The 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 don’t 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 Ann’s hand in marriage, because he has no capital, they meet in the forest outside of Mary Ann’s home she tells Sam “I’ll 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 Webster’s 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 you’ve been a-saying is jest nothing but the naked truth as I know it.”(426) Sam’s reply is “And how’s a man to lie decently onless you lets him hev a bit of truth to go upon? The truth’s nothing but a peg in the wall that I hangs the lie upon.”(426) Sam’s story of how he got the ‘capital’ is amazing and just to show how big it grew, here’s a description of the total capital Sam got, “From the b’ar . . . 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 Ann’s father asked Sam’s horse if Sam had any capital and the horse told Jeff Hopson, Mary Ann’s father, “Look at me! I hain’t 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 on’em”(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...