Margaret Mitchell's romantic epic, Gone With the Wind, owes its remarkable popularity to the climate of sudden self-destruction and dreariness the Depression created. The Old South's grandeur, coupled with its Civil War-era decadence, provided much-needed escapism for readers, as well as paralleling the U.S.'s own plight in the 20s and 30s. In addition, Scarlett O'Hara's feminist role, her devotion to her land, and her indomitable optimism lent hope to those who had lost faith in the American Dream.
A spirit of beautiful, colorful life at the onset sets up the South's inevitable destruction and magnifies the greatness of the land and its people. "Spring had come early that year, with warm quick rains and sudden frothing of pink peach blossoms and dogwood dappling with white stars the dark river swamp and far-off hills. Already the plowing was nearly finished, and the bloody glory of the sunset colored the fresh-cut furrows of red Georgia clay to even redder hues." (10) The foreshadowing of the "bloody glory" of sunset is striking, but idealism is the main theme presented here. Scarlett's status as a second-generation immigrant adds further to this atmosphere of opportunity. Her father, a proud Irishman, proclaims "'Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for Œtis the only thing in this world that lasts...And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them the land they live on is like their mother.'" (39) The idea of an undersized foreigner claiming a large stake in America as his own must surely have fueled the imagination of the great influx of recent immigrants, many of whom used GWTW as a primer to American literature.
Hanging over the tranquil South is the ...
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...n which to plan her campaign," (1023) comforts her. Her final statement reiterates her sentiments for a new "tomorrow" after Atlanta's burning (414), and her faith in her own abilities again avers Mitchell's feminist leanings: "With the spirit of her people who would not know defeat...she raised her chin. She could get Rhett back...'Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.'" (1024) With its broad appeal to uprising women, the hopeless, and anyone yearning for a long diversion into a more regal time, as well as its firm beliefs in the American Dream in a time when the premise was widely doubted, GWTW's rank as the most popular American book is undeniable; a more debatable question would be whether Mitchell's intentions were first of providing desolate America with romance, or rather of pushing veiled political propaganda.
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