Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Afterword >> Page 260

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Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
Transcription 260 THE CUB OF THE PANTHER
previous nonfiction usages. (2) Realistically, it gave him a historically accu-
rate locale essentially free of slaves. (3) Most important, when divorced
by geography and social norms from the antebellum low-country, Simms
was left to face the fact of postwar life not only devoid of slaves but also
devoid of all those other class distinctions that accompanied slavery in the
Old South. As Simms said, this was "out of the beaten path."
Determining the historical context for this book may be more impor-
tant than for any other that Simms wrote. The narration is virtually con-
temporary with its composition (that is, around 1868), but its story
begins more than twenty years earlier Simms's only book spanning the
Civil War. In Chapter Ten, the writer cites several folk games which
"existed, for a century, and within the last thirty years," games on which
he had "notes made on the spot about a quarter of a century ago," mean-
ing 1847 when he had made the mountain hunting trip. A main char-
acter, Sam Fuller "had been, at fifteen, a pupil of [Jim] Fisher at sixty."
This would date Fuller's tutelage around 1837, for Simms's notebook
records that the real-life hunter Jim Fisher was about seventy years old
when Simms had met him in 1847 on the hunting expedition, and Fuller
is twenty-five years old in the novel's earliest episodes. Therefore, the
courtship of Rose Carter must have occurred around 1847, the Cub of
the Panther would have been born around 1850, and the culminating
event of his father's death on the boy's seventeenth birthday must have
occurred in late 1867. The Civil War stands as a significant cultural and
psychological divide between these two important fictional events.6
Simms's primary mode of examining postwar values was to adapt an
old method. He set up contrasting pairs of characters, overlapped the
pairs, and teased out parallel scenes. The most obvious twosomes are the
professional hunters, brothers-in-law Sam Fuller and Mike Baynam,
along with their sons Mike Baynam Fuller and the orphaned adopted
child, the Cub of the Panther. Another pair is the inept hunters whom
Simms calls the squirearchy—hard-drinking, womanizing, college
friends Bulkley and Fairleigh, the latter also contrasted to Mike Baynam,
his rival for Rose Carter's attentions. And implicitly Simms contrasts
Rose and Gabriella, the woman who eventually marries young Fairleigh.
Simms's development and use of these pairings can be best summa-
rized in the dialectic between the plain, common-sensical, and outspo-
ken Aunt Betsy Moore and her social-climbing and pretentious sister, the
Widow Jane Carter. Simms refers to them as "Doric and Corinthian in
the Same Building." Aunt Betsy's terse humor makes her the clear
spokesperson for the "correct" point of view. She chastises,