Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> The Significance of Simms's First Long Poem >> Page 20

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 20

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 20 THE SIMMS REVIEW

and leader in his community. As a friend and neighbor, she is generous
without being extravagant. She possesses tact as well as good business
sense. She is firm, but not rash. She has one thing else that Porgy lacks,
and that is a child. Her son Arthur in the world of this novel represents the
hope for the future. Being of good family, and having both courage and
intelligence, Arthur will have to shoulder the heaviest responsibilities of
his part of the world when he is a man. Yet, because his father is dead, he
has not had a proper male figure to model himself on. Despite her many
fine qualities, his mother cannot be both parents to him. It is abundantly
clear that he probably should not model himself on the salient points of
Porgy's character.
So the appearance of Pinckney here assumes some great impor-
tance. It is not Pinckney the soldier, but Pinckney the diplomat, the just
citizen, the man of peace, the magistrate devoted to the reestablish-
ment of the law, who is concerned that even the reprehensible criminal
Bostwick not be punished except by due process, that Simms has waited
so long to evoke, and depicts so tellingly at a crucial time here near the
end of Woodcraft, thus bringing the Revolutionary series to its fitting
Simms portrays Porgy with enormous sympathy and even affec-
tion, as, indeed, he portrays the whole society of his native Carolina at
this period of her history. But Simms is very far from being a sentimen-
talist. Porgy's weaknesses and limitations are obvious, and he is a much
better and more interesting fictional character because of his complex-
ity, just as the whole substance of the Revolutionary novels is of more
enduring interest and dramatic value through Simms's insistence upon
the complex mixture of good and evil, worthwhile and worthless, at
every level of the society that he depicts. And the faults and limitations
of both Porgy and his society are given dramatic point and emphasis by
the appearance of the exemplary figure of Pinckney at this key point in
Simms's long chronicle of war and its aftermath.
To sum up: Simms's treatment of Pinckney in Monody shows
some technical ability as a poet, and a lot of reading. His use of Pinckney
in Woodcraft, on the other hand, is artistically quite successful—in a
carefully wrought and highly significant episode in what may well be the
best of his novels. Pinckney is exemplary, and therefore can appear only
briefly; but still, it is in this flesh-and-blood dramatic characterization in
Woodcraft, not in the stylized neoclassical personification of the Monody,
that Simms pays his best tribute to the greatness of the man.