Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> Folk and Fairy Tale Elements in Guy Rivers >> Page 13

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription whiz, nor strike, nor do nothing." Bunce responds: "As for its striking thirty-one,
that indeed is something remarkable, for I never heard one of mine strike more
than twelve, and that's zactly the number they're regulated to strike."17 The
language Simms uses during this portion of the novel contributes to the feeling of
the frontier as well as the tall tale motif. The repetition of "whiz," for instance,
helps the reader to envision the story and the speaker. Even though Bunce is a
Yankee, he uses words like "zactly," which also contribute to the backwoods feel
of the story. Once again demonstrating the shrewdness of the archetypal Yankee,
Bunce's rhetorical skill eventually helps him to escape from the villagers. He
argues:
Well, lawyer, it stands to reason I can't answer for that. The tin wares I sell
stand well enough in a northern climate: there may be some difference in yours
that I can't account for; and I guess, pretty much, there is. Now, your people are
a mighty hot-tempered people, and take a fight for breakfast, and make three
meals a day out of it: now we in the north have no stomach for such fare; so here,
now, as far as I can see, your climate takes pretty much after the people, and if
so, it's no wonder that solder can't stand it. Who knows, again, but you boil
your water quite too hot?18
The people respond to Bunce's outlandish speech: "I tell you what, peddler, we
are more likely to put you in hot water than try any more of your ware in that
way."19 The tall tales and humorous hyperbole later contribute to the folksy feel
of the novel. As Colleton flees from Rivers and Munro, he comes across a camp
in the woods. In the camp, he discovers a man who is immigrating to the
Mississippi valley. He tells Ralph that an education will provide him with
valuable skills: "I tell you, friend, there's nothing like sich an edication." In fact,
this education can help a man do unbelievable things: "I could make my bread
where these same Indians wouldn't find the skin of a hoe-cake; and in these
woods, or in the middle of the sea, t'ant anything for me to say I can always fish
up some notion that will sell in the market."20 The traveler also uses phrases like
"splice my spokes" and "wet our whistles," phrases that are still used today.
Another of the . folk elements in Guy Rivers is backwoods humor.
According to Mary Ann Wimsatt, Simms "is not ordinarily viewed as a humorous
writer. Yet he is actually one of the major creators of comedy in the era." 21
Wimsatt writes that Simms began to write humorous fiction about the same time




17 Ibid., p. 77.
18 Ibid., p. 79.
19 Ibid., p. 80.
20 Ibid., p. 316.
21 Wimsatt, Mary Ann, "The Evolution of Simms's Backwoods Humor,""Long Years ofNeglect":
The Work and Reputation of William Gilmore Simms, Ed. John Caldwell Guilds, (Fayetteville: The
University of Arkansas Press, 1988), p. 148.

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