Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> Native American Representation in Simms's The Yemassee >> Page 40

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Page 40

Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription admiring the Indian, Simms felt, according to Elmo Howell, that the native stood
in the way of settling the American frontier. Howell states:

[Simms] felt the sadness at the passing of a race, which the
aggressiveness and indifference of the whites made inevitable. But
the red man could not be allowed to maintain his ground in a
savage state. At this point, Simms gives over the romantic pose in
his hard pragmatic line that civilization must go forward and that
the wild man along with the wilderness must give way. He would
prefer that he be instructed and assisted into the corporate life of
the new nation, to which he would make his own contribution. But
he must not stand in the way. (64)

Simms's ambivalence reflects the moral uncertainty of the country at the period in
which he lived. His struggle to resolve two contrasting ideologies of survival and
conquest reflects the struggle of the European colonizer and the native and the
values in which each culture believed.
Today, the nineteenth-century novelist is held up to the test of modern
criticism. In effect, the modern critic judges the author of colonial literature and
whether the writer's "voice" is valid in its representations. But all of the standards
to which the critic subjects the author are relative to the atmospheres within which
each lives and writes. The history revealed to us by Simms, although romantic in
its presentation, is helpful in understanding the colonial era of American history.
The fact that the content reflects romantic characteristics indicates the difficulty to
produce a more poignant, realistic work at a time when the fate of the Native
American was nearing a forced, regrettable resolution.
The philosophies of the Indian and the colonizer were incompatible, and
attempts to homogenize or resolve differences through an effort to unite the two
opposing forces failed. The Yeniasseee reveals the respective natures of the
colonizer and the native, their philosophies, and their attitudes toward one
another. Simms provides an insightful social awareness of the colonial history of
the Carolina territory as portrayed through a nineteenth-century American literary