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Hey, is Gone With the Wind ok as a book?

So...Gone With the Wind. I feel like there might be a problem there. Or is there? See, I don't KNOW. Because everyone loves it. No one hates GWTW, which is amazing because it's approximately 85 million pages long and all about a LADY, and who likes books about ladies?

But also this happens, and omg.

It's beautifully -- nay, MAGICALLY -- written. Scarlett O'Hara is one of the most memorable characters in 20th century fiction. And she isn't even that likable, which is so damn ballsy of Margaret Mitchell. As a work of literature, it seems pretty great. But it makes me ever so slightly uneasy.

Gone With the Wind is Southern apologist fiction. It's a lament for another time when everything was civilized and people went to barbecues and took long naps and, y'know, bought and sold other people's lives. Whatever, everyone's happy, right?

That's not the main point of the novel. I'm gonna go ahead and confidently state that it's a novel of hope about the South and its ability to "rise again." Scarlett is the land; Mitchell makes a huge point about Scarlett and her father's plantation Tara being one and the same, and the only thing she cares about throughout the novel is holding onto Tara and surviving. So we have a downtrodden, poverty-stricken South in the 1930s, and a novelist who wants to raise its image not only among her fellow Southerners, but throughout the country.

But if you're a novelist looking back to and writing about the last time you were A Great Land, and that time involves slavery, you're maybe going to sound like a dick about slavery, because you're pretty much saying everything was awesome back then, and "everything" includes you treating other human beings as property because their skin is the "wrong" fucking color.

There're all kinds of defenses you can make of GWTW, and here's the thing -- you can still love it. You can love something to death and still acknowledge that it has problems. Do I love Britney Spears? YES. Are her life choices perfect? Well. That's for another time.

But while yes, defenses can be mounted for GWTW, one of the ways you can cut through those is to look at practical, real consequences. And what I know as a practical, real consequence is that in 8th grade, when I read that book for the first time, my class was going going over the Civil War, and I was the BIGGEST of Southern apologists. "They initially formed the KKK for ok reasons" and "The Civil War wasn't even about slavery; it was about states' rights" and "The slaves were treated better on the plantations than they would've been out on their own."

YEAH. THAT HAPPENED. And by the way, the Civil War being about states' rights?

Right. It so wasn't about slavery: it was just about the far more pressing issue of whether the states had the right to keep their slaves despite what the federal government said. That's tooootally what they cared about. State sovereignty. "You want to NOT let me do this thing I like, and I am mad NOT BECAUSE I WANT TO DO THE THING but because of you being allowed to not let me." 

It would be like states seceding from the Union because they still wanted to ban gay marriage, but then saying their seceding was about states' rights and totally not about gay marriage why on earth would you think that that's so silly.

I'm not saying the events that happen with the slave population in Gone With the Wind never happened. But if you're talking about something as touchy and as TOTALLY RECENT THIS WAS 150 YEARS AGO as slavery, you have to achieve something of a balance, if not an imbalance in the "oh yeah, slavery was super-shitty, don't think I'm not saying that" category. Instead it's that the slaves at Tara SO DON'T WANT FREEDOM because they love the family so much, and the ones who ran away are portrayed as acting like assholes, and then a former slave and his companion attack and try to rape Scarlett in the woods. Now GRANTED, in that last situation, one of the guys is white. But too little too late, Mitchell. 

Look, it's a manipulative book. If I had read it anytime recently, I probably wouldn't be able to bring myself to write this, because it's SO beautiful and SO well-done, and the only problem you see while reading it is those damn carpetbaggers and that white trash Slattery girl who're trying to raise themselves above their social caste HOW DARE THEY and make money off the fall of a refined and noble people (...who still see it as fine to own other people).

If you haven't read Gone With the Wind, you absolutely should. It's immensely readable. And wonderful. And in my top ten books of all time. But. Y'know. Be aware.

It's kind of racist.


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