Ruth "Mammy" is a house slave, later servant at Tara. She originally was owned by Scarlett's grandmother and raised her mother, Ellen O'Hara. Mammy is "head woman of the plantation." She also serves as Scarlett's escort, guardian and conscience.
She is pofrtrayed by Hattie McDaniel in the film.
Mammy was born Ruth to two slaves who died in the Slaves' rebellion in the Carribean. Shortly after, she was given to Solange Prudhomme who married Pierre Robillard. While still a young child, later teenager, she became the caregiver to Solange's three daughters: Pauline, Eulalie and Ellen (1829), who nicknamed her Mammy. Ellen in particular was beloved by Mammy because of her obedience, elegance, gentility and devotion to charity.
When Ellen was fifteen, she got married to the much older Gerald O'Hara, despite loving her cousin Philippe Robillard. She moved to Tara and took Mammy there, as well as other slaves. At Tara, Mammy helped to raise Ellen's three daughters Scarlett (1845), who she nicknamed "Honey Child" and "Little Lamb", Suellen O'Hara (1846) and Carreen O'Hara (1848). Mammy also consoled Ellen during the stillbirths of her three sons, all named Gerald.
Mammy raised all three O'Hara girls and didn't hesitate to call them out on being spoiled, acting haughty or going after the wrong men. After Scarlett's marriage to Rhett Butler, Mammy moves with her to Butler House and she helps deliver Bonnie Butler. She also cares for Scarlett's other two children, Wade and Ella, but Bonnie is the apple of her eye and she is devestated when Bonnie dies.
In many ways, Mammy has taken over traits of Ellen O'Hara, who she so admires and protects. She is very religious and values modesty in young girls, and cares about what society thinks and "is fitting". She looks down on land slaves, being a house-slave herself, and she looks down on "White Trash", Yankees and Carpetbaggers, despite the Yankees fighting for her freedom.
But unlike Ellen, Mammy knows Scarlett a lot better, and is aware of her bad personality traits. She knows very well that Scarlett fakes her mourning her first husband, and she is aware of Scarlett's feelings for Ashley Wilkes. She openly compares Scarlett to a spider, trapping men. She publically tells Scarlett off for seducing her sister's beau, and for dressing unmodestly in the hope of attracting people. First showing her cleavage at a barbecue, and later using her mother's curtains to make a new dress. However, knowing her "little lamb", Mammy also knows and admires the strength Scarlett hides, saying "what she's gotta stand the good Lord gives her strength to stand".
Her bluntness, honesty and frankness earn her the respect of others. She and Rhett Butler are the only ones to act as Scarlett's conscience and call her out on her actions and this makes Mammy "one of the few persons whose respect I'd [Rhett] like to have".
- She is given no first name in the novel. Donald McCraig, who wrote several canonical prequels and sequels to Gone With the Wind gave her the name "Ruth".
- Her role is expanded in the film, in which her friendship with Rhett Butler is explored more. She is also given lines spoken by Will Benteen and Archie in the book.
- For three generations, she has raised three children and in each generation Mammy has had a favourite (Ellen, Scarlett and Bonnie).
Mammy’s role is that of a maternal figure within the life of Scarlett O’Hara, the novel’s main character; she did much of the work raising the O’Hara girls as they grew up, and by the time of the novel’s beginning, she serves mostly as a chaperone. As a house slave, her relationship to the family is far closer than that of most slaves and places her near the top of the slave hierarchy. She is domineering, bossy, loving, fiercely loyal, and far too comfortable within (and accepting of) her role in life for many modern audiences. Her use of vernacular is, to many critics, reminiscent of a minstrel archetype, albeit this one portrayed by an African-American rather than a white performer in blackface. One of the biggest criticisms levied toward Mammy is that she represents an affirmative slave and owner relationship and, in fact, seems relatively happy with her lot in life. To many people today, this puts slavery in far too positive of a light for comfort — a fair criticism. Critics claim that depictions such as this are dangerous because they romanticize a cruel past, transforming it into something that never existed. Such depictions distort the reality of the slave experience and, critics allege, are damaging to African-American identity today.
Mammy’s role within the O’Hara family is an intimate one, which gives her far greater autonomy than the vast majority of slaves. To critics, this depiction dangerously undermines the horrendous reality of true plantation life for slaves. When analyzing any text, the most important thing to do is to analyze it for what it is, instead of what it is not. And herein lies the central problem of much of what has been written or spoken against Gone with the Wind. Critics who see racism and danger in the book (or film) are all too often guilty of the fallacy of criticizing it for what it is not. Gone with the Wind is not a realistic portrayal of the slaves’ experience during or after the American Civil War. Nor did Margaret Mitchell intend for it to be. In telling her story, she was telling the story that she knew: that of the Southern white plantation-owning class. She grew up amongst Civil War veterans and former slave owners — it was their story and their perceived history that Margaret Mitchell set out to portray. She herself never saw Mammy as a caricature or a racist depiction — she was portraying the southern mammy as the southern children saw her, not as Mammy necessarily saw herself. As truth, this would indeed have potential danger. Viewed instead as myth and symbol, it becomes a highly useful text for analysis.