“Gone with the Wind” is a cult film based on the novel by Margarett Mitchell, an absolute ageless classic for all times and epochs. Love is depicted here against the background of a big story. It is not only a narrative about romantic, as many people usually perceive, but rather a political confrontation against the background of the consequences of the post-war period. This is a vivid example of the fact that the nation learned the main lesson of the war when each side had its truth. According to the story’s plot, new generations study their country’s history without becoming on the winners’ side in advance. This essay will examine how the film uses gender and family to tell about politics, race, and redemption after the Civil War.
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The consequences of the war that thundered in the film are felt everywhere: from wounded people to ruined estates and trampled fields. The story embodies a national tragedy, the plight of the whole South and its inhabitants. The fire of Atlanta and the devastation of Tara symbolize the destruction of the Old South, while Atlanta, which has risen from the ashes, is being rebuilt in a new way and Scarlett’s life. Once well-off families are forced to change their usual way of life, women are forced to fight against the injustice of circumstances. Moreover, women’s illusions about the better position of slaves in the master’s house are destroyed when most of the blacks leave the plantations (Ameti 2019). In addition to the lack of workers, they are afraid of using the cruelty of former slaves.
The history of the American South and the Civil War is the abolition of slavery in the modern United States. However, Margarett Mitchell’s story was perceived as a response to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which idealized the planters. The film adaptation in this regard does not differ much from the original text. Nevertheless, the consequences of the war were not so rosy, both for those who fought at the front and for the women who remained to guard their homes. The war makes adjustments to the life and character of a young girl Scarlett – the film’s main character. Scarlett gives birth to her lover’s wife and goes alone on the way to her native home in Tara, but when she arrives there, she finds only ruin and poverty. The girl’s mother died of typhus, and her father became insane. Now Scarlett is not up to games and entertainment, and the costumed points suddenly lose their significance and relevance in general.
In the post-war period, the natural character of the once groovy coquette is revealed. Scarlett O’Hara is a strong and independent woman with a steel grip and iron nerves. This lively and realistic image combines optimism and a cheerful attitude, masculinity, and resilience in the years of trials. The historical events of the terrible war affected the fate and character of the heroine, preserving her firmness of spirit, endurance, fortitude, and integrity. This time forces the woman to accelerate the process of growing up and change her life priorities.
Having suffered significant losses, she is ready to do anything in the fight for her native land. The woman claims: “I’m going to live through this and when it is all over, I’ll never be hungry again” (Fleming 1939). Scarlett grew up in a prosperous family in the South of the United States, on the Tara plantation. A once-spoiled aristocrat digs in the ground like a slave. “White people” were like their black “colleagues”; they worked in the same difficult conditions. Certainly, the woman is strong in the spirit of her people and land. She shows pressure and obsession in achieving her desires, not accepting defeat, even when apparent. The war forced her to renounce the remnants of the past and move forward, despite any difficulties. The heroine is steadily moving towards her goal, crushing the circumstances that stand in the way of truth. Scarlett expresses her emotions and feelings: “After all… tomorrow… is another day!” (Fleming 1939). Thus, a short time transformed the ideal of female self-sacrifice in the name of family and home into the most favorable attitude for war.
Indeed, Scarlett is a kind and sympathetic girl who finds herself in cruel conditions, in which all the negative features of her ambiguous and complex nature are exacerbated. And she deliberately drove everything good and sincere deep into herself, hiding from prying eyes. Scarlett O’Hara is a bright, independent, and attractive person, but she has a negative potential to destroy everything around her and ruin the destinies of the dearest and closest people (Saadi and Koudri 2018). The heroine bears the terrible events of a bloody war, and her fate is closely intertwined with the historical events of that time. Scarlett is the pure embodiment of a girl whose internal political situation has changed.
At the same time, she was forced to accept the historically established role of a “weak” and “submissive” woman by nature, as was assumed (Saadi and Koudri 2018). The heroine agreed to obey the new regulations and rules of such behavior in exchange for the protection of the Confederacy. The country did not keep its promise, and Scarlett left to the mercy of fate, had to take care of herself. Scarlett stops standing alone in her renunciation of the feminine ideal in the Confederation. Despite this, such an image of a woman reflects the American identity, something like a phoenix (Ameti 2019). This bird has resilience, pride, and the ability to revive and rise after any falls.
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The wind of freedom “came from the north to the south,” but the icy whirlwinds of egoistic calculation blew after it. The slave-owning region flourished in the concept of a capitalist system, and the planters constantly dealt with the market. And yet, in the life of the southern part of America, human relations are more friendly. In fact, a paternalistic approach to blacks prevails in the film “Gone with the Wind” by Victor Fleming. Scarlett manifests a friendly and condescending attitude to the nanny and other maids, ready to listen and support but without going beyond certain limits.
Mammy is a kind of image of a caring and loving mother and a cultural representative of a particular race (Eck 2018). The family O’Hara, could feel emotional attachment and love for her, and yet, she was subordinate and had to know her place (Eck 2018). Most likely, it is more a matter of a system of habits than a sincere disposition to slaves. Mammy is proud and strict, a disciplinarian and a person of the old school, but she has never experienced freedom. She is portrayed as a devoted, loving part of the family hearth; however, she keeps Scarlett in check and brings her up according to her principles. In addition, many critics note another critical remark about Mom (Edmondson 2018). She represents a positive, trusting relationship between the slave and the owners and seems happy about her fate. Such images can distort the correct ideas about the slave experience and African-American identity in general (Edmondson 2018). Therefore, the film is dominated by contradictory attitudes regarding representatives of black culture. These people in this world are at the same time accessible and prisoners; they are treated well and at the same time kept at a distance.
To sum up, the film uses gender and family to tell about the situations after the Civil War in the following way. “Gone with the Wind,” tells about the fall of the old world and the rebirth of the new, the adoption of new dogmas and stereotypes. For several years, wealthy Southerners took for granted their place in the sexual and racial hierarchy of the system. Returning home, Scarlett reveals every day the forced leadership of women in the house. She tried to find shelter and protection, and as a result, all the responsibility for preserving the family estate fell on her fragile shoulders. The new responsibilities on the plantations, with escalating relations with slaves and the threat posed by Union Army soldiers, made this burden too heavy. From the relations of the O’Hara family to their slaves, an attentive reader will note that the black characters loved their white masters and needed them in every possible way. Although Mammy was one of the most influential people in the narrative, she could not manage Tara after the war without white leadership.
Ameti, Lirije. 2019. “The Portrait of the American Woman in Margaret Mitchell’s Novel “Gone with the Wind.” Knowledge, 31(6), 1749-1753.
Eck, Christine. 2018. “Three Books, Three Stereotypes: Mothers and the Ghosts of Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire in Contemporary African American Literature.” Criterion 11 (1). Web.
Edmondson, Taulby (2018). “The Wind Goes On: “Gone with the Wind” and the Imagined Geographies of the American South”. PhD diss., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Fleming, Victor, George Cukor, and Sam Wood. 1939. Gone with the Wind. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
Saadi, Hadjer and Zahra Koudri. 2018. “Historical Trauma and New Women Status in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind”. PhD diss., University of Mohamed Boudiaf – M’sila.