Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 1) >> Revolution, Patriarchy, and Orestes: Porgy's Ambivalence Toward His Father in Woodcraft >> Page 4

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 4

Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription 4
Aeschylus gives prominence to the clash of new patriarchy and old matriarchy by
contrasting Apollo's claim with that of the Furies in a court presided over by
Athene. Even though Simms refers to the Furies only once in Woodcrqft, he
must have had Aeschylus in mind when he gave a full description of Porgy's
apprehension about patriarchal values when referring to Orestes, "falling from the
grasp of the Furies,' and "hunted' by "the furies." Simms mentions Aeschylus
twice in his letters (Letters, IV, 616 and Letters, V, 409), each time admiring him
as being as great a master of poetry as Homer, Shakespeare, and Milton. In
Simms's estimation, his works stand high because "founded upon close
observation of man & nature, the moral & physical world; delivered with
adequate emphasis, from the lips of art, and supported by Imagination which
constitutes its wing" (Letters, IV, 616).
In The Choephori and The Eumenides of the Oresteian trilogy, Aeschylus
gives the details of Orestes's agonies, but the latter delineates most fully Oreste
pursued by the Furies. He laments over his misfortunes but firmly believes
Apollo will guard him against the Furies' attacks, for in killing his mother he
fulfilled the oracle of Apollo. To defend Orestes, Apollo protests that
Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon, who was at once her husband and Orestes's
father, while the Furies claim that there is no blood relation between man and
wife but there is between mother and son. Forced to judge between them, Athene
resorts to a court of justice made up of Athenian citizens. Orestes comes near
failing by a tie vote, but Athene's tie-breaking vote saves him. Orestes cries:

Pallas, Saviour of my house!
I was an exile; you have brought me home again.
Hellas can say of me, "He is an Argive, as
He used to be, and hold his father's house and wealth
By grace of Pallas and Apollo, and of Zeus
The Saviour, the Fulfiller." (The Eumenides 173)

Athene appeases the Furies' indignant grief by Holy Persuasion, and they agree
to assume the great responsibilities of establishing a new ideal of society:

No ill wind
Shall carry blight to make your fruit-trees fade;
No bud-destroying canker
Shall keep across your frontiers,
Nor sterile sickness threaten your supply...
And may the earth's rich produce
Honour the generous Powers with grateful gifts. (The Eumenides
178)

When Porgy comes back to his plantation after a "seven years'
apprenticeship to war" (Woodcrqft 54), he sees his occupation gone, and the only
prospects before him are loneliness, poverty, and desolation. Lance, a bright
young follower, tries to cheer him up saying, "I reckon God always puts in, at