Gone with the Wind is a novel by American writer Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County and Atlanta, both in Georgia, during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty following Sherman's destructive "March to the Sea". This historical novel features a coming-of-age story, with the title taken from the poem “Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae”, written by Ernest Dowson.
I had every detail clear in my mind before I sat down to the typewriter.
— Margaret Mitchell
Gone with the Wind was popular with American readers from the outset and was the top American fiction bestseller in 1936 and 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide.
Gone with the Wind is a controversial reference point for subsequent writers of the South, both black and white. Scholars at American universities refer to, interpret, and study it in their writings. The novel has been absorbed into American popular culture.
Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the book in 1937. It was adapted into the 1939 film of the same name, which has been considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made and also received the Academy Award for Best Picture during the 12th annual Academy Awards ceremony. Gone with the Wind is the only novel by Mitchell published during her lifetime.
Differences Between Novel and Film
A few deviations between the novel and the 1939 film adaptation:
Wedding Ring Scene
In the book, Scarlett offers her wedding ring to support the Southern war effort at the Atlanta Bazaar, and Melanie follows suit. In the film, it is reversed (Melanie gives up her ring first, followed by Scarlett).
One significant difference is the number of children Scarlett had. In the book, she had one child with each husband, not just Rhett. She had a son, Wade Hampton Hamilton (Charles’ son), and two daughters, Ella Lorena Kennedy (Frank’s daughter), and Eugenie Victoria "Bonnie Blue" Butler (Rhett’s daughter) who was in the movie as well. In the book, Scarlett has three children, one from each marriage (Wade, her son with Charles Hamilton, Ella, her daughter with Frank Kennedy, and Eugenie Victoria “Bonnie”, her daughter with Rhett Butler. In the film, only Bonnie is portrayed.
Another significant difference is the character of Will Benteen who was completely eliminated from the movie though he was in the mini-series for “Scarlett”. Will was a Civil War veteran who stumbled sick and missing a leg to Tara. He was deathly ill, but somehow survived. He had no home or family to which he could return so he stayed at Tara to repay the O’Hara’s kindness. He helped manage the plantation. Mammy said, “Will was something the Lord has provided.” The O’Haras muddled through thanks to Will. Later, he married Suellen.
Ashley Returns from the War
In the movie, when Ashley returns from the war, Mammy restrains Scarlett from running to greet him. Will Benteen restrains her in the novel.
Gerald’s death was a significant change from the novel. Suellen coerced her father, Gerald into accepting money from the Union government for claiming allegiance. When Gerald realized what he had done, he stole a horse to return to Tara. He tried to leap a fence and fell to his death.
Ku Klux Klan
The KKK is explicitly mentioned in the books (Ashley and Frank are members) whereas it is only ever alluded to in the film (Frank only refers to it as a “political meeting” in front of Scarlett).
In the movie, at the sewing party, Melanie reads aloud from David Copperfield In the novel, she reads from Les Miserables.
Ashley's Birthday Party
One very controversial difference is the scene when Scarlett returns from Ashley’s birthday party to a very drunk and angry Rhett. Scarlett and Ashley were reminiscing about the idyllic days before the war. In a rare moment of sentimentality, Scarlett became tearful. Ashley offered an innocent hug which was witnessed by several. Melanie refused to believe her beloved Ashley and her equally beloved former sister-in-law could ever betray her and refused to even hear an explanation though Scarlett tried to offer one. Rhett was not so understanding. With hurt pride and a great deal of hard liquor, he swept Scarlett into his arms. Though initially resistant, Scarlett quickly returned his passion. Their relations that night were consensual.
A number of other minor characters who impacted Scarlett and Rhett in important ways didn’t make the screenplay. Backstory which explained much was discarded. Character development was simplified in many cases. “Gone With The Wind” is such a rich and complex book that to have included every person and event would have made the movie about 12 hours long.
- Charles Hamilton: The actor playing Charles Hamilton is a stout and spotty young man. In the book he's described as a nice fellow, very handsome and very shy. Scarlett takes advantage of this inexperience to marry him solely for spite after being rejected by Ashley Wilkes.
- Archie: Scarlett also employs convict labor at her sawmill and turns a blind eye to their treatment lest it harm her profits. When she’s attacked by the shantytown she'd been driving herself. But she used to have a former convict, Archie, as a driver. He'd quit when he discovered she'd hired convict labor as he knew how such labor was abused. This character was also completely eliminated.. as well as the whole subplot of Scarlett employing convicts instead of Free Blacks. Understandably so as it shows her in a very poor light.
- Ella Kennedy: Scarlett had a second child, Ella ,by Frank Kennedy, the guy she married for Tara's tax money. The pregnancy and child aren't important to the plot and so never happen in the movie.
- Slaves: Some other minor characters such as Pork’s wife Dilcey and Honey Wilkes (the girl Charles Hamilton was courting) were absent in the film. In the film, Charles was courting India. Ashley has a slave servant named Mose who goes to war alongside him.
Writing Gone with the Wind
In May 1926, after Mitchell had left her job at the Atlanta Journal and was recovering at home from her ankle injury, she wrote a society column for the Sunday Magazine, "Elizabeth Bennet's Gossip", which she continued to write until August. Meanwhile, her husband was growing weary of lugging armloads of books home from the library to keep his wife's mind occupied while she hobbled around the house; he emphatically suggested that she write her own book instead: For God's sake, Peggy, can't you write a book instead of reading thousands of them?
To aid her in her literary endeavors, John Marsh brought home a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter (c. 1928). For the next three years Mitchell worked exclusively on writing a Civil War-era novel whose heroine was named Pansy O'Hara (prior to Gone with the Wind's publication Pansy was changed to Scarlett). She used parts of the manuscript to prop up a wobbly couch.
The South of Gone with the Wind
While "the South" exists as a geographical region of the United States, it is also said to exist as "a place of the imagination" of writers. An image of "the South" was fixed in Mitchell's imagination when at six years old her mother took her on a buggy tour through ruined plantations and "Sherman's sentinels", the brick and stone chimneys that remained after William Tecumseh Sherman's "March and torch" through Georgia. Mitchell would later recall what her mother had said to her:
She talked about the world those people had lived in, such a secure world, and how it had exploded beneath them. And she told me that my world was going to explode under me, someday, and God help me if I didn't have some weapon to meet the new world.
From an imagination cultivated in her youth, Margaret Mitchell's defensive weapon would become her writing. Mitchell said she heard Civil War stories from her relatives when she was growing up:
On Sunday afternoons when we went calling on the older generation of relatives, those who had been active in the Sixties, I sat on the bony knees of veterans and the fat slippery laps of great aunts and heard them talk.
On summer vacations, she visited her maternal great-aunts, Mary Ellen ("Mamie") Fitzgerald and Sarah ("Sis") Fitzgerald, who still lived at her great-grandparents' plantation home in Jonesboro. Mamie had been twenty-one years old and Sis was thirteen when the Civil War began.
Gone With the Wind
|Scarlett O'Hara · Melanie Hamilton · Rhett Butler · Ashley Wilkes · Aunt Pittypat · Gerald O'Hara · Will Benteen|
|Georgia · Tara · Twelve Oaks · Atlanta · Five Points · Rough and Ready · Macon|
|Introduction · Picnic of Twelve Oaks · Off to War · Move to Atlanta · The Confederate Ball · Messages of Death · Home on Furlough · Siege of Atlanta · Journey Back to Tara · The Neighborhood in Ruins · Death of a Yankee · A Fresh Start · Home from the War · The Return of Jonas · Rhett's Imprisonment · Fanny Elsing's Wedding|