Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> Folk and Fairy Tale Elements in Guy Rivers >> Page 14

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription as more famous Southwestern humorists like Augustus Baldwin Longstreet and
Davy Crockett. Wimsatt argues, however, that Simms's fiction is indebted to
popular culture and oral tradition rather to Longstreet and Crockett.22
The language of tall tales is a part of backwoods humor, but Simms also
includes a portrayal of the backwoods South from a civilized vantage point in
order to contribute to the humor in the novel. His language includes elements
from civilized society as well as the backwoods vernacular of the lower classes.
According to Rayburn S. Moore,
The frontier, then, in Guy Rivers is a mixture of elements ... The frontier is that
land where primitive conditions prevail and where civilization has yet to take
hold. The characters and the language illustrate this mixture of the savage and
the civilized, and Georgia at the time of the novel is "little-settled" and wild,
"doubly wild," according to the narrator.23
Simms's construction of frame narratives is one of the most important
ways that his writings can be linked to Southwestern backwoods humor.
Southwestern humorists "tended, as he did, to portray the backwoods South from
a civilized vantage point by contrasting the language of gentlemen and woodsmen
or by using a frame story dominated by a sophisticated observer to introduce an
inner narrative in which a rustic speaker takes over."24 In Guy Rivers, Ralph
Colleton is the sophisticated observer, and Mark Forrester, Bunce, and various
others are the more rustic speakers. Wimsatt uses the example of the exchange
between Pippin, the "fatuous frontier lawyer," and peddler Bunce to illustrate the
contrast between the sophisticated gentleman and the rustic observer.25
The interchanges between Ralph Colleton and Mark Forrester can also
illustrate the class contrasts that Simms sets up. As Forrester describes Bunce's
trial, he uses vernacular language to set the scene for Colleton, whom he has just
rescued from Guy Rivers. In response to Colleton's question, "And who are the
regulators?" Forrester says:
What! You from Georgy, and never to hear tell of the regulators? Why, that's
the very place, I reckon, where the breed begun. The regulators are jest then,
you see, our own people. We hain't got much law and justice in these pairts, and
when the rascals git too sassy and plentiful, we all turn out; few or many, and
make a business of cleaning out the stables.26
Forrester continues to narrate the story of Bunce's trial and Colleton's reply is in


22 Ibid., p. 149.
23 Moore, Rayburn S., "William Gilmore Simms's Guy Rivers and the Frontier," William Gilmore
Simms and the American Frontier, Ed. John Caldwell Guilds and Caroline Collins, (Athens: The
University of Georgia Press, 1997), p. 60.
24 Wimsatt, p. 149.
25 Ibid., p. 150.
26 Simms, p. 70.
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