Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 1) >> Revolution, Patriarchy, and Orestes: Porgy's Ambivalence Toward His Father in Woodcraft >> Page 5

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 5

Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription 5
the right time, to save people, if so be they only let him! It's we that won't be
saved, and that's continually fighting against his mercies," to which Porgy

You talk like an oracle, Lance! One thing's certain, that at times,
when a fellow discovers that he can do nothing to save himself, the
best philosophy is to confide in powers superior to his own. Of
one thing, rest assured, my lad--I shall never hurry my own case
of judgment. I should fear the judge's charge would be against
me, let me plead as I might, and be his mercies as great as I could
hope for. (Woodcraft 55)

Porgy knows he can do nothing to save himself, yet he does not suffer God to
judge him because he fears he would have none of God's mercies.
The most important disagreement between Apollo and the Furies in The
Eumenides occurs when the Furies ask Orestes whether his mother did not
"nourish you in her own womb" (The Eumenides 168), and Apollo counters with
"[The mother] is a nurse / Of young seed planted by its true parent, the male"
(The Eumenides 169). Orestes thus kills his mother because he is driven by
Apollo's will. Thus Orestes is allowed to live, exempted by Apollo from any
moral responsibility, and supported by Athene, who says:

No mother gave me birth. Therefore the father's claim
And male supremacy in all things, save to give
Myself in marriage, wins my whole heart's loyalty.
Therefore a woman's death, who killed her husband, is,
I judge, outweighted in grievousness by his. (The Eumenides 172)

Porgy, by contrast, does not have to choose between his mother and
father. Woodcraft contains comparatively few references to his mother. When
Porgy enters his chamber after a seven-year absence, he sees a bit of green cord
depending from a nail, which sustained "that portrait of a fair young woman,
taken when she was yet unmarried, whose sweet smiling features, in the active
exerciese of memory and fancy, seemed still to be looking down upon him"
(Woodcraft 197). He even remembers sleeping with his mother when a child.
He romanticizes his mother here just as Simms did in "Personal Memorabilia,"
but it is not "an attempt to restore a maternal matrix" (Kolodny 66). That her
influence on Porgy is never strong can be demonstrated by his saying that
Sappho, his "mudder nuss" (Woodcraft 310), a wholly toothless and wrinkled
skeleton, reminds him "so much of everything--of my mother--of the old wagon--
of the little bay ponies" (Woodcraft 312). Like Simms, who lost his own mother
at the age of three, Porgy, as he himself says, has been largely "left to himself"
since he was a "mere boy."
Simms also puts Porgy out of joint with the male world established by his
father. He says profligacy is the "curse of my generation" (Woodcraft 206), due
to ill-judged negligence on the part of their fathers who "either did not know ho