THE MANY THEMES OF HOW SHARP SNAFFLES GOT HIS CAPITAL AND WIFE
Romance, The Big Lie, humor, and Moral, How Sharp Snaffles got his Capital and Wife contains all of these in a wonderfully written story by William Gilmore Simms. Sit back and enjoy a potation(423) from a corpulent barrel of Western uisquebaugh (422) while I argue my truths or is that Lie.
This romantic story is about the trails and tribulations Sam Snaffles endured to capture the affections of Mary Ann Hopson. Sam describes Mary Ann as , and so all over beautiful! O Lawd! When I thinks of it and them times, I dont see how twas possible to think of buck-hunting when thar was sich a doe, with sich eyes shining me on! (426) After Sam is denied Mary Anns hand in marriage, because he has no capital, they meet in the forest outside of Mary Anns home she tells Sam Ill be true to you, Sam. I loves nobody in all the world so much as I loves you(434) Sam gets the capital needed to satisfy her father and marry his true love in the end.
The Websters definition of Big Lie is a deliberate gross distortion of the truth used especially as a propaganda tactic and this is well illustrated in the story. The story opens at the end of a week of hunting and the group is sitting around the fire awaiting The Lying Camp! The main character Sam Snaffles is requested to tell the story of how he found Capital so he could marry his true love, Mary Ann Hopson. As Sam begins his story he is called down by the Big Lie saying, All youve been a-saying is jest nothing but the naked truth as I know it.(426) Sams reply is And hows a man to lie decently onless you lets him hev a bit of truth to go upon? The truths nothing but a peg in the wall that I hangs the lie upon.(426) Sams story of how he got the capital is amazing and just to show how big it grew, heres a description of the total capital Sam got, From the bar . . . First, thar waur the hide, $20; then 450 pounds of meat, at 10 cents, was $45; then the grease, 14 pounds, $14; and the tallow, some $6 more; and the biled marrow, $11. The geese 2700 wild-geese, at 50 cents, you sees, must be more than $1350. The honey got something over two thousand gallons of the purest, sweetest, yellowest honey you ever did see.
Humor is located throughout this story. One of my favorite parts is when Mary Anns father asked Sams horse if Sam had any capital and the horse told Jeff Hopson, Mary Anns father, Look at me! I haint got an ounce of spar flesh on my bones. You can count all my ribs. You kin lay the whole length of your airm betwixt any two onem(432) Later after Jeff Hopson has finished telling Sam how worthless he really is Sam went back outside to leave on his horse; But, afore I mounted the beast, I gin him a dozen kicks in the ribs, jest for bearing his testimony agin me. At the end is another good example of humor, Sam tells the group of hunters that he and his wife Mary Ann have been happy for thirteen years and have thirty-six children. This caused the Judge to tell Sam this was an obvious lie and Sam explained:
But youve only got to do the ciphering for yourself. Here, now, Jedge, look at it. Count for yourself. First we had three gal children, you see. Very well! Put down three. Then we had six boys, one every year for four years; and then, the fifth year, Merry Ann throwed duce. Now put down the six boys ater the three gals, and you ef that dont make thirty-six, thars no snakes in all Flurriday! (465)
How Sharp Snaffles got his capital and wife has a moral to this story thats comes to you only at the end. You are so caught up in the outrageousness of the tale that you almost miss one of the oldest morals around never judge a book by its cover, observe the person for whom they really are and not what your eyes say you see. It begins when he was a young man and madly in love with Mary Ann Hopson. When Sam goes to Jeff Hopson, Mary Anns father, to ask for her hand in marriage, Jeff tells Sharp You may think, in your vanity, that you air a man; but you aint, and never will be, onless you kin find a way to git capital; and I loves my gal child too much to let her marry any pusson whom I dont altogether consider a man! (433) Heart broken Sam goes home and in a dream receives hope that he will find his capital and win the hand of Mary Ann. Sam goes out and finds his capital. When Sam returned the mule and cart he had borrowed to collect all his capital, he asked about a farm Columbus Mills owned and asked to buy it. Mr. Mills sold the farm to Sam cheap then we learn something about Mary Anns father, Jeff Hopson,
You see, when I was a-trading with Columbus Mills about the fairm and cattle and other things, I ups and tells him about my courting of Merry Ann; and when I telled him about Squaire Hopsons talk about capital, he says:
The old skunk! What right hes he to be talking big so, when he kaint pay his own debts. Hes been owing me three hundred and fifty dollars now gwine on three years, and I kaint git even the interest out of him. Ive got a mortage on his farm for the whole, and ef he wont let you hev his dater, jest you come to me, and Ill clap the screws to him in short order.(451)
Sam brought the mortgage from Columbus Mills and made his plan to get his revenge. Sam confronted Jeff Hopson with the mortgage and told him he was there to collect the money or throw Jeff Hopsons family out. Sam told him he was to be wed that night and he needed the farm for his new wife. Jeff wanted to know how Sam came to have this much money and Sam would not tell, only that he was to be married that night and he needed the farm. Sam then showed all the money he had to Jeff and reminded Jeff that he was to be married on that very night and needed an answer. Jeff pleaded, saying if Sam had really loved his daughter, he would not kick them off their farm and how could he marry some else. Sam asked Jeff to stand and look in the mirror and asked him what he saw:
that wont edzactly do. I tell you now, look good, and ax yourself ef youre the sawt of looking man that hes any right to be feyther-in-law to a fine, young, handsome-looking fellow like me, whats got the capital?
Then he laughed out at the humor of the situation; and he says, Well, Sam Snaffles, youve got me dead this time. Youre a different man from what I thought you. But, Sam, youll confess, I reckon, that ef I hednt sent you off with a flea in your ear when I hed you up afore the looking-glass, youd never ha gone to work to git the capital.(461)
This is a humorous story that tells of romance and gives us a lesson in life and full of honesty (lies). This merging of all these themes has created a wonderful story that will make me read more of William Gilmore Simms stories. I wonder what Bald Head Billy Baldly did during the Flurriday War?
Simms, William Gilmore. How Sharp Snaffles got his Capital and Wife. The Writings of William Gilmore Simms Vol V Stories and Tales. Columbia, SC: Guilds, John C. 1st ed. University South Carolina Press, 1974.
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