Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gone With The Wind

It is the American War and Peace. This is one of the best articles I have ever read about Margaret Mitchell's epic, which I must have read about ten times by the age of fifteen. It mentions the influence of Celtic culture upon the classic novel of the South:

These characters, most importantly Scarlett, Rhett Butler, Ashley and Melanie Wilkes, and Mammy, personify the antebellum South. Scarlett’s father is Celtic-Irish and her mother, Anglo-Norman, which represent the two primary cultures in the antebellum South. Celts, from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, were in the majority. Many were hardscrabble "poor whites," and few Celts owned slaves. The Anglo-Normans, from England, like Ashley, were the genteel, slave-owning upper class in this culture. Tara, Scarlett’s plantation, is the name for the capital of ancient Ireland and is the spiritual center of Irish culture. (A statue of St. Patrick now stands on the Hill of Tara, in County Meath, Ireland.)

James Cantrell’s "Celtic-Southern thesis" brings a fresh perspective to this work.4 He maintains that "Gone With the Wind is not merely a novel about fighting and rebuilding from a losing war, nor is it merely a cloying though ultimately heartbreaking love story; it is an epic in which the protagonist ultimately has the tragic perception that her life has been false in cultural terms. The conflict in Gone With the Wind concerns which of the two different cultures should be pre-eminent in the South, a conflict Mitchell embodies in Scarlett’s relationships with her parents and, especially, in her love for Ashley Wilkes." Cantrell contends, "The South’s tragedy, in Mitchell’s vision, is that its Celtic hardheadedness did not prevent it from choosing the pretty illusions of cavalier [Anglo-Norman] gentility, which include a cavalier defense of chattel slavery and the caste system that goes with it. The South, like Scarlett, blinded itself to reality, and thereby lost what was most precious to it."



sugarsandsalts said...

Gone with the Wind is my favorite movie too.

Anonymous said...

I am gald to hear there is a deeper meaning. I have read this book so many times since I was a young girl and always felt its epic proportion as well as its deeper reality. I loved Scarletts gut attitude but she is intimidated by the class system which is often evident in post colonial countries.

Anonymous said...

I read "Gone with the Wind" twice and enjoyed it. What a story!
I've read and own the sequel "Scarlett" by the late novelist Alexandra Ripley. I thought the sequel was ok but it was an interesting window into the time period. A movie based on the book was made.
Not to give too much away, Scarlett leaves Atlanta and eventually arrives in Ireland. There she discovers her Irish heritage and builds a new life for herself.