Recasting: Gone with the Wind in American Culture

By Darden Asbury Pyron | Go to book overview

Preface

Although I grew up on Gone with the Wind, all my first impressions were formed by the film rather than the novel; I paid little attention to Margaret Mitchell's original work. Not until 1974 did I read the novel for the first time, and then only as a lark: I was looking for a "light" assignment for a course I was teaching in Southern mythology. I got nothing I expected. I found it alien to the harmonious tales of late-nineteenth-century Southern romance and at odds with the largely conflict-free, aristocratic order of David Selznick's film. My strongest impressions were antithetical: I found conflict, disharmony, and irresolution.

Selznick's gentrification of the work fascinated me, but I was even more interested in the sources and meaning of the social structures in the novel. How and why did Margaret Mitchell revise and rewrite the plantation mythology of the South? What did the novel mean for Southern history, both of the nineteenth and of the twentieth centuries? How did the novel fit into the intellectual currents of the time in which it was written, specifically within the great revival of Southern letters in the twenties and thirties? With these and other problems in mind, I began to investigate how historians and literary critics had addressed these issues. I discovered that, by and large, they had not. The gap between popular acclaim and academic disdain piqued my curiosity still further, and eventually inspired this anthology.

I first conceived this collection in 1977 with two objectives: to collate some of the existing scholarship and to generate new critical opinion on the novel and the film. I have sought essays both old and new that return to the work itself and avoid the hoopla that has afflicted most discussion about it. I have looked for pieces that were based on close, fresh readings of the text itself within a well-defined disciplinary context. At the same time, the collection also reflects contemporary concerns of modern scholarship, particularly issues about race and sex or gender. I have been especially interested, too, in essays that deal with the Southern context.

I have not tried to balance the essays with pro and con arguments about the merit of the novel or film. The collection, however, is generally revisionist if only in pressing the idea that the work is worth studying. Some contributors like the work, some do not, even though these opinions may not always be apparent from the

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