- 80 years ago today, Gone With The Wind won the Pulitzer prize for fiction.
Ok, so it’s not exactly on point historically, I get that.
It’s still one of the best books ever written, and Scarlett O’Hara is one of the strongest female characters ever created.
It’s still a good read.
Written by Georgia’s own Margaret Mitchell, the book took the literary world by storm. Mitchell, a Southerner who was schooled in Confederate lore by her tyrannical grandmother, was part of Atlanta’s old guard.
Her mother was a suffragist and many think Scarlett’s character was based on her. We don’t know, but I think it was a compilation of Granny, Mom, and Margaret, and the hundreds of women Peggy Mitchell knew who had lived through the Civil War, the burning of Atlanta, and Reconstruction.
Mitchell fell in love early; her army lieutenant beau was killed in World War I while she was at Smith College. During her stay at Smith, her mother died of the Spanish flu. Both events repurposed and fictionalized, feature prominently in the book as Scarlett’s first husband is dies in the War, and her mother dies of Typhoid.
Mitchell returned to Atlanta, married the wrong guy, and divorced the abusive bootlegger – again look for him in the book.
Mitchell broke convention ala Scarlett, when she took a job writing for a newspaper, interviewed convicts, smoked cigarettes in public, and generally told the old peahens of Atlanta to stuff it!
She married John Marsh, who would be the love of her life, share her interests, and encourage her to publish her 1000 plus page work.
So glad she met that guy!
GWTW was published in June of 1936.
She had originally planned to call the book Tomorrow is Another Day – Scarlett’s last line in the tome. There were some other ideas as well, but Mitchell chose the first line of the third stanza of a poem for the book.
Non Sum Qualls Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson contains
“I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind…”
Scarlett uses the line, gone with the wind, as she wonders if her plantation, Tara, is still there. The line (and title), is a metaphor for the lost way of life after the South’s defeat.
In reality, the poem is an expression of regret by someone who has lost his feelings for an old passion, and Cynara comes from the Greek word for artichoke which represents a lost love.
Margaret Mitchell may have known that, but I doubt Scarlett would have.
Regardless of where and when, it’s a great book filled with fascinating characters and is one of the greatest stories of survival of all time.
The four hour film does not do the book justice.
If Scarlett were alive today, she’d be kicking butt and taking names.