Analysis of True Grit Genre

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True Grit: Exploring Genres and Conventions

True Grit is a 2010 USA movie based on a 1968 novel, True Grit authored by Charles Portis. The movie was directed and produced by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen famously known as the Coen Brothers. The film was released in 2011 with a runtime of 110 minutes. The film was nominated for several awards but never won in any. This paper seeks to establish the genre of the film, express the conventions of the established genre and how the identified conventions of the genres are expressed in the film (Gurdon, 2011, p. 75). A film can associate with more than one genre in the narration. True Grit then, identifies with drama, adventure, action and western genres of narration. Genres and narratives are conveyed through different ways.

Genres Identified and Their Conventions

Genres are determined mainly by the tone, literal technique and content of a film or work of art. Visuals, sound, words of expression can be used to convey a particular genre in a film. Drama as a genre in the film is conveyed through different ways (Gurdon, 2011, p. 78). The conventions include, the roles that the actors in the film play, the situations that the actors are presented with, the place the film is shot, the actions that take place, tension created as a result of the actions of the actors, mood, symbols, where focus is laid, repetition, monologues, flashbacks and flash-forwards and spoken thoughts. As a result, they build a dramatic experience and touch to the film.

Action as a second genre identified in the film, carries the conventions of violence, frantic chases, suspense and physical threats. Adventure is conveyed through the creation of struggles for the characters, conquests, travels and explorations, situations, revenge and determination of the characters (Santa, 2016, p.101). Action and adventure both seek to create an action-filled, energetic experience for the viewers of the film. Western genre can be depicted through visuals, choice of sound and music and words, setting of the film. Again, it is expressed by a dressing of the characters of the film and with the American history of slavery to narrate the story in the film (Gurdon, 2011, p.36). The western genre mainly seeks to fit a narration to the American way of living.

Conventions of Drama Genre

The drama genre is clearly expressed from the beginning of the movie. The roles that the characters play express the genre of drama (Santa, 2016, p. 95). For instance, Mattie is depicted cast as a rebellious fourteen-year-old who seeks revenge for the death of her father who was allegedly killed by Chaney. As a result, the actions and steps that Mattie takes as she seeks revenge for her father's death. Examples of the events that take place that create suspense that fuels the genre of drama include Mattie working as an employer to Cogburn and Labeouf in an attempt to kill Chaney through the Indian territory. Tom Chaney, plays the role of an antagonist, outlaw, and killer to Mattie's father. The roles that characters of a film play ensure that a genre is developed in a film to create its authenticity.

Additionally, the situations and events that the characters are put to help develop this genre. Suspense is extensively applied to further the genre (Santa, 2016, p.117). For instance, the film begins with Mattie's monologue of her life at fourteen and her endeavor to seek revenge for her father's death. The words stir emotions of pity, sadness, and curiosity at the same time. The viewer is intrigued by the words to find out what could a fourteen-year-old have done to avenge the death of her father with little skill and wit.

Hiring Cogburn and Labeouf, who had been following Chaney keenly for killing a Texas state senator, are situations that develop this genre. Moreover, Mattie is determined to leave with the men in search of Chaney that when the men leave her behind, she still follows them crossing the river on a horseback. The events that follow afterward to when they are led to the pepper gang reveal emotions and develop the characters to realistic ones that real human behavior can be linked (Barsam and Monahan, 2015, p.77). Emotions such as anger, are expressed when Quincy stabs Moon for snitching on the location of Pepper gang, a gang that includes the much sought Chaney. Cogburn equally expresses emotions of anger even in his tone when he shoots dead Quincy.

Towards the end of the film, Cogburn invites Mattie, twenty-five years later to a show where he performs only for her to arrive and learn that her friend had died three days earlier. Additionally, at the cemetery where Cogburn was buried, emotions ensue that take back Mattie to reflect on her life decisions that include her having never been married (Santa, 2016, p.132). Her meeting with Labeouf is uncertain showing the unpredictability of human nature and behavior.

The tension, in addition, develops the dramatic genre. For instance, when Mattie encounters Chaney by the water stream and shoots him, viewers are convinced that he can only be dead and that Mattie has revenged for the death of her father (Barsam and Monahan, 2015, p. 67). However, Chaney survives and takes Mattie hostage building tension of the events that would happen later on. The situations imposed on the characters, their actions, whether deliberate or accidental and the roles that the character's play create an impression and perception of the film that eventually plays out to build the dramatic genre that is conveyed by the film.

Conventions of Adventure Genre

The second genre identified is that of adventure. The film narrates the life of Mattie as an unfolding adventure. Portrayed as a rebellious young girl seeking to avenge the death of her father, and the struggles she has to put up with to achieve that (Middaugh, 2017, p. 313). She is determined to avenge the death of her father that she rides on a horseback across the river to reach Cogburn and Labeouf after they left to hunt down Chaney without her. Secondly, she risks her own life when Chaney takes her back to the hideout with Pepper gang to save Cogburn. Mattie is portrayed as a brave character despite the drive for revenge. She perseveres the struggles to get back at Chaney. Moreover, it explores the struggles of people that she has to interact with as well as negotiate in her journey. Firstly, the town sheriff that referred her to Cogburn, as well as the pepper gang.

Adventure is also depicted when she works hand in hand with Cogburn and Labeouf through the Indian Territory in search of Chaney. The journey is adventurous, dangerous and intriguing where she has to be creative and fight for her survival in the unknown lands (Barsam and Monahan, 2015, p. 48). The film is set in lands that are physically adventurous such as the rivers, the dugouts, and hills that the Pepper gang used to hide. Additionally, the adventure involves travels from various places including the Wild West Show where Cogburn would be performing.

Conventions of Action Genre

The third identified genre in the film True Grit is action. The film develops this genre through violence, threats and fights amongst the characters (Middaugh, 2017, p. 212). For instance, the first scene of violence is witnessed at the dugout where two outlaws Quincy and Moon were. Cogburn and Mattie interrogate the two and when Moon gives information on Chaney and pepper gang errands, Quincy stabs him. Consequentially, Cogburn shoots at Quincy and he dies. The scene clearly expresses the convention of violence in building up the action genre in the film.

Moreover, Cogburn shoots at two pepper gang members where the bullet accidentally hits Labeouf. The engagement is a frantic form of violence that however, conveys the action genre of the film (Middaugh, 2017, p. 317). After that encounter, there are other several frantic scenes of violence. For example, Mattie's encounter with Chaney at the river and the chest shot at the dugout that leads to Chaney's death.

Threats are also conventions of the action genre (Gurdon, 2011, p. 56). After Chaney takes her with him to the dugout after the stream encounter, Cogburn is physically threatened to leave or else Mattie is killed. Fight scenes also convey action in a film. For example, Cogburn fights two gang members of Pepper and thereafter Labeouf snipes Ned, the gang leader. The three, Mattie, Cogburn and Labeouf collaborate despite their frequent misunderstandings to fight their enemies. As a result, teamwork is expressed in the film.

Conventions of Western Genre

The western genre, which is highly critiqued in film reviews are highly expressed in the film. Critics argue that the genre, which had been ignored in a long time in Hollywood (Barsam and Monahan, 2015, p. 23). The western genre is expressed at the beginning of the film. The characters are dressed in costumes that are associated with Western culture. Men are dressed in hats and boots that are famously known for cowboys. Women are in dresses that are typical of the Western culture. The film introduces guns and rifles that are atypical of the western culture.

Additionally, the film is set in an old American society with ranches and horses with carriages. Atypical of the western genre, the horses are used for transport and trade (Middaugh, 2017, p. 234). For example, when Mattie leaves to follow Cogburn in her quest to avenge her father's death, she uses horses to move from the town to the river where the ferry awaits. Horses bear a huge significance in American culture, especially in their ranches for easy and quick navigation through the lands. Horses and ponies are continuously used in the film from the beginning where Mattie returns her father's young ponies to a seller as to raise money to hire a US Marshall to help her avenge her father's death.

Moreover, the terrain of the grounds where the film efficiently communicates the genre of the film and blends with the characters and purpose of the film. The grounds are rough and dusty which clearly shows the need for horses for transport. Throughout the travels in the Indian Territory, Mattie uses her horse, Blackie to navigate across the lands. Eventually, the horse suffers from exhaustion and collapses. In addition, snakes are common in dusty and rough terrain areas as evidenced by the presence of the rattlesnake that bites Mattie in the pit (Gurdon, 2011, p. 98). Mattie's arm was, however, amputated as it was severely damaged by the snakebite.

Music can also be used to develop the western genre, as is so in the film. The music and sounds played throughout the film are associated with American culture and widely adopted in the setting (Gurdon, 2011, p.12). For instance, in the end, as Mattie visits Cogburn's grave, the music played in the background creates nostalgia. She recounts her life, the memories of Labeouf who she has never heard from for the past twenty-five years.

In addition, the choice of words in the film clearly relates to the American culture. The monologue that Mattie has as the film is introduced implies that the film is western. The voice of a forty-year-old Mattie narrates her story and adventures that are yet to be revealed to the film views. Her accent and tone are deep and filled with nostalgia and bravery that is evidenced in the Western genre. The film adopts a flashback style of narration in that at the beginning (Middaugh, 2017, p. 347), the narrator speaks full of experience yet to narrate the events of her life since she was fourteen.

Nevertheless, the western genre is developed in American history to narrate the events of its characters (Middaugh, 2017, p. 348). For instance, the use of horses as opposed to what is used in modern society, the mode of dressing then, as compared to now. American history has evolved over the years to include modern styles in the film industry. However, the film distinctly adheres to the genre and extensively propagates its use.


In conclusion, the film has clearly demonstrated the conventions of the genres identified. Drama, for instance, is conveyed through emotional appeal to the viewers. Unconventional in society, fourteen-year-olds do not seek to avenge the death of their fathers. However, Mattie stands out as just one of the main characters full of wit and determination to fulfill her mission. The film also is true to its name as each character, Mattie, Lebouf, and Cogburn is driven by grit to achieve their mission despite the setbacks and tests along the way.


Barsam, R, and Monahan, D., 2015.Looking at movies. WW Norton & Company.

Gurdon, M.C., 2011. Darkness Too Visible. The Wall Street Journal,4.

Middaugh, D.J., 2017. True Grit! MedSurg Nursing, 26(5) pp.347-349.

Santa Ana, O., 2016. The Cowboy and the goddess: Television news mythmaking about immigrants. Discourse & Society, 27(1), pp.95-117.

September 25, 2023




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