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  • Lance Mannion
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« Little Quinn, Mighty Quinn | Main | "You see, Watson, but you do not observe." »


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Most people who've seen GWTW haven't read the source material. As one who has studied it more than I'd like to admit, I can tell you you're absolutely correct, Lance. While racism is undeniably part of the fabric of the book, it's by no means its point. In fact, the pre-Civil Rights Movement south of Margaret Mitchell's era wasn't all that different from the post-Civil War atmosphere Scarlett lives in.

If you want to make a list, the story's white characters rate far higher on Scarlett's enemies list than the black ones. She reserves her sharpest scorn for the O'Hara's "white trash neighbors," the Slatterys. They're followed by dreamy southerners who can't stop talking about the good ol' days (excluding Ashley) and the Old Guard who won't celebrate Scarlett's good fortune, after she returns to wealth and comfort. (This includes Mammy, with her famous "mule in horse harness" summation of her mistress and master.)

The book's middle section, after Scarlett returns to Tara in the confusion of the war's last days and into Reconstruction, is the best, in my estimation. Here we see Scarlett toughen from giddy girlhood to gimlet-eyed womanhood, and tries to bring her family and servants with her:

Time and again, Ellen had said: "Be firm and gentle with inferiors, especially darkies." But if she was gentle the darkies would sit in the kitchen all day, talking endlessly about the good old days when a house nigger wasn't supposed to do a field hand's work.

That's a pretty typical passage for that section.

Unfortunately, the movie dispensed with the character of Dilcey, a half-Indian slave who's the mother of Prissy. Their mother-daughter relationship mirrors Ellen and Scarlett's, and Dilcey's loyalty and character through the hard times is often noted and praised.

I can't believe I know this much about a crappy book. But it's a great crappy book, so it's worth knowing.

Ginger Mayerson

Two things, then I'll stop haunting your comments, Lance.

I'll probably lose my license as a feminist because I kind of like Scarlett O'Hara, but when Scarlett has her big "As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again" speech, it includes "nor none of my kin (will ever be hungry again)," and she makes this come true. She and Melly, that is. So, she's not totally selfish. She's still a jerk, a bitch and a very determined one at that, but she does drag them all, with Melly's help, into better days. And Reconstruction, an occupation, was ugly; losing was bad, but Reconstruction was worse for the South.

Second, somewhere in the film or book (I will not buy the book, I will not buy the book), Ashley says he was going to free all his slaves after he inherited 12 Oaks. Okay, it's Reconstruction, who knows what he would have really done. I also seem to recall from reading the book that Ashley wasn't so hot on the war, but wasn't as vocal about it as Rhett, and went out of class/local loyalty more that ideology, which was stupid, but, hey, GWTW was only ever meant to be entertaining.

Just my take.

Speaking of racism, ABB feels King Kong is more racist than GWTW, here's her take: And a follow-up above it (I think I only get one hyperlink per post on Typepad). Interesting stuff. For the record, I like GWTW better than King Kong, but like neither as much as Young Frankenstein.


So, if Ashley is the one who is unhealthily fixated on the supposed "good old days," what do you make of Scarlett's unhealthy fixation on him, if anything?

Just curious, because Scarlett's passion is also rooted in something that she thought existed but never really did. In a way, that world Ashley wishes for didn't exist either - but he has convinced himself that it did.

harry near indy

ms. mayerson,

ah, young frankenstein. HIGH-larious movie.

btw, cbs sunday morning had a story on terri garr. she has ms, which i knew and i don't you know if you did. it showed the scene where gene wilder's character says "what knockers!" and terri garr's character says "vell, sank you, doctorr!"

that reminds me -- i have the movie here. think i'll watch it soon.

and lance,

very, very interesting first part of the gwtw continuing essay. i truly look foward to reading part 2.


Ashley isn't fixated on the good old days. He is, as Ginger points out, a secret abolitionist -- he does say that if there hadn't been a war, he'd have freed all his slaves as soon as he came into his inheritance. He also knows exactly what he is: A weakling bred for one way of life who simply can't adapt to another. He refers to the war as the gotterdamerung, and is always telling Scarlett how incompetent and inept he is at dealing with his reordered world, which she is always denying. Melanie is the one thing from the old world he thinks is worth holding onto.

The only time he speaks warmly of the good ol' days is that time in the mill where he ends up holding Scarlett, innocently, in his arms, and the old biddies walk in, leading to the Best. Dress. Ever. scene in the movie.


Oh, good grief.

You wouldn't be surprised... the war movement started out on the platform of freedom for women AND blacks. Who the hell do you think wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin?"

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