Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 1) >> Revolution, Patriarchy, and Orestes: Porgy's Ambivalence Toward His Father in Woodcraft >> Page 10

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Secondary Scholarship | 1996
Transcription 10
thoughts, no information" (Woodcraft 372). Mrs. Griffin's poverty is associated
here directly with her lack of education and genteel manners as against the
wisdom personified by Athene.
Three days after Eveleigh rejects him, Porgy rides over to Mrs. Griffin.
While helping her reel off a pile of yarn, he sees Eveleigh and her son coming,
and hastily tires to fling it away. However, he finds himself involved in the
meshes in a pitiable condition. Porgy, who is privileged to carry a sword but
prohibited from lifting it up against his enemy, has been compelled to fancy for
the first time in his life that "spinning was a particularly picturesque
performance" (Woodcraft 514). It is to be noted that Athene is the patroness of
spinning and weaving in Greek mythology. However, he ends up finding his
fingers tangled in "the mischievous threads . . . as if each thread were a spirit of
disorder, sent especially for his discomfort and defeat" (Woodcraft 515). This
scene abounds in comedy, but it would add to its irony to know that when the
Furies attack Apollo for his strongly pro-patriarchal argument (by saying that
Zeus binds his old father Cronos with chains) that Apollo contends that "chains
may be loosed with little harm" (The Eumenides 169). It is Porgy himself, not
his father, that he binds with chains. Simms's story is totally different from that
of Aeschylus, who balanced a new set of values with conventionality, Athene
playing the mediator who takes sides with the former and dissuading the Furies
from pursuing Orestes. Even Apollo, whom the Furies blame for bribing "the
Fates to let [Admetus] live again" (The Eumenides 172), would find Porgy's need
too "great" (The Eumenides 172) to minister to. When the Furies are persuaded
by Athene in Aeschylus's world, they pray, "Dread Fates" (The Eumenides 179)
to "let each lovely virgin, as a bride, / Fulfil her life with joy" (The Eumenides
179), and they announce:

Let civil war, insatiate of ill,
Never in Athens rage;
Let burning wrath, that murder must assuage,
Never take arms to spill, in this my heritage,
The blood of man till dust has drunk its fill. (The Eumenides 179)

Porgy, by contrast, is forced to remain an unmarried soldier.
Simms entangles Porgy into the meshes of his allotted span, by breaking
up the integral roles of Athene and the Furies into the compound, warring, and
multidirectional ones of Eveleigh and Griffin. Thus Simms's Athene emerges to
transform herself into the Furies who vow to poison the land with mildew, drying
seeds. The Furies, on the other hand, never transfigure themselves into the
Eumenides who would have fertilzied the earth. Porgy must live on in a male-
sterile world.
Aeschylus, who preceded Sophocles and Euripides as tragic poet, saw at
first hand tyrannies, revolutions, and wars. He was himself deeply involved in
them; and later as the first of Athens' three great writers of tragedy, he focused
on the political tension when the Athenian democracy was bursting into full life.
Out of his accepting the new moral responsibility and justice came The Oresteian