|Publisher||Macmillan Publishers (United States)|
|June 30, 1936|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||1037 (first edition)|
1024 (Warner Books paperback)
Rhett Butler's People
Gone with the Wind is a novel by American writer Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County and Atlanta, both in Georgia, during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty following Sherman's destructive "March to the Sea". This historical novel features a coming-of-age story, with the title taken from the poem "Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae", written by Ernest Dowson.
Gone with the Wind was popular with American readers from the outset and was the top American fiction bestseller in 1936 and 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide.
Gone with the Wind is a controversial reference point for subsequent writers of the South, both black and white. Scholars at American universities refer to, interpret, and study it in their writings. The novel has been absorbed into American popular culture.
Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the book in 1937. It was adapted into the 1939 film of the same name, which has been considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made and also received the Academy Award for Best Picture during the 12th annual Academy Awards ceremony. Gone with the Wind is the only novel by Mitchell published during her lifetime.
Gone with the Wind takes place in the state of Georgia during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877). The novel opens on the eve of a rebellion in which seven southern states - including Georgia - declared their secession from the United States (the "Union") over a desire to continue the institution of slavery, which was the economic engine of the South. The story begins on April 15, 1861, on a plantation owned by the family of wealthy Irish immigrant Gerald O'Hara. The oldest of the three O'Hara daughters, 16-year-old Scarlett is willful, witty, and intelligent though uninterested in schooling. She is described in the book's opening sentence as "not beautiful" but in possession of a powerful ability to charm and attract men.
Scarlett is dismayed to learn that the man for whom she harbors a secret love, her county neighbor Ashley Wilkes, is set to announce his engagement to his cousin Melanie Hamilton. The next day, the Wilkeses throw an all-day party at their estate ("Twelve Oaks") where Scarlett spies a dark stranger leering at her. She learns that this man is Rhett Butler and that he has a reputation for seducing young women. Throughout the day, Scarlett attempts to turn Ashley's head by flirting shamelessly with every man present, including Melanie's brother Charles. In the afternoon Scarlett finally gets Ashley alone and confesses her love for him, convinced he will return it, but he says only that he cares for her as a friend and intends to marry Melanie. Stung, Scarlett reacts badly, pelting Ashley with insults about himself and Melanie and accusing him of being too cowardly to submit to his real feelings for her. As Ashley departs, Rhett Butler reveals himself from his hiding place in the library - he has overheard their whole exchange. A humiliated Scarlett claims that he is "not a gentleman", to which he admiringly replies "And you are not a lady".
After rejoining the other party guests, Scarlett learns that war has been declared and the men are going to enlist. Feeling petty and vengeful, Scarlett accepts a marriage proposal from Melanie's brother, Charles Hamilton. They marry two weeks later, Charles goes to war, and then he promptly dies of measles only two months later. Scarlett later gives birth to his child, Wade Hampton Hamilton. As a widow, she is bound to dye her dresses black, wear a veil in public, and avoid conversations with young men. Scarlett mourns the loss of her youth, though not the husband she barely knew, and rues her hasty decision to marry Charles.
Melanie is living in Atlanta with her Aunt Sarah Jane, who is largely called by her childhood nickname "Pittypat". Scarlett's mother, mistaking Scarlett's depression at having lost her status as a belle for grief at having lost her husband, suggests that living with Melanie and Pittypat in Atlanta might lift her spirits. After moving to Atlanta, Scarlett's spirit is revived by the energy and excitement of living in a growing city. She busies herself with hospital work and sewing circles for the Confederate Army, although her heart isn't in it - she does these things mostly to avoid being gossiped about by the other women of Atlanta society. Additionally, she believes that her efforts may aid Ashley, with whom she is still deeply in love.
Scarlett is mortified when she runs into Rhett Butler, whom she hasn't seen since her humiliation at Twelve Oaks, while manning a sales stall at a public dance benefiting the troops. Rhett believes the war is a lost cause but is becoming rich as a blockade runner for profit. Rhett sees through Scarlett's "lady in mourning" disguise and recognizes her longing to dance with the other young people, so he bids a large amount of gold to win the honor of leading the first dance and chooses Scarlett as his partner. Scarlett scandalizes the city by dancing joyfully while still dressed in widow's mourning. Her reputation is saved by intervention from Melanie, who is now her sister-in-law and highly respected in Atlanta. Melanie argues that Scarlett is supporting the Confederate cause. Scarlett continues to act recklessly, flirting and going on dates while still in widow's clothes, but is continually protected by Melanie's endorsement. She spends much of her time with Rhett Butler. Rhett's sexual attraction to Scarlett is ever-present, and at one point he enrages her with a silky proposition she become his mistress. Still, she appreciates Rhett for his money, his sophistication, and their shared irritation with the hypocrisy of Atlanta society.
At Christmas (1863), Ashley is granted a furlough from the army and visits the women in Atlanta. Scarlett struggles to restrain her feelings for him and to remember that he is someone else's husband. She remains convinced that he is secretly in love with her and that he remains married to Melanie out of duty. Scarlett is heartbroken when Melanie becomes pregnant with Ashley's child.
The war is going badly for the Confederacy. By September 1864, Atlanta is besieged from three sides. The city becomes desperate as hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers pour in. Melanie goes into labor with only the inexperienced Scarlett and a young slave named Prissy to assist, as all the trained doctors are attending to the soldiers. Scarlett - left to fend for herself and forced to serve as Melanie's midwife - cries for the comfort and safety of her mother and of Tara. The tattered Confederate States Army sets flame to Atlanta before they abandon it to the Union Army. Amidst the chaos, Melanie gives birth to a boy, Beau.
Scarlett tracks down Rhett and begs him to take her, Wade, Melanie, Beau, and Prissy to Tara. Rhett laughs at this idea, explaining that Tara has likely been burned by the Yankees, but still steals an emaciated horse and a small wagon and begins driving the party out of Atlanta. At the edge of the city, Rhett announces that he has had a change of heart and is abandoning Scarlett to join the army in their final, doomed push. Scarlett drives the wagon to Tara, where she is relieved to see that Tara has avoided being burned like so many of her neighbors' homes. However, the situation is bleak: Scarlett's mother is dead, her father has lost his mind with grief, her sisters are sick with typhoid fever, the field slaves have left, the Yankees have burned all the cotton, and there is no food in the house.
The long and tiring struggle for survival begins, with Scarlett working in the fields. There are several hungry people and animals, along with an ever-present threat from Yankees who steal or burn what little they can find. At one point, Scarlett kills a Yankee soldier who attempts to invade her home and buries his body in the garden. A long post-war succession of Confederate soldiers returning home stop at Tara to find food and rest. Eventually, Ashley returns from the war, with his idealistic view of the world shattered. Finding themselves alone one day, he and Scarlett share a passionate kiss in the fields, after which he declares that he can't trust himself with her and that he intends to move his family to New York to get away from her.
Life at Tara slowly begins to recover, but exorbitant taxes are levied on the plantation. Scarlett knows only one man with enough money to help her - Rhett Butler. She puts on her only pretty dress, looks for him in Atlanta, and finds him in jail. Although she nearly wins him over with a southern belle routine, he declines to help when he realizes her sweetness is an act meant to get at his money. Leaving the jailhouse in a snit, Scarlett meets Frank Kennedy, a middle-aged Atlanta storeowner who is betrothed to Scarlett's sister, Suellen. Realizing that Frank also has money and that Suellen will turn her back on Tara once she is married, Scarlett hatches a plot to marry Frank. She lies to Frank that Suellen has changed her mind about marrying him. Dazed, Frank succumbs to Scarlett's charms and marries her two weeks later, knowing he has done "something romantic and exciting for the first time in his life." Wanting to keep his pretty young wife happy, Frank gives Scarlett the money to pay the taxes.
While Frank has a cold and is pampered by Aunt Pittypat, Scarlett goes over the accounts at Frank's store and finds that many owe him money. Terrified of the possibility of more taxes and irritated with Frank's poor business sense, she takes control of the store; her business practices emasculate Frank and leave many Atlantans resentful of her. With a loan from Rhett, she also buys and runs a small sawmill, which is viewed as even more scandalous conduct. To Frank's relief and Scarlett's dismay, Scarlett learns she is pregnant, which curtails her business activities for a while. She convinces Ashley to come to Atlanta and manage her mill, all the while still in love with him. At Melanie's urging and with great trepidation, Ashley accepts. Melanie becomes the center of Atlanta society, and Scarlett gives birth to a girl, Ella Lorena.
Georgia is under martial law, and life has taken on a new and more frightening tone. For protection, Scarlett keeps Frank's pistol tucked in the upholstery of his buggy. Her lone trips to and from the mill take her past a shanty town where criminals live. While on her way home one evening, she is accosted by two men who try to rob her, but she escapes with the help of Big Sam, a black former foreman from Tara. Attempting to avenge his wife, Frank and the Ku Klux Klan raid the shanty town, where Frank is shot dead in the fracas. Rhett puts on a charade to keep the raiders from being arrested. He enters the Wilkeses' home with Hugh Elsing and Ashley, singing and pretending to be drunk. Yankee officers outside question Rhett and he says he and the other men had been at Belle Watling's brothel that evening, a story Belle later confirms to the officers. The men are indebted to Rhett, and his reputation among them improves somewhat, but the men's wives - except Melanie - are livid at owing their husbands' lives to the town madame. Later, at Frank's funeral, Rhett asks Scarlett to marry him. When she says she doesn't love him and has no desire to marry again, he gleefully proclaims that he does not love her either, but that he's always wanted her and that the only way he will have her is to marry her. He kisses her passionately, and in the heat of the moment, she accepts. One year later, Scarlett and Rhett announce their engagement, which becomes the talk of the town.
Mr. and Mrs. Butler honeymoon in New Orleans, spending lavishly. Upon returning to Atlanta, the couple build a gaudy new mansion on Peachtree Street. Rhett happily pays for the house to be built to Scarlett's specifications, but describes it as an "architectural horror". Shortly after moving into the house, the sardonic jabs between them turn into quarrels. Scarlett wonders why Rhett married her and then, "with real hate in her eyes", tells Rhett she is going to have a baby, which she does not want. Wade is seven years old in 1869 when his half-sister Eugenie Victoria, is born. She has blue eyes like Gerald O'Hara, and Melanie nicknames her "Bonnie Blue" in reference to the Bonnie Blue Flag of the Confederacy. When Scarlett is feeling well again, she makes a trip to the mill and talks to Ashley, who is alone in the office. In their conversation, she comes away believing Ashley still loves her and is jealous of her intimate relations with Rhett. She returns home and tells Rhett she does not want more children. From then on, they sleep separately, and when Bonnie is two years old, she sleeps in a little bed beside Rhett. Rhett turns his attention completely toward Bonnie, pampering her and working to ensure her a good reputation for when she enters society.
Melanie plans a surprise birthday party for Ashley. Scarlett goes to the mill to stall Ashley there until the celebration - a rare opportunity to be alone together. Ashley tells her how pretty she looks, and they reminisce about the old days and how far their lives have departed from what they imagined for themselves. They share an innocent embrace but are spotted in the moment by Ashley's sister, India. Before the party has even begun, a rumor of an affair between Ashley and Scarlett explodes across Atlanta, eventually reaching Rhett and Melanie. Melanie refuses to accept any criticism of Scarlett, and India is expelled from the Wilkes home. Rhett, drunker than Scarlett has ever seen him, returns home from the party long after Scarlett. His eyes are bloodshot, and his mood is dark and violent. He enjoins Scarlett to drink with him, but she declines with deliberate rudeness. However, Rhett pins her to the wall and tells her they could have been happy together. He then takes her in his arms and carries her up the stairs to her bedroom, where they engage in an intercourse. The next morning, a chagrined Rhett leaves town with Bonnie and Prissy for three months. Scarlett is uncertain about her feelings surrounding Rhett, for whom she feels a mixture of desire and revulsion, and she learns she is pregnant with her fourth child.
When Rhett returns, Scarlett is strangely happy for his return. Rhett comments on her paleness, and Scarlett tells him that she is pregnant. Rhett sarcastically asks if the father is Ashley; Scarlett calls him a cad and says that no woman would want his baby, to which he replies, "Cheer up, maybe you'll have a miscarriage." She lunges at him, but misses and tumbles down the stairs. She is seriously ill for the first time in her life, having lost the baby and broken her ribs. Rhett is wildly remorseful and fears Scarlett will die. Sobbing and drunk, he seeks consolation from Melanie and confesses that he acted horribly out of jealousy about Ashley. Scarlett goes to Tara with Wade and Ella, seeking to regain her strength and vitality from "the green cotton fields of home." When she returns healthy to Atlanta, she sells the mills to Ashley. Bonnie is four years old in 1873. Spirited and willful, she has her father wrapped around her finger, and Atlanta society is charmed by Rhett's transformation from scandalous playboy to doting father. Rhett buys Bonnie a Shetland pony, teaching her to ride sidesaddle and paying a trainer to teach the pony to jump. One day, Bonnie asks her father to raise the bar to one-and-a-half feet. He gives in, warning her not to come crying if she falls. During the jump, Bonnie falls and dies of a broken neck.
In the dark days and months following Bonnie's death, Rhett is often drunk and disheveled, while Scarlett, though equally bereaved, is more presentable. It is during this time that Melanie miraculously conceives a second child. She loses the baby and soon dies due to complications. As she comforts the newly widowed Ashley, Scarlett finally realizes that she stopped loving Ashley long ago and that perhaps she never truly loved him. She is thunderstruck to realize that she has always, sincerely, deeply loved Rhett Butler and that he has loved her in return. She returns home, brimming with her new love, and determined to begin anew with Rhett. She discovers him packing his bags. In the wake of Melanie's death, Rhett has decided that he wants to rediscover the calm Southern dignity he once knew in his youth and is leaving Atlanta to find it. Scarlett tries to persuade Rhett to either stay or take her with him, but Rhett explains that while he once loved Scarlett deeply, the years of hurt and neglect have killed that love. He leaves and doesn't look back. In the midst of her maddening grief, Scarlett consoles herself with the knowledge that she still has Tara. She plans to return there with the certainty that she can recover and win Rhett back, because "tomorrow is another day."
Born in 1900 in Atlanta, Margaret Mitchell was a Southerner and writer throughout her life. She grew up hearing stories about the American Civil War and the Reconstruction from her Irish-American grandmother, Annie Fitzgerald Stephens, who had endured its suffering while living on the family plantation, Rural Home. Her forceful and intellectual mother, Maybelle Stephens Mitchell, was a suffragist who fought for the rights of women to vote.
As a young woman, Mitchell found love with an army lieutenant. He was killed in World War I, and she would carry his memory for the remainder of her life. After studying at Smith College for a year during which time her mother died from the 1918 pandemic flu, Mitchell returned to Atlanta. She married, but her husband was an abusive bootlegger. Mitchell took a job writing feature articles for the Atlanta Journal at a time when Atlanta debutantes of her class did not work. After divorcing her first husband, she married again to a man who shared her interest in writing and literature. He had been the best man at her first wedding.
Margaret Mitchell began writing Gone with the Wind in 1926 to pass the time while recovering from a slow-healing injury from an auto crash. In April 1935, Harold Latham of Macmillan, an editor looking for new fiction, read her manuscript and saw that it could be a best-seller. After Latham agreed to publish the book, Mitchell worked for another six months checking the historical references and rewriting the opening chapter several times. Mitchell and her husband John Marsh, a copy editor by trade, edited the final version of the novel. Mitchell wrote the book's final moments first and then wrote the events that led to them. Gone with the Wind was published in June 1936.
The author tentatively titled the novel Tomorrow Is Another Day, from its last line. Other proposed titles included Bugles Sang True, Not in Our Stars, and Tote the Weary Load. The title Mitchell finally chose is from the first line of the third stanza of the poem "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae" by Ernest Dowson:
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind ...
Scarlett O'Hara uses the title phrase when she wonders if her home on a plantation called "Tara" is still standing, or if it had "gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia." In a general sense, the title is a metaphor for the demise of a way of life in the South before the Civil War. When taken in the context of Dowson's poem about "Cynara," the phrase "gone with the wind" alludes to erotic loss. The poem expresses the regrets of someone who has lost his feelings for his "old passion," Cynara. Dowson's Cynara, a name that comes from the Greek word for artichoke, represents a lost love.
Margaret Mitchell arranged Gone with the Wind chronologically, basing it on the life and experiences of the main character, Scarlett O'Hara, as she grew from adolescence into adulthood. During the time span of the novel, from 1861 to 1873, Scarlett ages from sixteen to twenty-eight years. This is a type of Bildungsroman, a novel concerned with the moral and psychological growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood (coming-of-age story). Scarlett's development is affected by the events of her time. Mitchell used a smooth linear narrative structure. The novel is known for its exceptional "readability". The plot is rich with vivid characters.
Gone with the Wind is often placed in the literary subgenre of the historical romance novel. Pamela Regis has argued that is more appropriately classified as a historical novel, as it does not contain all of the elements of the romance genre. The novel has been described as an early classic of the erotic historical genre because it is thought to contain some degree of pornography.
Slavery in the United States in Gone with the Wind is a backdrop to a story that is essentially about other things. Southern plantation fiction (also known as Anti-Tom literature, in reference to reactions to Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin of 1852) from the mid-19th century, culminating in Gone with the Wind, is written from the perspective and values of the slaveholder and tends to present slaves as docile and happy.
The characters in the novel are organized into two basic groups along class lines: the white planter class, such as Scarlett and Ashley, and the black house servant class. The slaves depicted in Gone with the Wind are primarily loyal house servants, such as Mammy, Pork, Prissy, and Uncle Peter. House servants are the highest "caste" of slaves in Mitchell's caste system. They choose to stay with their masters after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and subsequent Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 sets them free. Of the servants who stayed at Tara, Scarlett thinks, "There were qualities of loyalty and tirelessness and love in them that no strain could break, no money could buy."
The field slaves make up the lower class in Mitchell's caste system. The field slaves from the Tara plantation and the foreman, Big Sam, are taken away by Confederate soldiers to dig ditches and never return to the plantation. Mitchell wrote that other field slaves were "loyal" and "refused to avail themselves of the new freedom", but the novel has no field slaves who stay on the plantation to work after they have been emancipated.
During the time that Mr. Cook was overseer, I was a house servant--a situation preferable to a field hand, as I was better fed, better clothed, and not obliged to rise at the ringing bell, but about a half-hour after. I have often laid and heard the crack of the whip, and the screams of the slave.
It was and is her life to serve, and she has done it well.While shot and shell thundered to release the shackles of slavery from her body and her soul--she loved, fought for, and protected--Us who held her in bondage, her "Marster" and her "Missus!"
--Excerpt from My Old Black Mammy by James W. Elliott, 1914.
Although the novel is more than 1,000 pages long, the character of Mammy never considers what her life might be like away from Tara. She recognizes her freedom to come and go as she pleases, saying, "Ah is free, Miss Scarlett. You kain sen' me nowhar Ah doan wanter go," but Mammy remains duty-bound to "Miss Ellen's chile." (No other name for Mammy is given in the novel.)
Eighteen years before the publication of Gone with the Wind, an article titled, "The Old Black Mammy," written in the Confederate Veteran in 1918, discussed the romanticized view of the mammy character persisting in Southern literature:
... for her faithfulness and devotion, she has been immortalized in the literature of the South; so the memory of her will never pass, but live on in the tales that are told of those "dear dead days beyond recall".
Micki McElya, in her book Clinging to Mammy, suggests the myth of the faithful slave, in the figure of Mammy, lingered because white Americans wished to live in a world in which African Americans were not angry over the injustice of slavery.
The best-selling anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1852, is mentioned briefly in Gone with the Wind as being accepted by the Yankees as "revelation second only to the Bible". The enduring interest of both Uncle Tom's Cabin and Gone with the Wind has resulted in lingering stereotypes of 19th-century black slaves. Gone with the Wind has become a reference point for subsequent writers about the South, both black and white alike.
The southern belle is an archetype for a young woman of the antebellum American South upper class. The southern belle was believed to be physically attractive but, more importantly, personally charming with sophisticated social skills. She is subject to the correct code of female behavior. The novel's heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, charming though not beautiful, is a classic southern belle.
For young Scarlett, the ideal southern belle is represented by her mother, Ellen O'Hara. In "A Study in Scarlett", published in The New Yorker, Claudia Roth Pierpont wrote:
The Southern belle was bred to conform to a subspecies of the nineteenth-century "lady"... For Scarlett, the ideal is embodied in her adored mother, the saintly Ellen, whose back is never seen to rest against the back of any chair on which she sits, whose broken spirit everywhere is mistaken for righteous calm ...
However, Scarlett is not always willing to conform. Kathryn Lee Seidel, in her book, The Southern Belle in the American Novel, wrote:
... part of her does try to rebel against the restraints of a code of behavior that relentlessly attempts to mold her into a form to which she is not naturally suited.
The figure of a pampered southern belle, Scarlett lives through an extreme reversal of fortune and wealth and survives to rebuild Tara and her self-esteem. Her bad belle traits (Scarlett's deceitfulness, shrewdness, manipulation, and superficiality), in contrast to Melanie's good belle traits (trust, self-sacrifice, and loyalty), enable her to survive in the post-war South and pursue her main interest, which is to make enough money to survive and prosper. Although Scarlett was "born" around 1845, she is portrayed to appeal to modern-day readers for her passionate and independent spirit, determination, and obstinate refusal to feel defeated.
Marriage was supposed to be the goal of all southern belles, as women's status was largely determined by that of their husbands. All social and educational pursuits were directed towards it. Despite the Civil War and the loss of a generation of eligible men, young ladies were still expected to marry. By law and Southern social convention, household heads were adult, white propertied males, and all white women and all African Americans were thought to require protection and guidance because they lacked the capacity for reason and self-control.
The Atlanta Historical Society has produced a number of Gone with the Wind exhibits, among them a 1994 exhibit titled, "Disputed Territories: Gone with the Wind and Southern Myths". The exhibit asked, "Was Scarlett a Lady?", finding that historically most women of the period were not involved in business activities as Scarlett was during Reconstruction when she ran a sawmill. White women performed traditional jobs such as teaching and sewing, and generally disliked work outside the home.
During the Civil War, Southern women played a major role as volunteer nurses working in makeshift hospitals. Many were middle- and upper-class women who had never worked for wages or seen the inside of a hospital. One such nurse was Ada W. Bacot, a young widow who had lost two children. Bacot came from a wealthy South Carolina plantation family that owned 87 slaves.
In the fall of 1862, Confederate laws were changed to permit women to be employed in hospitals as members of the Confederate Medical Department. Twenty-seven-year-old nurse Kate Cumming from Mobile, Alabama, described the primitive hospital conditions in her journal:
They are in the hall, on the gallery, and crowded into very small rooms. The foul air from this mass of human beings at first made me giddy and sick, but I soon got over it. We have to walk, and when we give the men any thing kneel, in blood and water; but we think nothing of it at all.
The Civil War came to an end on April 26, 1865, when Confederate General Johnston surrendered his armies in the Carolinas Campaign to Union General Sherman. Several battles are mentioned or depicted in Gone with the Wind.
The Atlanta Campaign (May-September 1864) took place in northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta.
Confederate General Johnston fights and retreats from Dalton (May 7-13) to Resaca (May 13-15) to Kennesaw Mountain (June 27). Union General Sherman suffers heavy losses to the entrenched Confederate army. Unable to pass through Kennesaw, Sherman swings his men around to the Chattahoochee River where the Confederate army is waiting on the opposite side of the river. Once again, General Sherman flanks the Confederate army, forcing Johnston to retreat to Peachtree Creek (July 20), five miles northeast of Atlanta.
The Savannah Campaign was conducted in Georgia during November and December 1864.
Wearing still on his pale, sweet face-- Soon to be hid by the dust of the grave--The lingering light of his boyhood's grace!
Ashley Wilkes is the beau ideal of Southern manhood in Scarlet's eyes. A planter by inheritance, Ashley knew the Confederate cause had died. However Ashley's name signifies paleness. His "pallid skin literalizes the idea of Confederate death."
Ashley contemplates leaving Georgia for New York City. Had he gone North, he would have joined numerous other ex-Confederate transplants there. Ashley, embittered by war, tells Scarlett he has been "in a state of suspended animation" since the surrender. He feels he is not "shouldering a man's burden" at Tara and believes he is "much less than a man--much less, indeed, than a woman".
A "young girl's dream of the Perfect Knight", Ashley is like a young girl himself. With his "poet's eye", Ashley has a "feminine sensitivity". Scarlett is angered by the "slur of effeminacy flung at Ashley" when her father tells her the Wilkes family was "born queer". (Mitchell's use of the word "queer" is for its sexual connotation because queer, in the 1930s, was associated with homosexuality.) Ashley's effeminacy is associated with his appearance, his lack of forcefulness and sexual impotency. He rides, plays poker, and drinks like "proper men", but his heart is not in it, Gerald claims. The embodiment of castration, Ashley wears the head of Medusa on his cravat pin.
Scarlett's love interest, Ashley Wilkes, lacks manliness, and her husbands--the "calf-like" Charles Hamilton, and the "old-maid in britches", Frank Kennedy--are unmanly as well. Mitchell is critiquing masculinity in southern society since Reconstruction. Even Rhett Butler, the well-groomed dandy, is effeminate or "gay-coded." Charles, Frank and Ashley represent the impotence of the post-war white South. Its power and influence have been diminished.
The word "scallawag" is defined as a loafer, a vagabond, or a rogue. Scallawag had a special meaning after the Civil War as an epithet for a white Southerner who accepted and supported Republican reforms. Mitchell defines scallawags as "Southerners who had turned Republican very profitably." Rhett Butler is accused of being a "damned Scallawag." In addition to scallawags, Mitchell portrays other types of scoundrels in the novel: Yankees, carpetbaggers, Republicans, prostitutes, and overseers. In the early years of the Civil War, Rhett is called a "scoundrel" for his "selfish gains" profiteering as a blockade-runner.
As a scallawag, Rhett is despised. He is the "dark, mysterious, and slightly malevolent hero loose in the world". Literary scholars have identified elements of Mitchell's first husband, Berrien "Red" Upshaw, in the character of Rhett. Another sees the image of Italian actor Rudolph Valentino, whom Margaret Mitchell interviewed as a young reporter for The Atlanta Journal. Fictional hero Rhett Butler has a "swarthy face, flashing teeth and dark alert eyes". He is a "scamp, blackguard, without scruple or honor."
If Gone with the Wind has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong, and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don't. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn't.
-- Margaret Mitchell, 1936
The sales of Margaret Mitchell's novel in the summer of 1936, as the nation was recovering from the Great Depression and at the virtually unprecedented high price of three dollars, reached about 1 million by the end of December. The book was a bestseller by the time reviews began to appear in national magazines. Herschel Brickell, a critic for the New York Evening Post, lauded Mitchell for the way she "tosses out the window all the thousands of technical tricks our novelists have been playing with for the past twenty years."
Ralph Thompson, a book reviewer for The New York Times, was critical of the length of the novel, and wrote in June 1936:
I happen to feel that the book would have been infinitely better had it been edited down to say, 500 pages, but there speaks the harassed daily reviewer as well as the would-be judicious critic. Very nearly every reader will agree, no doubt, that a more disciplined and less prodigal piece of work would have more nearly done justice to the subject-matter.
Some reviewers compared the book to William Thackeray's Vanity Fair and Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Mitchell claimed Charles Dickens as an inspiration and called Gone with the Wind a "'Victorian' type novel."
Helen Keller, whose father had owned slaves and fought as a Confederate captain and who had later supported the NAACP and the ACLU, read the 12-volume Braille edition. The book brought her fond memories of her southern infancy but she also felt sadness comparing that with what she knew about the South.
Gone with the Wind has been criticized for its stereotypical and derogatory portrayal of African Americans in the 19th century South. Former field hands during the early days of Reconstruction are described behaving "as creatures of small intelligence might naturally be expected to do. Like monkeys or small children turned loose among treasured objects whose value is beyond their comprehension, they ran wild--either from perverse pleasure in destruction or simply because of their ignorance."
Commenting on this passage of the novel, Jabari Asim, author of The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why, says it is "one of the more charitable passages in Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell hesitated to blame black 'insolence' during Reconstruction solely on 'mean niggers', of which, she said, there were few even in slavery days."
Critics say that Mitchell downplayed the violent role of the Ku Klux Klan and their abuse of freedmen. Author Pat Conroy, in his preface to a later edition of the novel, describes Mitchell's portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as having "the same romanticized role it had in The Birth of a Nation and appears to be a benign combination of the Elks Club and a men's equestrian society".
Regarding the historical inaccuracies of the novel, historian Richard N. Current points out:
No doubt it is indeed unfortunate that Gone with the Wind perpetuates many myths about Reconstruction, particularly with respect to blacks. Margaret Mitchell did not originate them and a young novelist can scarcely be faulted for not knowing what the majority of mature, professional historians did not know until many years later.
In Gone with the Wind, Mitchell explores some complexities in racial issues. Scarlett was asked by a Yankee woman for advice on whom to appoint as a nurse for her children; Scarlett suggested a "darky", much to the disgust of the Yankee woman who was seeking an Irish maid, a "Bridget". African Americans and Irish Americans are treated "in precisely the same way" in Gone with the Wind, writes David O'Connell in his 1996 book, The Irish Roots of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Ethnic slurs on the Irish and Irish stereotypes pervade the novel, O'Connell claims, and Scarlett is not an exception to the terminology. Irish scholar Geraldine Higgins notes that Jonas Wilkerson labels Scarlett: "you highflying, bogtrotting Irish". Higgins says that, as the Irish American O'Haras were slaveholders and African Americans were held in bondage, the two ethnic groups are not equivalent in the ethnic hierarchy of the novel.
The novel has been criticized for promoting plantation values and romanticizing the white supremacy of the antebellum south. Mitchell biographer Marianne Walker, author of Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone with the Wind, believes that those who attack the book on these grounds have not read it. She said that the popular 1939 film "promotes a false notion of the Old South". Mitchell was not involved in the screenplay or film production.
James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, says this novel is "profoundly racist and profoundly wrong." In 1984, an alderman in Waukegan, Illinois challenged the book's inclusion on the reading list of the Waukegan School District on the grounds of "racism" and "unacceptable language." He objected to the frequent use of the racial slur nigger. He also objected to several other books: The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the same reason.
Mitchell's use of color in the novel is symbolic and open to interpretation. Red, green, and a variety of hues of each of these colors, are the predominant palette of colors related to Scarlett.
The novel has come under intense criticism for alleged racist and white supremacist themes in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests and focus on systemic racism in the United States.
In 1937, Margaret Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Gone with the Wind and the second annual National Book Award from the American Booksellers Association. It is ranked as the second favorite book by American readers, just behind the Bible, according to a 2008 Harris poll. The poll found the novel has its strongest following among women, those aged 44 or more, both Southerners and Midwesterners, both whites and Hispanics, and those who have not attended college. In a 2014 Harris poll, Mitchell's novel ranked again as second, after the Bible. The novel is on the list of best-selling books. As of 2010, more than 30 million copies have been printed in the United States and abroad. More than 24 editions of Gone with the Wind have been issued in China. Time magazine critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo included the novel on their list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. In 2003, the book was listed at number 21 on the BBC's The Big Read poll of the UK's "best-loved novel."
Gone with the Wind has frequently been the center of controversy.
In 1978, the book was banned from English classrooms in Anaheim, California Union High School District.
In 1984, the book was challenged in the Waukegan, Illinois School District due to the novel's use of the word "nigger."
Gone with the Wind has been adapted several times for stage and screen:
Gone with the Wind has appeared in many places and forms in popular culture:
On June 30, 1986, the 50th anniversary of the day Gone with the Wind went on sale, the U.S. Post Office issued a 1-cent stamp showing an image of Margaret Mitchell. The stamp was designed by Ronald Adair and was part of the U.S. Postal Service's Great Americans series.
On September 10, 1998, the U.S. Post Office issued a 32-cent stamp as part of its Celebrate the Century series recalling various important events in the 20th century. The stamp, designed by Howard Paine, displays the book with its original dust jacket, a white Magnolia blossom, and a hilt placed against a background of green velvet.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary (2011) of the publication of Gone with the Wind in 1936, Scribner published a paperback edition featuring the book's original jacket art.
The Windies are ardent Gone with the Wind fans who follow all the latest news and events surrounding the book and film. They gather periodically in costumes from the film or dressed as Margaret Mitchell. Atlanta, Georgia is their meeting place.
One story of the legacy of Gone with the Wind is that people worldwide incorrectly think it was the "true story" of the Old South and how it was changed by the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The film adaptation of the novel "amplified this effect." The plantation legend was "burned" into the mind of the public through Mitchell's vivid prose. Moreover, her fictional account of the war and its aftermath has influenced how the world has viewed the city of Atlanta for successive generations.
Some readers of the novel have seen the film first and read the novel afterward. One difference between the film and the novel is the staircase scene, in which Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs. In the film, Scarlett weakly struggles and does not scream as Rhett starts up the stairs. In the novel, "he hurt her and she cried out, muffled, frightened."
Earlier in the novel, in an intended rape at Shantytown (Chapter 44), Scarlett is attacked by a black man who rips open her dress while a white man grabs hold of the horse's bridle. She is rescued by another black man, Big Sam. In the film, she is attacked by a white man, while a black man grabs the horse's bridle.
The Library of Congress began a multiyear "Celebration of the Book" in July 2012 with an exhibition on Books That Shaped America, and an initial list of 88 books by American authors that have influenced American lives. Gone with the Wind was included in the Library's list. Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington said:
This list is a starting point. It is not a register of the 'best' American books - although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.
Among books on the list considered to be the Great American Novel were Moby-Dick, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, The Catcher in the Rye, Invisible Man, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Throughout the world, the novel appeals due to its universal themes: war, love, death, racial conflict, class, gender and generation, which speak especially to women. In North Korea, readers relate to the novel's theme of survival, finding it to be "the most compelling message of the novel". Margaret Mitchell's personal collection of nearly 70 foreign language translations of her novel was given to the Atlanta Public Library after her death.
On August 16, 2012, the Archdiocese of Atlanta announced that it had been bequeathed a 50% stake in the trademarks and literary rights to Gone With the Wind from the estate of Margaret Mitchell's deceased nephew, Joseph Mitchell. Margaret Mitchell had separated from the Catholic Church. However, one of Mitchell's biographers, Darden Asbury Pyron, stated that Margaret Mitchell had "an intense relationship" with her mother, who was a Roman Catholic.
Although some of Mitchell's papers and documents related to the writing of Gone with the Wind were burned after her death, many documents, including assorted draft chapters, were preserved. The last four chapters of the novel are held by the Pequot Library of Southport, Connecticut.
The first printing of 10,000 copies contains the original publication date: "Published May, 1936". After the book was chosen as the Book-of-the-Month's selection for July, the publication was delayed until June 30. The second printing of 25,000 copies (and subsequent printings) contains the release date: "Published June, 1936." The third printing of 15,000 copies was made in June 1936. Additionally, 50,000 copies were printed for the Book-of-the-Month Club July selection. Gone with the Wind was officially released to the American public on June 30, 1936.
Although Mitchell refused to write a sequel to Gone with the Wind, Mitchell's estate authorized Alexandra Ripley to write a sequel, which was titled Scarlett. The book was subsequently adapted into a television mini-series in 1994. A second sequel was authorized by Mitchell's estate titled Rhett Butler's People, by Donald McCaig. The novel parallels Gone with the Wind from Rhett Butler's perspective. In 2010, Mitchell's estate authorized McCaig to write a prequel, which follows the life of the house servant Mammy, whom McCaig names "Ruth". The novel, Ruth's Journey, was released in 2014.
The copyright holders of Gone with the Wind attempted to suppress publication of The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall, which retold the story from the perspective of the slaves. A federal appeals court denied the plaintiffs an injunction (Suntrust v. Houghton Mifflin) against publication on the basis that the book was a parody and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The parties subsequently settled out of court and the book went on to become a New York Times Best Seller.
A book sequel unauthorized by the copyright holders, The Winds of Tara by Katherine Pinotti, was blocked from publication in the United States. The novel was republished in Australia, avoiding U.S. copyright restrictions.
Away from copyright lawsuits, Internet fan fiction has proved to be a fertile medium for sequels (some of them book-length), parodies, and rewritings of Gone with the Wind.
Numerous unauthorized sequels to Gone with the Wind have been published in Russia, mostly under the pseudonym Yuliya Hilpatrik, a cover for a consortium of writers. The New York Times states that most of these have a "Slavic" flavor.
Several sequels were written in Hungarian under the pseudonym Audrey D. Milland or Audrey Dee Milland, by at least four different authors (who are named in the colophon as translators to make the book seem a translation from the English original, a procedure common in the 1990s but prohibited by law since then). The first one picks up where Ripley's Scarlett ended, the next one is about Scarlett's daughter Cat. Other books include a prequel trilogy about Scarlett's grandmother Solange and a three-part miniseries of a supposed illegitimate daughter of Carreen.
Gone with the Wind has been in the public domain in Australia since 1999 (50 years after Margaret Mitchell's death). On 1 January 2020, the book entered the public domain in the European Union (70 years after the author's death). Under an extension of copyright law, Gone with the Wind will not enter the public domain in the United States until 2031, however.