Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 2) >> Sentimental and Liberated Heroines: Bess Matthews and Mary Granger in The Yemassee >> Page 35

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Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription destructive to us all" (99). Mary makes the decision to hand over the treaty
against the judgment of the English diplomat. Bellinger makes no move to
continue reproving her. He accepts her wisdom and is secretly glad that the
responsibility for their lives has been taken off of his shoulders (99). This
scene illustrates Mary's predilection for "reckless defiance" and her ability
to act first and later explain her motives. While Bellinger may have thought
that holding to the treaty regardless of native unrest was the noble course of
action, Mary insists that her life and the lives of the members of the
delegation are more important. She steps out of her traditional place as a
woman in order to make the decision and then takes it upon herself to hand
over the treaty for destruction. Only after that bold move, does she then
explain her deed as one calculated to preserve life.
Mary often places herself in situations normally closed off from
women characters. When her husband worries about risking his life on a
scouting trip into Yemassee territory, she steps forward and insists that she
take her husband's place on the mission. She tells Harrison: "If there be
danger, I have no children to feel my want, and it is but my own life, and
even its loss might save many" (227). Unlike Bess, who will be required to
produce offspring in a marriage, Mary is free of children and willing to place
herself in danger not only for her husband, but also for the entire settlement.
Showing admiration and surprise, Harrison replies: "Now, by heaven,
woman, but thou has such a soul — a noble, strong, manly soul, such as
Would shame thousands of the more presumptuous sex" (227). Although
Harrison insists that she must not go and that he will go himself, he praises
her "noble" and "manly" soul. Harrison equates nobility with the masculine
quality of the soul, a quality that Mary definitely has. For Harrison, nobility
comes from strength and bravery. He evinces surprise when these qualities
that he ordinarily would ascribe to males is shown forth from the soul of the
trader's wife. Harrison admits that most men would be shamed by Mary's
willingness to serve. Mary does couch her offer in terms of service to the
community, rather than bravery. As a woman, she wishes to take the
mission to save lives, and she is willing to sacrifice herself for that purpose.
One would find it hard to picture Bess Matthews volunteering for a
dangerous scouting trip.
While Bess becomes a helpless victim of the pirate Chorley, Mary
is fully capable of participating in the men's war deliberations and of
defending herself when the time comes. The narrator explains that much of
Granger's fortune has come through the "genius" of his wife: "She
counselled his enterprises, prompted or persuaded his proceedings, managed
for him wisely and economically; in all respects proved herself unselfish"
(333). As a result of her experiences with "poverty,""privation," and
"suffering," Mary, as an orphan, had "the most trying difficulties ... from
infancy up to womanhood" (332). According to the narrator, these