Margaret Mitchell: Contribution as American Novelist

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      Margaret Mitchell is not exactly to be called a humorist but she is close to be a humorist except for her most popular novel Gone With the Wind (1936) which was her sardonic comment that long ago she gave up thinking about her long romantic tale set in Georgia during the Civil War and reconstruction. Nearby twenty-five million copies were sold. It is a simple tale in the tradition of plantation and Civil War romance which tells the story of the south from the point of view of the middle-class planters. Specifically, it is the tale of Scarlet O’Hara, a heroine, who under the pressures of war and hardship, grows from a girl to a woman, a Southern belle to a matriarch.

      The story opens just before the outbreak of the Civil War on a Georgia plantation. Tara, the home of Scarlet O’Hara, is a spoilt and willful 16 year old southern belle. Against the backdrop of the war, the defeat of the south, and reconstruction, the story follows the life of loves of Scarlet. Ashley Wilkes, with whom she is hopelessly infatuated, marries Melanie Hamilton. Scarlet marries Melanie’s brother Charles out of spite but soon becomes a young war widow. Having survived the siege and burning of Atlanta, she saves the lives of Melanie and her newborn child by leading them through the limes to the O’Hara plantation. Back at Tara, she finds her mother dead, her father demented, the slaves freed, and the plantation in ruins. The novel focuses on Scarlet’s determination to restore Tara. Being in need of money, she marries Frank Kennedy, her sister’s fiance because he owns a profitable business. Afterward he too is killed. She marries Rhett Butler, a profiteer who has made a fortune from the war. Through him, she acquires the wealth and power she craves but throughout their marriages, he struggles against her continuing passion for Ashley. When Scarlet has finally come to realize her love for hett, he walks out on her with words - "My dear, I don’t give a damn." Scarlet has finally come to realize her love for Rhet. Gone With the Wind is certainly an inescapable fact of American literary history.

      This historical novel represents a confluence of several narrative traditions in American writing. Scarlet O’Hara is the most memorable heroine in modern American fiction.

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