Insatiable Appetites: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers

By Madonne M. Miner | Go to book overview

the fifties and sixties--find it almost impossible to put down. For such an explanation, we must delve beneath that which is conscious, adult, and intellectual, to the realm of fantasy: "unconscious, infantile, and fraught with emotion." 23 The fantasy operating in Gone with the Wind-- operating on both the novel's author and on us, its readers--engages us in repeated cycles of desire and denial: desire for an imaginary all- provident mother, denial of her actual existence.

The novel allows us, and Mitchell, to look back, at the same time that it comments on the futility of doing so. When Scarlett scrounges for food at Twelve Oaks, when she vows she will never be hungry again, she also pledges that as there is no going back, she is going forward. Mitchell then comments that although countless "bitter-eyed" Southern women would look backward, "to dead times, to dead men, evoking memories that hurt and were futile" (p. 356), Scarlett was not among them; she was never to look back. Curiously, Mitchell makes no mention of dead women, and her omission is significant as it suggests her own unconscious involvement in this particular form of looking back. Further, if Mitchell were to include dead women in her list, she would find herself caught in a contradiction: the novel shows that Scarlett repeatedly looks back, back to her mother. Reading Gone with the Wind, we may do the same, until the novel calls us up, depicting the nightmare that might be if we assume our reverie is reality. The all-provident mother-myth that Gone with the Wind destroys is beautiful; the novel succeeds because Mitchell so fully conveys both this beauty and its falseness.


Notes
1.
See, for example, Ralph McGill, "Gone with the Wind, the Story behind the Story," Red Barrel 15 ( Sept. 1936), pp. 14-20; and Faith Baldwin, "The Woman Who Wrote Gone with the Wind," Pictorial Review 28 ( Mar. 1937), pp. 4, 69-70, 72.
2.
Finis Farr, Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta ( New York: Morrow, 1965), p. 44.
3.
Farr, p. 49. See also letter to Dr. Charles E. Mayo, August 22, 1936, in Margaret Mitchells "Gone with the Wind" Letters: 1936-1946, ed. Richard Harwell ( New York: Macmillan Book Co., 1976), pp. 54-55 (henceforth referenced simply as Letters). Writing to Mayo, Mitchell notes that although she started out to be a psychiatrist, she "was forced to leave college when my

-32-

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Insatiable Appetites: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction: "Guaranteed to Please the Female Reader" 3
  • Notes 11
  • 1 - Gone with the Wind: And the Cupboard Was Bare"" 14
  • Notes 32
  • 2 - Forever Amber: Swollen Up like a Stuffed Toad"" 35
  • Notes 55
  • 3 - Peyton Place: The Uses--And Abuses--Of Enchantment"" 58
  • Notes 74
  • 4 - Valley of the Dolls: Wow! What an Orgy!"" 78
  • Notes 98
  • 5 - Scruples: It's as Addictive as Chocolate"" 101
  • Notes 123
  • Conclusion 126
  • Notes 141
  • Bibliography 143
  • Index 153
  • About the Author 159
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