Here’s my handmade response to a scene in True Grit (a novel by Charles Portis I’m teaching in a first-year composition course) when Rooster has invited Mattie to have supper with him in his room at the back of Chen Lee’s grocery. After dinner and their negotiations on a price for capturing Tom Chaney (as well as a good many snorts of whiskey by Mattie’s host), Rooster takes from Mattie her Papa’s pistol and shoots a rat who was in the process of stealing corn meal from a hole in a sack. It seems evident to me here that Portis is equating the thievery of the rat with Tom, as well as Mattie’s gun-toting desire for vengeance with Rooster Mattie goes on to justify Rooster’s action by noting that he wouldn’t have had to shoot the rat if the Chinaman’s cat Sterling was doing his job. It may also be that Portis is equating the failure of the cat with the failure of local law officials to respond to Chaney’s crime. Mattie remarks:
“The rat was a mess. I went over and picked him up by the tail and pitched him out the back door for Sterling, who should have smelled him out and dispatched him in the first place” (61).