Margaret Mitchell’s Southern Belle In ‘Gone With The Wind’ Still Enthralls Us
“After all, tomorrow is another day!”
The book Gone with the Wind ends with this famous line. Have you ever read a more positive ending? I know I haven’t and all credit goes to the author Margaret Mitchell, whose birthday it is today.
Along with The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough Gone with the Wind was another novel that I had read when I entered teenage. Both novels are engrained in my memory, more so Gone with the Wind, I even have a poster of the movie on my staircase. I was at that point discovering popular writing and someone introduced me to the novel and the author. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler have been with me ever since. And it really helped that Clark Gable was Rhett and Vivien Leigh was Scarlett, perfectly cast in the blockbuster movie made later on the novel.
The book experienced huge success and received rave reviews. The official release date was set for June 30, 1936 and the novel had pre-sold more than 50,000 copies.
Margaret Mitchell was a Southern girl
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900 in Atlanta, Georgia where she lived all of her life. She was a born storyteller; she started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil and told tales as soon as she could talk. She wrote and produced plays and cast herself and her friends in the parts.
Margaret was a reader and took an interest in Atlanta’s history and the American Civil War. One of her favourite pastimes was discovering the history of Atlanta and Peachtree Street, where she lived. But you’ll be surprised to know that she gathered much of her Civil War history from family gatherings and the parties that she attended, this she later used in the writing of Gone with the Wind.
Her mind was bound to be a fertile ground for any literary work, when Margaret was almost eleven she had gone through Shakespeare, she also read Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens. She also read The New York Sun to which her father subscribed and many children’s magazines too.
One interesting aspect about her is that Margaret’s mother was one of the founders of the League of Women Voters in Georgia; she was very vocal about women’s rights and would often take Margaret to suffragette rallies. Here she learnt and understood about a different world.
It’s as if she had based the character of Scarlett on herself for like her, Margaret too was a lively and spirited girl with a great sense of humour and enjoyed social events and being the centre of attention.
When she decided to settle down
In 1918 she met and got engaged to Lt. Clifford Henry. But sadly Clifford died in battle. In 1919 she lost her mother due to complications with pneumonia and the flu.
Margaret later met John Marsh and Berrien Kinnard Upshaw both friends who vied for her attention. Upshaw went on to win her affection and the two in spite of her family’s disapproval got married on September 2, 1922, John Marsh was the best man. But unfortunately for Margaret, Upshaw turned out to be a violent and abusive man, and after a few months into the marriage he left.
In December of 1922, she became a feature writer and started writing for Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. For them she wrote 129 feature stories about everything happening in Atlanta. In 1925, John Marsh and Margaret became engaged and on July 4, 1925 they were married. After marriage they lived in a tiny apartment which since her death has been converted to Margaret Mitchell House and Museum. This is the same house where Gone with the Wind was written.
How she got down to writing Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind is a love story set in a fictionalized backdrop of American Civil War.
Before Margaret started writing Gone with the Wind, she began a novel but abandoned the story after thirty pages and later burnt it. But she did complete a novella called ‘Ropa Carmagin’ which she instructed her secretary to file. The secretary found the story fascinating but it too was destroyed.
The novel traces the life of manipulative and petulant southern belle Scarlett O’Hara set in the backdrop of the American Civil War.
But it was when Margaret gave up writing the column as she had broken her ankle and was confined to her small apartment, when first she was bed-ridden then later had to move in on crutches did she start her writing journey. Her husband brought her large number of books from the library and when it seemed that she had read every book in the library, he asked to start writing a book herself instead. So early in 1927 Margaret sat down and began work on Gone with the Wind.
She started writing and eventually took ten years to finish the world’s bestselling book, second only to the Bible. It is said that Margaret spent years perfecting the historical facts of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
But Margaret had little confidence in herself and her work, she wasn’t sure whether or not her book had merit. It was in 1935 that Margaret met Harold Latham, an editor for MacMillan. He had heard about her but she refused to show him her manuscript then. But just as he was leaving she decided to hand it over to him anyways, envelops and all.
Latham finally got down to read the novel and at once knew this was tremendously important. And after many alterations, revisions and fact checking, Gone with the Wind was officially completed on January 22, 1936.
It’s as if she had based the character of Scarlett O’Hara on herself for like her Margaret too was a lively and spirited girl with a great sense of humour and enjoyed social events and being the centre of attention.
The story of Gone with the Wind
The novel traces the life of manipulative and petulant southern belle Scarlett O’Hara set in the backdrop of the American Civil War. The story is about her survival through the tragic history of the South during the War and Reconstruction, but mostly her tangled love affairs with Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler become the centre of attention.
A super-duper success
The book experienced huge success and received rave reviews. The official release date was set for June 30, 1936 and the novel had pre-sold more than 50,000 copies. Margaret received the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. The movie rights were sold to David O. Selznick for $50,000, and at the time was the highest amount ever paid for movie rights. December 15, 1939, three years after her novel was published, the much-anticipated premier of the movie was set to take place in Atlanta. Gone with the Wind won Best Picture of 1939.
On August 11, 1949 when Margaret and John were on their way to see a movie, as they were crossing a street, a cab speeding down the road hit her. Margaret held on for five days, but finally died, never regaining consciousness. But she lives on through her novel Gone with the Wind.
Some memorable dialogues from Gone with the Wind:
“I’ll think of it tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” — Scarlett O’Hara
“My dear, I don’t give a damn.” — Rhett Butler
“Burdens are for shoulders strong enough to carry them.” ― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
“Hardships make or break people.” ― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
“Never pass up new experiences [Scarlett], they enrich the mind.” — Rhett Butler
The views expressed are the writer’s own.