Clarity is the quality of being clear and understandable.
Candor is the quality of being open and honest in expression. Not transparent, not vulnerable, but truthful.
Courage is the quality of doing something that is frightening.
The character Mattie Ross in the Charles Portis book True Grit, published in 1968, is the rare character in fiction who is unvarnished in her candor, uncompromising in her clarity, and unwavering in her courage.
In the way of fictional female characters before her, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice to L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy and beyond, Mattie’s character stands out because without her making a decision and then communicating that decision, nothing much occurs.
With the three c’s, she is able to move the action of the plot forward, demand acknowledgement from other characters in the narrative, and is able to get engagement—but not resolution—to the issues which are driving her.
With the three c’s, Mattie is able to look at her world, her choices, and her circumstances without nostalgia—but not without regret.
With the three c’s, Mattie becomes the character with grit—that quality of resilience that often gets overlooked in the pursuit of happiness.
Fiction often reflects truths of life in ways that make us uncomfortable. This is because fiction shows, through the representation of “pretend,” that the traits we look for so hard in others, must be curated and developed in ourselves first.