Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 2) >> Home and Wilderness in Simms's Vasconselos >> Page 24

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Page 24

Secondary Scholarship | 2001, 2002
Transcription to indifference; drawing a long deep breath, and looking a mixed scorn and
hatred, which, could her features have been seen at the moment, would have
embodied a truthful portrait of those of Medea, about to take her flight for
Athens, in her chariot dyed with the gore of her kindred. Intense and bitter
was the momentary feeling of indignation which darkened her cheeks with
red, only to subside, in the next instant, into a more than mortal paleness

In the voyage of the Argonauts, Medea helps their leader Jason acquire the
Golden Fleece by her magic and marries him. Ten years after they seek refuge in
Corinth, however, when Jason deserts her to marry Creusa, daughter of the king of
Corinth, for wealth and power, she slays Creusa and her own two sons in anger, and
returns home to Colchis. Olivia's similarity to Medea represents the self-destruction
of unbridled ambition. Her eye is that of "drooping darkness of the Moorish eye"
(28), and in her heart "all was dark in the future; all gloomy, grievous, and
reproachful in the past" (117). Her dissatisfaction and self-destruction parallel those
of Margaret Cooper, who causes destruction to the pastoral village in Charlemont.
It is to be noted here that just as Margaret's dissatisfaction is exploited by
Warham Sharpe, so Olivia becomes the object of exploitation and incest by her
uncle Balthazar. In Twelfth Night Sir Toby Belch represents a knight who has turned
into a troublesome parasite in the modem manor house, whereas Olivia exercises
her own power as an heir in a noble family. In Vasconselos, by contrast, Balthazar
arrogates the powers to himself and rules over Olivia.
Balthazar bears the same name as one of the three Wise Men who came
from the East to render homage to the birth of Jesus. The Magus celebrates the
Nativity, representing the birth of Christianity. Balthazar of Vasconselos, by
contrasts, rules over Olivia's "happy empire" which is situated on "a gentle
eminence" of "the suburbs of the infant city" with "balm" breathing ever through its
atmosphere (24). He makes Anita, Sylvia and Juana, servants of mixed blood, put
soporifics in her meal and commits incest in the garden of her residence as well as
in her bedroom. Her summer house is portrayed as a paradise and as the Christian
church to which a temple image is given. Hallowed and softened by "the most
blessed of all the angels who take part in the destinies of earth," it turns out to be
the place where Balthazar, who celebrates the Nativity, commits incest with her. The
words "ripe,""lusciously," and "proximity" of the following quotation show that
dissipation contradictory to sacredness exists in this summer house:

It [the summer-house] held a neatly furnished, airy apartment, surrounded
by a colonnade which effectually excluded the sunlight from its floors. It
was surrounded by ample thickets, which added to the shade, and seemed to
give security. It was a sweet solitude, the chosen retreat of contemplation.
Here silence had full empire. A happy succession of small courts and
avenues through the thickets, opening in all directions, gave free admission
to the breeze. These avenues ran through long tracts of the palm, the orange,
the grenadilla, and the anana. Their several fruits, more ore less ripe, hung