Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 2) >> Sentimental and Liberated Heroines: Bess Matthews and Mary Granger in The Yemassee >> Page 36

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Page 36

Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription experiences helped her develop into the woman she is: "Her mind grew
strong in proportion to its trials, and she had learned, in. the end, to regard
them with a degree of fearlessness far beyond the capacities of any well-bred
heir of prosperity and favouring fortune" (332-33). Mary's childhood
difficulties prepared her to be a strong-minded woman. Her suffering results
in a fearless spirit that will overcome all obstacles.
When the Block House is in imminent danger and the "Green
Jackets" are in confusion, Mary proves herself an able advisor. She realizes
that she cannot give orders to the men, so she employs a clever ruse of
making the men believe they are coming up with her ideas. The narrator
Knowing that any direct suggestion from a woman, and under circumstances of strife
and trial, would necessarily offend the amour propre of the nobler animal, she
pursued a sort of management which an experienced woman is usually found to
employ as a kind of familiar — a wily little demon, that goes unseen at her bidding,
and does her business like another Ariel, the world all the while knowing nothing
about it. (333)
In this instance, the "experienced woman" becomes useful, but Mary is
"experienced" in two ways. First, she knows how to organize the men for
the coming battle, but she also is aware that she must influence the men
carefully because they will not listen to the advice of women in matters of
war. She takes Wat Grayson, the second-in-command, aside and suggests
"various methods of preparation and defense, certainly the most prudent that
had yet been made" (333). In the end, he accepts the advice under the
impression that "the ideas were properly his own" (333). Mary knows how
to prepare the Block House, but she words her counsel in a manner that
causes Grayson to take "all for granted" as his own ideas. She must bow to
certain conventions, but nonetheless, she can cleverly manipulate them.
Mary may remain upstairs with the women during the attack, but
she is not waiting patiently for the men to protect her. She makes certain
that she has a hatchet for protection, and she discovers a tree leaning against
the top-floor window that can be used as a bridge into the fort. At the
beginning of the engagement with the Yemassees, the ladder to the second-
floor is broken, and the women are alone upstairs, easy prey for the intruders
climbing the tree outside the window. Mary places herself and her hatchet at
the window and closes in hand-to-hand combat with the first Yemassee. He
is pleasantly surprised when he realizes that he is fighting a woman for
control of the hatchet, but he soon realizes that the strength of this woman
exceeds his expectations. Attempting to meet her assailant on his own terms
with the hatchet (reminiscent of the • native tomahawk), Mary loses the
implement and has to fight without a weapon. Simms writes, "But it was a
woman with a man's spirit with whom he contended" (356). Mary is