History’s “Actors”



Fishtrap brought novelist Molly Gloss to town last week to further the Big Read discussion of Charles Portis’s book, True Grit. Molly’s task was to trace the role of women from “dime novels” to the present day.
True Grit, written about a time and place—Arkansas and the Indian Territory in years immediately following the Civil War—was written in the 1960s and published in 1968. Gloss told us that 14 year old protagonist Mattie Ross, who bore some resemblance to the “tom boy” women of the dime novels, differed in that she “moves the action” in the story. The tom boys of older books were there for color—not action. The more important women in those old novels were the frail Paulines waiting to be saved by brave cowboys. Even as they gained some weight and education as schoolmarms, their role in the story was to be saved by the male hero—who
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