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Gone With The Wind Review

By KarliB13 Feb 25, 2014 1101 Words
Gone With The Wind, written by Margret Mitchell and first published in 1936, is a classic novel depicting the changing South during the Civil War times. Understanding the transition between the Old and New South and how the changing times affected Southerners is essential to comprehending American history. Mitchell gives an opportunity for readers to gain a deeper understanding of The American Civil War through the use of symbolism; Gone With The Wind depicts the transition from Old to New South and the immense impact in had on Southerners. This technique of symbolism will be explored and deemed effective or ineffective in accomplishing Mitchell’s purpose in depicting the changing South. As the book opens Scarlet O’Hara, Gone With The Wind’s protagonist, is described as an immature young women. Scarlet is much to selfish and caught up with herself to care much about anything other than her own problems. The dialogue of other characters in the opening chapters contains talk of the rising tension between the North and the South and how there is expected to be a war soon. Scarlet, however, is oblivious to political issues and frankly doesn’t care to hear of or understand them. Mitchell is using Scarlet’s immature oblivious persona as a symbol for the South and the Southern way of life. Before the civil war the South was against the industrialization mindset of the North. Southerners had a saying “don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken” which meant that the economy of the South was fine and therefore Southerners saw no need for change. The South, like Scarlet O’Hara, was oblivious to the implications of this growing tension between the North and South and ignored the tension because of the immature attitude of the South. Mitchell clearly and logically paints this parallel between Scarlet’s attitude and that of the South’s.

Margret Mitchell continues the parallel between Scarlet and the South as the novel and war progress. As the war progresses Scarlet begins to change drastically as a character. Scarlet finds that “changing with the changing times is the only way to survive”. Scarlet becomes much more mature as a women, she starts to use her hard-headedness for her own gain and she lets her masculine side lead her to success. Scarlet makes many choices and decisions without overthinking claiming that she will “think about it tomorrow” while she acts “today”, which allows her, in the long run, to make some hard calls that most Southerners, especially Southern women, would not have been able to make. For example, when a Yankee comes into her home at Tara Scarlet is forced to shoot him in order to protect herself and her friends and family. Scarlet O’Hara adapts to the new circumstances of her time and because she does this so well she is one of the only people throughout the book who is left relatively untouched by the war, Scarlet still has her home and her life and a hope for some happiness when the war comes to an end. This idea Mitchell gives readers of changing with the changing times is not a creative idea on her part it is a way to strengthen the symbolism between Scarlet and the South. The tension began between the North and the South due to the fact that the North was progressing and industrializing but the South wasn’t progressing and industrializing with the North. The South did not change or adapt, which is what lead to its own failure, while Scarlet who did change and adapt succeeded. Mitchell logically and accurately uses Scarlet O’Hara as a symbol for the changing South. The South like Scarlet was not successful until it began to change.

While scarlet represents the changing South, Rhett and Ashley symbolize the New and Old South. When Mitchell opens the novel Scarlet is absolutely convinced that she is in love with Ashley Wilkes a soon to be married man. Scarlet’s love for Ashley symbolizes the love Southerners had for their way of life (Old South). Even upon meeting Rhett Butler, Scarlet is intimidated by him. As the story progresses Mitchell shows readers how Scarlet is scared of her attraction to Rhett and unsure if he is a good man. The relationship between Scarlet and Rhett at the beginning of the book reflects the relationship between the Southerners and the intimidating ideas of the New South. As Scarlet develops as a character and the story progresses Scarlet determines that she does not love Ashley but rather she loves Rhett. Scarlet not loving Ashley who symbolizes the Old South suggests that the “Old South Life” no longer exists. Mitchell portrays Ashley as hopeless and weak, like the Old South, while Rhett is portrayed and strong and hopeful, like the New South. Scarlet’s moving on from Ashley to Rhett symbolizes giving up hopeless dreams from the past and moving on to a hope for a better future. Margret Mitchell’s use of symbolism here is brilliant because it accurately shows the struggle the South has choosing between the New South and the Old South.

Margret Mitchell creates a parallel relationship between the character, Scarlet O’Hara, and the circumstances and state of the South during The Civil War. Scarlet changes as the South changes and through the use of symbolism Mitchell depicts the difficulty the South has in making the necessary change. The symbolism that Mitchell uses in her novel Gone With The Wind is absolutely brilliant it simplifies a very complex subject and helps readers grasp a deeper understanding. Mitchell however, fails to provide accurate information on multiple occasions throughout the novel. One of these false ideas was that there was no such thing as an unhappy slave. The book never examines or even acknowledges the terrifying challenges of being a slave. Slavery being such a big issue in the civil war it seems like a poor decision for Mitchell to not have included more about slavery in the South. The tone of the book favors Southerners over Northerners, it is written in such a way as to have readers sympathize with the south while sparking a hatred for the Northerners. This writing style does not allow readers to come to a conclusion on their own about the issues of The Civil War. However, despite Mitchell’s lack of Northern perspective she accurately portrays the effects on Southerners the transition between the Old and New South had. Gone With The Wind is an American classic and the advantages to reading Margret Mitchell’s novel are endless.

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