BIMBY by Peter Burchard


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Like Jed (1960), this is a historical vignette and a personal revelation, a short, simple narrative with nuances. Because it involves a current preoccupation the refusal of the slave to be a slave, physically or psychologically and because Bimby's transition from acceptance to revulsion and revolt is dramatically telling as well as affecting, this has a larger, more direct potential. The catalyst is old, one-armed Jesse, once boss of all the teamsters on Massa Butler's Sea Island plantations, now his ""clown"" (Jesse's term) and fatherless, mother-cosseted Bimby's friend. On the day of the great picnic for Massa's Savannah friends, Bimby and Jesse row over to St. Simon's in Jesse's boat and innocence crumbles: Jesse warns of an impending all-slave auction, kills himself trying reins in his teeth, whip in his one hand to race Massa Butler's wagon. Bimby, distraught, recognizes the gesture as both assertion and abrogation, demands of his mother the particulars of his father's disappearance, learns that he ran away and was recaptured. So too will be try, with his mother's blessing, in Jesse's boat. More than a black and white confrontation (a cruel, taunting Negro is ""worse than any white man Bimby had known"") and, despite the reference to Fanny Kemble's Georgia journal, more than a footnote to history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1968
Publisher: Coward-McCann