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Gone With The Wind
Gone With The Wind
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was the American author who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her immensely successful novel, Gone with the Wind, that was published in 1936. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and often used the name Peggy. Her childhood was spent on the laps of Civil War veterans and of her mother's relatives who lived through the war and the years that followed. They told her everything about the war, except that the Confederates had lost it. She was ten years old before making this discovery. After graduating from Washington Seminary, now known as The Westminster Schools, she attended Smith College but withdrew in 1918. She returned to Atlanta to take over the household after her mother's death earlier that year from the great influenza pandemic of 1918. Mitchell used this pivotal scene from her own life to dramatize Scarlett's discovery of her mother's death from typhoid, when Scarlett returns to Tara. Shortly afterward, she joined the staff of the Atlanta Journal, where she wrote a weekly column for the newspaper's Sunday edition. Mitchell is reported to have begun writing Gone with the Wind while bedridden and nursing a broken ankle. Her husband, John Marsh, brought home historical books from the public library to amuse her while she healed. Finally, he told her, "Peggy, if you want another book, why don't you write your own?" She used her encyclopedic knowledge of the Civil War, and used dramatic moments from her own life, to write her epic novel, typing it out on an old Remington typewriter. She originally called her novel "Pansy O'Hara", and Tara was "Fontenoy Hall." Mitchell wrote for her own amusement, with solid support from her husband, but she kept her literary efforts a secret from all her friends. She wrote in an unorganized fashion, writing the last chapter first, and skipping around from chapter to chapter. Her husband regularly proofread her writings to help keep her motivated. By 1929, when her ankle had healed and most of the book was written, she lost interest in pursuing her literary efforts, until a MacMillan publisher, Howard Latham, came to Atlanta. Latham was scouring the South for promising new Southern writers, and Mitchell agreed to escort him around Atlanta at the request of her friend, who now worked for Latham. Latham was enchanted with Mitchell, and asked her if she had ever written a book. When he found out that she had, he read it immediately and loved it. MacMillan soon sent her an advance check to encourage her to complete the novel. Mitchell completed her work in March, 1936.
Mitchell's work relates the story of a rebellious Georgia woman named Scarlett O'Hara and her interactions with friends, family and lovers in the midst of the South during the Civil War and the reconstruction period. It also tells the story of the love that blossomed between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. Mitchell wrote the book mostly for entertainment, although it does have some educational value in helping you to understand better how things progressed in the South at that time and the southerners mind set. In writing the novel, besides the entertainment value, she is trying to help people better understand the South at this point in time.
Critics and historians regard the book as having a strong commitment to the cause of the Confederacy and a romanticized view of the culture of the South. This is apparent from the book's opening pages, which describe how Scarlett's suitors, the Tarleton twins, have been expelled from university and are accompanied home by their elder brothers out of a sense of honor. Nevertheless, the book includes a vivid description of the fall of Atlanta in 1864 and the devastation of war, and shows a considerable amount of historical research. The novel's major themes, other than war, are, love of money, attitudes towards slavery, fantasy versus reality, idealism of the south, survival, poverty, dignity, oppression of women, loss, and change. The mood of the novel is very sympathetic towards the south and the old customs, but avoids sentimentality. Mitchell objectively acknowledges the changes brought by the war and the need to accept and live with the change. Although she creates Scarlett as a rather unlovable character, the reader soon develops a love/hate sensation towards her. The historical passages are presented as objective and factual, which makes them seem more accurate than they really are at times. Beyond the individual character Scarlett, the novel also gives some insight into the manners and traditions on the southern plantations, particularly among the women. The attitudes and expectations of the "high society" ladies persist to this day especially in the southern cities of Charleston and Savannah. There remains a culture of the elite, who, although they no longer acquire their wealth through the plantation system, still live according to a class system and try to keep their associations limited to other wealthy individuals perceived to be in their own class.
Sometimes only remembered for the epic motion picture and "Frankly ... I don't give a damn," Gone with the Wind was initially a compelling and entertaining novel. It was the sweeping story of tangled passions and the rare courage of a group of people in Atlanta during the time of Civil War that brought those cinematic scenes to life. The reason the movie became so popular was the strength of its characters--Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler, and Ashley Wilkes--all created here by the deft hand of Margaret Mitchell, in this, her first novel.

The New York Times Book Review
This is beyond a doubt one of the most remarkable first novels produced by an American writer. It is also one of the best.

The true American classic everyone should read. A pampered southern belle witnesses her world being torn apart by war while the man she loves marries another woman. However, Scarlett is not one to sit back and watch things happen; she does everything in her power to get what she wants. But in the end...does she really know what she wants? Is it Ashley she loves or is it the cunning Rhett Butler? And can she get back what she has tossed away with both hands? Set during the Civil War this book is all excitement, love and heartache and will mesmerize readers.