Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 2) >> Guy Rivers's Self-esteem Deficit and the Psychological Prescience of William Gilmore Simms >> Page 8

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 8

Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription with his obvious advantages in wit and ability, he reasons that Edith's only
possible reason for rejecting him is his lack of money. In fact, the pass he made at
her was a drunken and insulting one (too much passion and not enough artifice),
but Rivers had not been raised to discern such insults. Shortly after she spurns
him, he turns to Walter Munro, who will become his criminal mentor, and he
begins his second career as a highwayman and murderer.
While Rivers is always vociferous in blaming his mother for his troubles,
he is not consistent in it. Elsewhere, he blames his political opponent, the society
("prostituting herself and depriving me of my rights") that failed to elect him,
elites in general, Munro, Edith, and Ralph Colleton, Edith's cousin and eventual
lover. While the objective and mostly-reliable narrative voice seems to believe
that the fault is mostly the mother's, the sort of "scatter-shot" blaming Rivers
indulges in is consistent with the modern indications of self-esteem deficit.
One of the "negative self-image types" (163) discussed by Frey and
Carlock is "The Blamer," with whom they associate the statement, "It's your fault
that I'm the way I am," and about whom they say, "These people are very
condemnatory; they put others down in an attempt to elevate self. Jealousy is a
prevalent feeling with The Blamer" (167). In terms of both his frenetic finger-
pointing and the prevalence of jealousy among his emotions, Rivers closely
matches Frey and Carlock's characterization of this particular type of self-esteem
deficient subject.
Since success in crime requires many of the same traits as success in
legitimate professions, it is fair to assume that low self-esteem can work to
undercut even success in criminal endeavors. When Rivers fails as a criminal, it
is almost always because of his failure to curb the same jealousy and anger that
were his undoing as a lawyer. On many occasions, Munro, who genuinely
admires some of Rivers's other traits, chides him for his failure to control his
temper. While Munro is not above murder for profit, he sees murder for revenge
as too great a risk to the gang's security, so objects to Rivers's plan to kill Ralph
Colleton as payback for imagined slights. While Ralph's horse did inflict a
permanent scar onto Guy's face (that Guy, in his self-loathing, calls "the Mark of
Cain") in the act of fleeing a robbery attempt, Munro insists that Rivers look at the
scar as one of the risks of his profession. Unable to see past Ralph's class
advantages and Edith's love for him, the criminal insists on "his blood." Though
Munro relents and grudgingly approves the murder, he insists that Guy should
wait for the right moment. Even this is too much to ask. Thinking it is Ralph,
Rivers kills Mark Forrester, a relatively noble soul among the local border
ruffians. Not stopping to regret the blunder, he plants Ralph's dagger on the
scene, framing him for the crime. Even the veteran criminal Walter Munro is
appalled by Rivers's "hot-headed cold-bloodedness." Alienated from his protege,
Munro implicates him for the murder in a deathbed confession (though he is
motivated in part by his feelings for his orphaned niece Lucy, who might have to
marry Rivers against her will). Munro, who perhaps values nothing so highly as