Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
Contributed by Joslyn Justiniano

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Context

The story in Gone with the Wind is set just before, during, and after the American Civil War, and was one of the most devastating events in American history. The war, which took place between 1861 and 1865, was caused by the growing tension between the North and the South. While the North depended on industrialization and paid labor to run its economy, the South depended on agriculture and unpaid slavery to run the economy.  However, the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was a major cause of concern for the Southerners. Lincoln was a Republican Northerner, and the Southerners felt that the new president would seek to interfere with their slave trade. As a result, seven states from the South withdrew from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. In 1861, there was an attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and the attack necessitated four more states to withdraw from the Union and join the Confederates. This turn of events marked the beginning of the American Civil War.

During the war, both men and women from both the North and the South volunteered to help fight for their ideals. However, in Gone with the Wind, the author has presented that the only ideals worth fighting for are the Southern ones. During the war, soldiers engaged themselves in a gruesome battle that left more than 62,000 soldiers dead as a result of gunshot wounds or diseases. As the war progressed, the issue of slavery continued to be an incredibly divisive issue. The Southerners believed in slavery as a legitimate source of labor, while the Northerners denounced it. In the south, while men were at war fighting against the Northerners, women were left to manage the domestic responsibilities, while at the same time attending to the firms together with the slaves. Ultimately, The Emancipation Declaration, which Lincoln signed in 1863, abolished slavery.

General Robert E. Lee was the leader of the South in the battle, the individual who had an unwavering belief that the South had the right to secede and take charge of its own affairs. The fortunes and any apparent victory that the South had started claiming were thwarted by the signing of the Emancipation Declaration. With the news of the signing, the soldiers from the North were rejuvenated, and subsequently remobilized and attacked the South. The momentum that the North gained allowed them to vanquish the opposing party, on both horse and foot, leaving a horrible trail of destruction.

The Reconstruction and Social changes

Reconstruction was a period of rebuilding or repairing the physical, social, and political aspects of the South, which had suffered immensely as a result of the war. Much of the novel is focused on the reconstruction period where it provides details of the unsettlement that characterized the period. Reconstruction was driven by the national government, which — justifiably — did not trust the Southern states. The government needed state and neighboring governments that consisted of individuals without old loyalties to the slavery or Confederate groups. Eventually, new groups started emerging: purported carpetbaggers, frauds, and liberated slaves. To Southerners, the carpetbaggers were Northerners who had come to exploit the post-war confusion. Rapscallions were Southerners who worked together with carpetbaggers and the federal government; Knaves were the poor whites who never had any slaves to lose; or Southerners who had been incognito Union sympathizers all through the American Civil War era.

Some African Americans experienced tremendous gains during the reconstruction — besides the freedom, some got their own ranches, and African Americans were chosen to public office for the first time. Others progressed toward becoming paid servants for the same families they had worked for prior to the war, with seemingly little change in status. A few slaves at Tara, the O’Hara’s estate in Gone with the Wind, remained on as workers.

Numerous Southern whites were of the idea of the new social structure (or order) was a devaluation of their race. The Ku Klux Klan — or KKK, or simply referred to as Klan — framed in the 1860s and turned into the arm of race brutality all through the latter parts of the nineteenth century and beyond. Even today, the Klan is still in political activity. The KKK’s point was to reestablish the pre–Civil War social status and order. Numerous Northerners were stunned by the Klan’s operations and considered it to be proof that the South did not generally learn from the war.

Race Relations in ‘Gone with the Wind’

As a Southerner with a grandfather who battled on the side of the Confederates in the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell endeavors to portray the acts of slavery and commercial ownership of slaves in the most favorable light. In the novel, slaves are often beaten, and none is said of the harrowing rape cases, killings, or any acts of violence that some slaves in the South experienced in the hands of the their owners. To some degree, Mitchell could legitimize this failure based on the facts surrounding her story. Young ladies like Scarlett O’Hara were generally protected from the vicious aspects that were associated with slave ownership, and Gerald, Scarlett’s dad, appears in the narration as a kindhearted man and not the sort of individual to beat anybody without any prominent cause.

Mitchell additionally tends to utilize the “magic negro” idea, especially with reference to characters such as Mammy. The “magic negro” idea regularly shows up in fiction works by white writers; this character makes a difference for the writers and they are used to indicate or further the white’s primary character, exhibiting unwavering persistence and astuteness. Mammy exhibits support and watches over Scarlett. Moreover, she never addresses her subservient part, even when she ultimately gets her freedom. Other recognized “magic negroes” include Uncle Tom, a character from the 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was authored by Harriet Beecher Stowe and has been associated with setting the pace for the American Civil War, and Uncle Remus, the title character that appears in the collection of folktales by Joel Chandler Harris.

Reflection of Life in the 1930s

Mitchell created Gone with the Wind at the apex of the Great Depression (1929–39), a time when it was estimated that twenty-five percent of the American public was jobless. In spite of the fact that the book is set in a past period, Mitchell was especially impacted by the time in which she composed it. The concept of survival — or, as Mitchell calls it, “gumption” — and the remaking of one’s life from scratch, just as Scarlett O’Hara does, was well known in the 1930s. A significant number of people lost everything they owned as a result of an economic slump occasioned by the Great Depression. Individuals who opposed President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives (1933–39), to help those in dire need of assistance, were especially attracted to accounts of the individuals who managed help themselves such as Scarlett.

Gone with the Wind has also borrowed heavily from some of the dominant entertainment trends in the 1930s. Films from this period frequently communicated the message that money is not capable of buying happiness, and indicated rich individuals as detestable or untrustworthy. The films additionally started investigating new thoughts regarding ladies and their capacity to run a business or work to cater for themselves. Indeed, even before it turned into a film, Gone with the Wind had, in the 1930s, created a movie heroine in the form of Scarlett’s.

Language use

Gone with the Wind’s language use mirrors the period in which the novel is established: the American Civil War era and Reconstruction periods, specifically in the South. During the period when Mitchell composed the novel, in the 1930s, a lot of people used terminologies, words and names that are considered to be unacceptable in present society:

  • Negro was considered to be a soft and polite terminology referring to an African American individual. It originates from Latin, French, and Spanish words signifying “dark”.
  • Darky was more easygoing, yet not really interpreted to be as inconsiderate or dehumanizing at the time.
  • Nigger, on the other hand, was straightforwardly and personally considered to be insulting, as well as annoying. Contrarily, an African American may allude to another African American individual as a nigger. In spite of these issues, the novel is brimming with such language use, and it shows an absence of respect for the persons in question.

Mitchell uses very broad dialect for the speech of slaves, such as Mammy’s. This practice partially reflects the reality that slaves often spoke in styles that were different from their white masters, yet these differences are greatly exaggerated and stereotypical. The differences tend to imply that African Americans were less intelligent than whites. Mitchell’s utilization of expansive language may have been more impacted by blackface entertainers than by African American speech or language use patterns. Blackface minstrel shows and concerts were always performed by white performers who changed their skin color, and performed musical tunes and moves or told jokes in an expected — and, to a great extent, stereotyped — African American style. Thus, from these facts, there is evidence that the writer is attempting to promote white supremacy.

Mitchell has also made an effort to present several ideas that distinguished white Southerners as having created various social classes, particularly cracker and poor whites. The growers, or ranch proprietors, were the wealthiest Southerners with the best social standing. Scarlett’s dad (Gerald), the Tarleton family; and the Wilkes family are examples cases of the planter class. Crackers were white agriculturists who had little homesteads and had claimed fewer slaves. Poor whites, for example, the Slattery family, claimed no slaves and were made to pick their own cotton and tend their homesteads without the help of slaves. The characters are repeatedly cast into these classes in the exceptionally-divided Old South.

Author Biography

Margaret Mitchell was born on November 8th, 1900 in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time of her birth, her father was serving as a legal advisor and leader of the Atlanta Chronicled Society, while her mother was a women’s rights advocate who touched on issues including the privilege to vote. Both parents originated from a large group of families of Irish descent who had grown to become wealthy and recognizable in Atlanta’s social life. As a kid, Mitchell wanted to make up stories and subsequently composed many of them. She heard numerous tales about the American Civil War frequently from close, elderly relatives who have survived it.

In the late spring of 1918, Mitchell cleared studies from Washington Theological School and met Clifford Henry at a dance for World War I servicemen, who had been seconded in the region. While the two were engaged early, Henry was sent abroad to fight in France where he was later killed on the battlefield after driving his men in an encounter. For the entire life that she lived after his death, Mitchell viewed him as her most memorable lost love, yet not in an especially enthusiastic sense. He is frequently thought of as the model for Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. In the interim, Mitchell started attending studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After four months, her mother succumbed to the flu scourge that had claimed many lives during the time, just a day before Mitchell could arrive to be with her by her bedside. Mitchell completed her first year of school and decided to return home, where she took part in debutante season, a progression of ceremonies that were aimed at introducing young ladies into society. Amid this period, she met Berrien Kinnard Upshaw, who was from a well-to-do family in North Carolina, and the two got married in 1922. However, the union did not last long. After just four months, it emerged that Upshaw was an alcoholic and a violent individual, which led to the marriage’s immediate dissolution.

In that same year, Mitchell landed a position as a writer for the Atlanta Diary Sunday Magazine, where she composed in excess of 100 political, as well as social, articles for the paper during the time as part of their staff. In 1925 she wedded John Robert Marsh, the man who had acted as her husband’s best man during her first marriage. Things were going great both in a personal and professional sense until Mitchell broke her leg in the following year; the accident was so severe that her position at the magazine became untenable, which led her to reluctantly quit. She cleared out and took a much-needed bed rest. Through the encouragement from her husband, who brought her a typewriter, Mitchell had time to begin writing a novel which she described as “the great American novel”, which would end up being Gone with the Wind. She started by composing the last part, and subsequently composed others irregularly. She completed the majority of the book by 1929, and the completed work was published in 1936 after she consented to a couple of the publisher’s requests for alterations or changes. (for example, the reordering of a few chapters, and changing the principal character’s name from Pansy Hamilton — the name used through the early eight drafts — to Scarlett O’Hara).

Inside a year of the novel’s publication, it sold in excess of a million copies, and Mitchell won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A film adaptation of the novel debuted in Atlanta in 1939, which featured Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. The individuals would later be associated and recognized by many for these characters. For the role she played as Mammy, Hattie McDaniel won the initial Oscar granted to an African American. The film, likewise, won the Best Picture Oscar and remained a standout amongst one of the most well-known movies ever.

After Gone with the Wind, Mitchell never had room, schedule-wise, to compose another novel. At the height World War II (1939–45), she served effectively in the American Red Cross. On August 11, 1949, she was hit by a speeding car as she crossed a road, and passed away five days later. She was laid to rest in Atlanta and remains as one of the city’s most popular figures.

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