Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> The Psychological Concept of Monomania in Simms and Gogol >> Page 2

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription law; though it was only Simms who successfully used his advocate experience in
his literary career. While practicing liw, Simms by the end of the 1820s had
collected precious material in the criminal sphere and investigated the
psychological behavior of the criminals and their victims, which stimulated his
imagination and afterwards determined literary portraits of his heroes. As J. C.
Guilds acknowledges, Simms's Martin Faber should be considered "one of
America's first fictional studies of the psychology of crime."2 In other words,
Simms was a brave pathfinder in the sphere of criminal psychology, and "criminal
action was conceded the reason for the profound exploration of the individual's
conscious and syche."3 In his preface to Confession,- or the Blind Heart: A
Domestic Story 4 Simms regrets that his audience was not prepared for fiction
devoted to brave adventures but to concealed passions of the blind heart.
Nevertheless he continues his psychological experiments.
The range of mental states and emotions that Simms depicts in his
romances, and especially in his famous The Wigwam and the Cabin, is extremely
wide: jealousy and hatred in "The Giant's Coffin; or the Feud of Holt and
Houston"; gambling and temptation in "The Last Wager, or the Gamester of the
Mississippi"; seduction and treachery in "The Snake of the Cabin"; vindictiveness
and passionate love on the verge of insanity in "Sergeant Barnacle; or, the
Raftsman of the Edisto." Simms creates extraordinary personalities: violent
lunatics and mentally defective individuals suffering from delirium or
While creating "bold" literary characters, Simms singles out his
protagonists' monomania in order to reveal the motives behind human action.
Monomania can be defined as the unhealthy mental state with heightened
sensibility forming excited moods that might develop maniacal depression. As a
literary device monomania is the characteristic feature of Moliere's classical
drama. The principle difference between Simms's characters and Moliere's
dramatic heroes lies in the writers' ideas of development of monomania.
Moliere's miser has no dynamics, while Simms's heroes, overwhelmed with their
monomania, are step by step losing their positive features till they are absolutely
destroyed. Concealed in the unconscious, monomania inevitably becomes
implanted in the individual's heart. It then grows till it fatally ruins the captivated
human soul.
In his address to "a young group of collegians" at the University of
Alabama on 13 December 1842, Simms tried to reveal the disastrous effect of
passions on human nature and to prevent it: "We must moderate our desires --
restrain our impatience." 5

2 Guilds, J. C., Simms: A Literary Life (Univ. of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 1992), p. 49.
3 Morozkina, E. A., The Formation of /he "Southern" Novel in American Literature: W. G. Simms
and His Works (Ufa: Bashkir Univ. Press, 1997), p. 122.
4 Simms, Confession; or the Blind Heart: A Domestic Story (New York: WiddIeton, 1885), p. 8
5 Kibler, J. E., Our Fathers ' Fields: A Southern Story (Columbia: University of South Carolina,
1998), pp. 199, 422.