Wlliam Gilmore Simms
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Avatar MZaring
2013-08-05 11:11:44
Bella Humphries: "the little coquette"
In The Partisan: A Romance of the Revolution, Simms casts Bella Humphries as “the little coquette,” but also seems to allow her moments of heroic resolve, calling into question the extent to which Simms denies Bella agency over her final brave act. In the novel’s last scene, we see and enter the crowd through Bella's eyes, carefully watching from the belfry, but this is the last we see of her. In her vital act of ringing the bell, she is reduced to a metonymical hand: “The procession moved on; the crowd gathered; the tree was before the doomed victim; and the officer in command riding up, ordered a halt before it, and proceeded to make his arrangements, when the bell sounded: a single stroke and then a pause--as if the hand grew palsied immediately after” (454). If the “painful clamour” of the subsequent ringing, “quick and violent, . . . a reckless, unregulated peal, varying, yet continuous,” reflects Bella’s character, then Simms could be suggesting either her “painful” maturation into “continuous” womanhood or her “continuous” embodiment of the “varying” coquette. To what extent does Simms allow and deny Bella agency in this moment and in scenes throughout the novel? (i.e. Her brother’s heroic rescue seems to minimize Bella’s resolved rejection of Madame Blonay in the infamous cover scene.) To what extent does Bella mature by the end of the novel?
Avatar TWalker
2013-08-23 14:07:04
Mother Blonay: The Witch
Mother Blonay is the mother of the infamous renegade Google. She embodies an archtypal witch/crone figure, which Simms may have borrowed from popular fairytales or folklore. Simms’ descriptions of her appearance (153) and her isolated dwelling place (154) seem to confirm this. When she first appears in Chapter Sixteen, the quality of the narrative changes and acquires a decidedly gothic layer. We learn through the narrator that Mother Blonay has a reputation among her neighbors for having an “evil eye, or rather an evil mouth” that could bring “blight among the cattle” along with “sickness and pestilence” (156). As I began to think more intently about Mother Blonay’s character and how she functions in the narrative, I began to wonder about the significance of her southerness and what role geography might play in her power to permeate the narrative with a gothic nuance and how Mother Bloany's southerness might resonate with northern and southern readership. Though Simms wrote The Partisan in 1835, decades before the beginning of the Civil War, there were already clear divisions between the northern and southern spaces (think culture, economics, religion...). Certainly, during the time that Simms was writing The Partisan, the regions were taking on certain defining qualities and developing distinct identities. How might early conceptions of the South as "other" (from within or without) have influenced the reception of such a character as Mother Bloany? I suppose, I wonder what particular brand of witch/crone figure is she, and how does the fact that she is an "othered" character in an "othered" space affect her particular presence in the novel? What insights might this give us into the South's propensity to contain and create the grotesque and gothic and how might it anticipate conceptions of these in later southern works? Timothy Walker Georgia State University
Avatar KVines
2013-08-28 23:37:34
Katharine Walton: “I may not have the strength, but I have the heart....” (241)
Katharine Walton, much like Rose in James Dabney McCabe’s _The Guerrillas_, seems to represent the cavalier's feminine counterpart. Her rejection of Robert Singleton’s initial proposal because it is “unseemly and improper," together with her aristocratic birth establish her as one who strictly adheres to an elite social code (240). She also transcends the stereotypical role of the southern belle when she attempts to keep Major Proctor out of Emily’s death chamber. On the one hand, she appeals to him with her sense of manners and appropriateness: “I trust that, as a gentleman, he will forbear to trespass farther upon the privacy of ladies” (247). On the other hand, she demonstrates resolute bravery by drawing and attempting to fire a weapon at Major Proctor. In many ways, Katharine is a representation of the ideal southern woman: well-mannered and aristocratic, but also independent and brave. This makes her the ideal mate for our cavalier. She has agency that other women in Simms’ novel lack—she seeks out Singleton and plays a vital role in saving her own father, but she is still a “weak” woman. Katharine’s strengths and weaknesses set the stage for Singleton to demonstrate his abilities as both a graceful courtier and skilled soldier—two hallmark characteristics of the “southern gentleman.” Her acceptance of his proposal serves as a symbolic representation of his success as a southern gentleman. Kelly Vines--Georgia State University
Avatar Harper
2013-08-31 02:50:25
Goggle and the Cross in His Blood
In The Partisan, Goggle is as much an incantation as a man, and his relatively brief appearances in the novel enunciate the racial and nationalist anxieties that pervade the text. Simms aligns Goggle’s visual handicap with his moral degeneracy: “Goggle was as warped in morals as he was blear in vision; a wretch aptly fitted for the horse-thief, the tory, and murderer” (152). The particulars of Goggle’s affliction are only addressed in a passing comment about his “blear eye,” the result of an injury in his youth (81). According to Simms’s biological determinism, Goggle was damned from birth, but his criminality cannot be attributed solely to some hereditary shortcoming. Goggle himself states that “he had no sympathy with society” explicitly because it had “little regard for him.” (152). In granting Goggle this small degree of humanity and the glimmer of an inner life, Simms invites readers to read beyond the “romantic” conventions of his text. Throughout The Partisan, Goggle threatens the rebel cause as an unaligned combatant (“As for himself, the worse is, that we know nothing about him”) and as an uncontained nonwhite actor. Goggle’s first appearance in the novel is fittingly spectral. Singleton observes him from a distance, and Goggle’s every feature “produc[es] distrust, or even dislike, in the mind of the observer” (81). (He is notably described as “colourless”). Goggle’s otherness stems from his racial ambiguity. Humphries describes him as “a half-breed Indian, or mestizo, or something. Anybody that looks on Goggle will say so; and then the nature of the beast is so like an Indian” (151). Goggle is aware of his racial inscrutability and presses his mother for knowledge of his parentage, learning that his father “was an Indian of the Catawba nation” (169). Simms’s narrator suggests that Mother Blonay is nominally white, but her identification with practitioners of the “mummery,” “witchcraft,” and “spells and magic” of Indians and the Ebo and Gullah peoples places her culturally, if not biologically, on the “wrong” side of the color line. Goggle’s biracial identity is a source of considerable anxiety in the narrative, and over the course of the novel, the man once known as Ned Blonay becomes not just Goggle but a metonym for racial ambiguity and chaos. “Goggle! Goggle! Goggle!” his mother cries when questioned by Humphries, “as if it wasn't curse enough to be blear-eyed without having every dirty field-tackey whickering about it” (160). As Hastings attempts to rape Bella, Mother Blonay responds to her pleas, “Cry away—Goggle now—Goggle now—Goggle now—scream on you poor fool—scream, but there’s no help for you” (199). In the novel, Goggle is alternately an actor and an idea. Harper Strom, Georgia State University
Avatar MBrooks
2013-09-17 18:00:43
The Partisan’s John Davis: 18th Century Teen Angst
In considering the placement of Davis within the narrative and geographical landscapes of The Partisan, it is striking that such a character—neither hero nor villain, existing more often than not for farcical comic relief—should be chosen to embody the spirit of the novel’s physical setting. Much is made of Davis as a kind of representative; he is the best Dorchester has to offer. Richard Humphries vouches for him (“there’s no better boy in Goose Creek” (23); “he’s a great shot with a rifle, like most of the boys from Goose Creek” (41)); Davis himself refers to his origins as an asset (“I can stand a thump as well as any man—and I haint lived so long in Goose Creek not to know how to give one too” (25)); and it is this local combativeness that attracts the attention of the heroic, exemplary Southern warrior, Singleton (26). After his recruitment, Davis’ most valuable contribution to the partisan effort is his familiarity with and ability to navigate the territory. But if Simms intended Davis to embody South Carolina’s revolutionary zeitgeist, what do we make of the fact that this character is, in so many ways, just a teenage boy? Naïve, petulant, impatient, infatuated; he is rebellious, but not for love of country. Davis’ regional and national pride are only secondary incentives for him to join the revolution—first and foremost he is motivated by a silly crush and a lovers’ rivalry. Even his experience as a soldier doesn’t seem to teach Davis much; he disobeys orders when presented with an opportunity for “honorable” revenge, but the situation goes terribly awry, and Davis never takes responsibility for his error. As Humphries bluntly states, “You’re mighty dull, John Davis, for a man that’s seen so much of the world” (442). Considering Davis together with the novel’s other geographically knowledgeable characters (Humphries, Tom, Goggle, etc.), does it seem that intimacy with the physical territory necessitates a lack of intellectual or moral knowledge? Further, how does Davis (if we read him as a relatively incompetent representative of misplaced revolutionary fervor) reflect on Simms' illustration of this particular history? Meg Brooks, Georgia State University
Avatar MZaring
2013-09-21 06:47:51
Lieutenant Porgy: Complicating Falstaff
In Shakespeare and Masculinity in Southern Fiction: Faulkner, Simms, Page, and Dixon, Joseph B. Keener argues that Lieutenant Porgy “stands out amid the cardboard characters,” tracing Porgy’s “hybrid” characterization back to, among other figures, Shakespeare’s Falstaff, a relation that several critics have documented (9). Like many of Simms’s characters, Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff plays upon a historical figure, Sir John Oldcastle, whose descendants supposedly insisted that Shakespeare’s character not bear the Oldcastle name. In this light, Simms’s Porgy seems to intersect the historical, the archetypal, and the literary, complicating easy readings of Simms’s seemingly stock characters. To what extent does Porgy avoid easy classification? How does Simms’s conflation of different character types in Porgy (and other characters) collapse or reinforce archetypal readings? How does fictionalizing historical figures allow Simms to complicate otherwise “cardboard characters”? Meredith Zaring, Georgia State University
Avatar TWalker
2013-09-22 21:35:54
Bill Humphries, the “a staunch partisan of American liberty”
Bill Humphries is the son of Richard Humphries, the owner of the Royal George, a tavern whose denizens are mainly tory officers and sympathizers. Bill is also brother to Bella, who cares for and serves guests at her father’s tavern. Early in the novel, we learn that the younger Humphries is “a fine manly fellow, and—though with the cautious policy of all around him suppressing his predilections for the time—a staunch partisan of American liberty” (15). After the mysterious arrival of Major Singleton in Dorchester, young Humphries becomes his assistant, informant, and guide. Singleton depends heavily upon Humphries to navigate the Cypress Swamp, where a band of renegade Whigs has been awaiting his arrival and direction. Humphries is described as “a stout able-bodied person, of thirty years, or perhaps more—a rough looking man, one seemingly born and bred entirely in the humble life of the country” (37). Humphries knowledge of the terrain and country are integral to Major Singleton’s campaign. He becomes such a valuable asset to Major Singleton that he names him lieutenant of their small band of partisans. Timothy Walker, Georgia State University
Avatar KVines
2013-09-29 20:05:54
The Virginal Emily Singleton and the Death of Innocence and Peace
Up until her death, Emily Singleton lives with Katharine Walton at the Oaks. The dying Emily depends on Katharine, and I posit that the relationship between the two cousins underlines Simms’ patriotism and war-preparations in the book. Simms establishes Emily as a symbol of innocent peace early on in the text. She declares her pacifist inclination when speaking with her uncle after Robert (her brother) comes to recruit him: “Oh, touch not the sword, uncle, I pray you—the keen sword, that cuts away the happy life, and murders the blessed, and the blessing, peace—the peace of the innocent, the peace of the young and good” (131). She continues, addressing Robert: “Oh, Robert, wherefore have you come with these fierce words? Is there to be no end to strife—the bloody and the brutal strife—the slaying of men—the trampling of God’s creatures in the dust?” (131). By empathizing with Emily and also understanding that her pacifist mindset is absurd given the circumstances, the audience solidifies its alignment with our partisans. Simms constructs Emily’s pacifist argument as a straw man that is easily rendered absurd by her circumstances, and Simms thereby justifies the revolution to his readers. Because Emily’s existence is incompatible with war, she must die before any major skirmish. Her death, expertly placed at the exact time that Proctor invades the Oaks, represents (among other things) a death of innocence and peace in the text. Emily is an important character also because she serves as a way for Katharine to prove her “southern female” traits. Through taking care of Emily, Katharine demonstrates maternal, compassionate traits, but by pulling a gun on Proctor to protect Robert as he says his final goodbyes to his sister, Katharine also proves that she is resolute and brave. In addition to arguing for peace in the novel, Emily provides Katharine with several situations in which she proves herself to be an ideal counterpart to the southern cavalier. Kelly Vines--Georgia State University
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