Popularity of Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell's romantic epic, Gone With the Wind, owes its remarkable popularity to the climate of sudden self-destruction and dreariness the Depression created. The Old South's grandeur, coupled with its Civil War-era decadence, provided much-needed escapism for readers, as well as paralleling the U.S.'s own plight in the 20s and 30s. In addition, Scarlett O'Hara's feminist role, her devotion to her land, and her indomitable optimism lent hope to those who had lost faith in the American Dream.
A spirit of beautiful, colorful life at the onset sets up the South's inevitable destruction and magnifies the greatness of the land and its people. "Spring had come early that year, with warm quick rains and sudden frothing of pink peach blossoms and dogwood dappling with white stars the dark river swamp and far-off hills. Already the plowing was nearly finished, and the bloody glory of the sunset colored the fresh-cut furrows of red Georgia clay to even redder hues." (10) The foreshadowing of the "bloody glory" of sunset is striking, but idealism is the main theme presented here. Scarlett's status as a second-generation immigrant adds further to this atmosphere of opportunity. Her father, a proud Irishman, proclaims "'Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for Œtis the only thing in this world that lasts...And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them the land they live on is like their mother.'" (39) The idea of an undersized foreigner claiming a large stake in America as his own must surely have fueled the imagination of the great influx of recent immigrants, many of whom used GWTW as a primer to American literature.
Hanging over the tranquil South is the specter of war. Rhett, introducing his role as the novel's realist, explains to a group of war hawks, "'Why, all we have is cotton and slaves and arrogance. [The North]'d lick us in a month.'" (113) The South's economic dependency and lack of stability, as well as its overconfidence, mirror that of the late 1920s U.S. Indeed, the Yankees do lick the Confederates, albeit in more than forty-eight months. The landscape is much changed. "Atlanta was longer...the desperately gay place she had loved. It was a hideous place like a plague-stricken city so quiet, so dreadfully quiet after the din of the siege." (341) The sounds of a ravaged South, too, rang familiarly in the ears of ghetto-dwellers and tenant farmers alike who lived in similar settings.
But reaffirming the hope of the disenfranchised is Scarlett and her determination to resurrect her homeland. "She could not desert Tara; she belonged to the red acres far more than they could ever belong to her. Her roots went deep into the blood-colored soil and sucked up life, as did the cotton...Tomorrow there would be so many things to do." (413-4) Her...