Gender and Social Class Structure
The world presented in Gone with the Wind is one defined by rigid gender and social codes of conduct. Clear rules govern the dress, actions, and speech of ladies and gentlemen, and the punishments for transgressions, especially those of a sexual nature, are severe. When Rhett first appears at the Twelve Oaks party, a scandalous rumor circulates about how he is not "received" in his home town of Charleston because he once stayed out all night with a woman and then refused to marry her, damaging both of their reputations permanently. Rhett is not considered a gentleman, a dangerous state, because, as Scarlett explains, "there was no telling what men would do when they weren't gentlemen. There was no standard to judge them by."
Although Scarlett tries to adhere to the social conventions of gender, she feels as constrained by them as Rhett does. When Rhett asks Scarlett to dance at a war fundraiser, she eagerly accepts, shocking Atlanta society by violating the mourning period required for the death of her husband. Later in the novel, after the war is over, Scarlett feels the training she received from her mother in being a lady is virtually useless to her in such changed and difficult circumstances. She succeeds financially in Atlanta by breaking all the rules, shocking society again when she buys and operates a lumber mill without the help of her husband, Frank Kennedy. Numerous references are made to...
(The entire section is 2105 words.)
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It was Margaret Mitchell's stated intention to write a novel that would illustrate the value of "gumption," the instinct for survival that permitted Mitchell's forebears the Fitzgeralds to pick up and go on after General Sherman's destructive forces had passed through and to replant the devastated fields. To illustrate the value of this quality, her mother once took Margaret out to see some ruined homes that had stood as they were since the War. "You remember that, child," she said, "that the world those people lived in was a secure world, just like yours is now. But theirs exploded right from underneath them. Your world will do that to you one day, too, and God help you, child, if you don't have some weapon to meet that new world — Education." Margaret, who had left college before undertaking Gone With the Wind, did not agree that going to school would necessarily preserve one in a crisis, but the point about having to deal with a possible future disaster was well noted. In retrospect, it would seem that she preferred her Aunt Sis's emphasis on personal qualities as the key to survival: "There was just two kinds of people," she used to tell Margaret, "wheat people and buckwheat people. Take wheat — when it's ripe and a strong wind comes along, it's laid flat on the ground and it never rises again. But buckwheat yields to the wind, is flattened, but when the wind passes, it rises up just as straight as ever. Wheat people can't stand a wind; buckwheat people...
(The entire section is 887 words.)