Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell is a spectacular narration of Scarlett O’ Hara, a Southern belle, who is born and raised in a large plantation in Georgia. This classic book narrates the epic tale of Scarlett’s life during the most difficult and tumultuous periods in America’s history. Before the onset of civil war, Scarlett could only be described as genteel. She is without doubt the prettiest lass and is always the belle of the ball. Exuberant and eager to go, Scarlett is pursued by a crowd of suitors, but has eyes for one-man only-Ashley Wilkes. However, from her first love to three husbands, from her innocence to her cruel comprehension and understanding of life, from luxury to absolute poverty and starvation, Scarlett survives through a series of the most inhumane and cruel circumstances, and evolves into a steely woman who can deal with a burning Atlanta, civil war, unreciprocated love, betrayal and loss of her loved ones.
Mitchell vividly carries her readers through the civil unrest that swept the American South in 1860s. However, the narration is through a woman, giving readers an opportunity to get a succinct view and a feel of the role that women played during this critical period of the American History. Mitchell illustrates the struggles of the Southern people who lived through the difficult period of the Civil Wars. Throughout the book, the author expresses the sentimentality of young romance, and the hyper-masculine violence of war tearing the socioeconomic fabric apart. It is noteworthy that this heady combination is intended to draw attention to the society’s stereotypical representation of gender, and the adverse effects of civil war on women during the civil war era.
Through the civil war, Mitchell takes her readers through a surreal, yet an interesting process as traditional gender roles and power structure begin to change. Before civil war broke out, a rather quite society is presented and gender roles are clearly defined. Mitchell introduces her readers to the existing stereotypes that objectify women and their social role, which is to please and serve the whims of men. This is evident in the manner in which Scarlett is perceived by the society. By directly expressing her liking for Ashley, Rhett, who overhears their conversation is surprised and bemused at the same time (84). Ashley cannot stand a strong willed and open-minded woman like Scarlett, on the contrary, he prefers the frail, submissive, and less beautiful Melanie for a wife.
However, Mitchell portrays the true worth of a woman and her rightful place in the society as the civil war unfolds. Despite the appalling gender stereotyping and inequality that exists, through Scarlett and Melanie, Mitchell portrays women as strong, intelligent, and resilient. Scarlett stealthily navigates through numerous hurdles and depicts a steely attitude whenever faced with a challenge. She is cunning and manipulates men with ease. She has an exceptional business acumen and becomes a successful mill owner (Mitchell, 493). Melanie, though initially presented as frail, exhibits increasing strength as Georgia is plunged into full war. Eventually, Melanie emerges as Mitchell’s strongest character, and an epitome of social evolution. She protects her meek husband from the world he cannot face, and plays a crucial role in the restoration of the Atlanta society (661).
In an entertaining, yet a ruthless fashion, Mitchell uses Atlanta to symbolize the painful rebirth of American civilization and the struggle for women emancipation from a patriarchal society. Gone with the wind combines various literary devices such epiphany, and symbolism to show how women were able to transcend societal expectations and gender roles faced with extreme hardships and the most harrowing human conditions.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind, Part 1. City of Westminster, London: Penguin Publishers, 1996.
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