Novel Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell Essay

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Gone with the Wind as a literature of witness to forced labor

Gone with the Wind, a story of white Southern resilience by Margaret Mitchell, which greatly appealed to readers of the Depression-era, depicted slavery as a world of faithful slaves and lenient masters. The tale also criticized freed individuals who tried to practice their citizenship rights. Since Gone with the Wind embraced most of the same rhetoric as purportedly non-fiction works that idealized slavery, howled freedom, and depicted black political rights as some type of tyranny over the white South, a few readers viewed the resemblances as a proof of the novel’s historical truth. Gone with the Wind’s influence has been multi-generational, and hardly has its fame been matched in longevity or scope (Adkins 11 & 23).

Margaret Mitchell’s tale is most concerned with the affliction of Southern white slaveholders as she pictures this era of social mayhem. Her narrative figures the war, freedom, and reconstruction as vessels of their grief. Following his return home from a Union prison camp, Ashley Wilkes, Scarlett O’Hara’s object of unreciprocated love, ponders about the fate of the conquered South. Ashley predicts that what will happen in the end will be exactly what happens when a civilization crumbles. 

According to him, those who are wise and courageous survive and those are not are eliminated. He continues to explain that it has been exciting and comfortable to witness a Götterdämmerung- a dusk of the gods. In German mythology, this means a destruction of the gods in an apocalyptic war against evil (Mitchell 527).

The tale, Gone with the Wind, rejects any idea of slaveholder cruelty as a lie spread by deluded Yankees. With Mitchell’s small cast of black characters, she tries to affirm Scarlett’s belittling depiction that blacks were at times irritating, lazy and foolish, but they had loyalty in them that couldn’t be bought by money (Mitchell 472). 

Even as Mitchell recognizes that some former bonds people harbored dislike for their ex-masters, that emotion is not conveyed by any of her characters. She blames this occurrence on Freedmen Bureau agents who inspire thoughts of equality among the just freed. She the anger of former slaves as a part of the alleged discrimination white Georgians go through at the hands of Northern former bonds-people and conquerors who have the nerve to assert their freedom (Adkins 40).

Gerald moved to Georgia after killing a British absentee landlord’s rent agent with the hopes of becoming a landed man and slave owner (Mitchell 45).  Trying to rise up a class hierarchy different from the one he left back in Ireland, his very first step up towards the desire of his heart was purchasing Pork, his first slave (Mitchell 45).

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The domestic trade of slaves, which especially displaced bonds-people and ruined their social networks, is depicted in the novel with Gerald’s purchase of Dilcey and Prissy, Pork’s wife and daughter respectively, apparently so that the family can be together in one household. Mitchell does not state the fact that the slave marriage bared no legal status. She does not provide any hint of the control exercised by slaveholders or the extent to which the lives of bonds-people were controlled by their master’s whims. Without any inkling of authorial rebuke, Gerald assumes that it is a nice practical joke to his valet that he sold Pork to John Wilkes instead of purchasing Dilcey (Mitchell 38).

Insinuating that a significant number of O’Hara slaves also escaped from the Union army, Grandma Fontaine claims that they passed her home looking very frightened (Mitchell 447). Her narration presumes that the slave population dislike the Union soldiers. The idea that the slaves escaped in fear maligns the Union army and shadows the historical truth that a lot of slave s regarded the army as safe haven from their ex-masters. 

Pork narrates a somewhat different story of the departure of his fellow bondsperson from Tara. He states that a few of Tara’s slaves escaped with the Union army and not away from them. However, the betrayal he implies in their departure shadows their motives. As Pork narrates to Scarlett “dem trashy niggers done runned away an’ some of dem went off wid de Yankees” (Mitchell 407).

The clear provocation for Pork’s use of racial labels is the betrayal that differentiates the “trashy” slaves form the three loyal house servants; Pork, Mammy and Dilcey, that stay back.  Mammy uses the same racist attack but substitutes….....

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Works Cited

Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind. New York: Warner Books, 1999.

Adkins, Christina Katherine. Slavery and the Civil War in cultural memory. Diss. 2014.

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