Stair Mountains’”(65). The Winding Stair Mountains conceals the hideout of Lucky Ned Pepper, and since Rooster even knows where his lair is this proves how much he knows about these outlaws. Furthermore, one of the group’s early stops is McAlester’s store, which Rooster knows to be a place frequented by precisely the type of people they are searching for. This is another piece of handy information that Rooster knows. Hence, Rooster serves as the wise old man because he possesses important information about outlaws and their trails. Moreover, the wise old man often serves as a surrogate paternal figure. Loving fathers will do anything for their children, and they are quick to act if their child is endangered. Rooster displays this fatherly love for Mattie when she is snake bitten on her arm, with a broken arm on the other side. He knows that she must be rushed to a doctor, or else she will die. On this desperate ride, Rooster unhesitatingly rides Little Blackie, Mattie’s horse,...

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