How does shifting the point of view of the narrative alter the meanings and messages inherent in the story Gone with the Wind?

Mitchell's periodic shift in character perspective allows the reader to see the full scope of the old southern society and the Civil War in ways that would not be possible if she only told the narrative from Scarlett's point of view alone. Multiple perspectives ensure a more personal and complete view than only one character perspective or an uncaring omniscient narrator.

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For the most part, Gone with the Wind is told from the perspective of its protagonist, Scarlett O'Hara. Her perspective is portrayed through third-person narration. However, Margaret Mitchell does not limit the point of view to Scarlett alone. She sometimes shifts to another character in order to expand the...

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For the most part, Gone with the Wind is told from the perspective of its protagonist, Scarlett O'Hara. Her perspective is portrayed through third-person narration. However, Margaret Mitchell does not limit the point of view to Scarlett alone. She sometimes shifts to another character in order to expand the scope of the story. Gone with the Wind is an epic novel set on a large canvas. Mitchell's goal is not merely to tell Scarlett's story, but to also show how it fits into the grander drama of her social class and the Civil War itself.

For example, early in the novel, Mitchell shifts the perspective to Scarlett's mother, Ellen O'Hara. From Scarlett's point of view, Ellen is the perfect southern lady. Her mother is generous to her social inferiors, poised, responsible with money, and always emotionally in control. However, when Mitchell shows Ellen's perspective, the audience learns Ellen is a deeply unhappy woman. She lost the man she loved when she was still in her teens. He was a scoundrel her family did not approve of, far from the kind of man someone might expect a "proper lady" to fall in love with. Furthermore, she has never loved her husband Gerald O'Hara; she only married to escape the unpleasant memories associated with the young man she lost.

Scarlett herself is never privy to this information since Ellen is too secretive and respectful of her husband to confess her true feelings. Were Scarlett to learn about her mother's past, her image of her mother as a saintly lady would be punctured. However, the reader needs this information so that they can better understand the position of women like Ellen in the Old South. From her story, we learn how marriages were usually social contracts more than love matches, and how the image of the perfect southern belle, believed by Scarlett to be epitomized in Ellen O'Hara, is a sham rather than a reality, born of misery rather than breeding.

Scarlett is a character who never understands the bigger picture until it is too late. By swapping to other characters's perspectives, Mitchell allows only the reader fuller context. This is more reflective of real life, where people can never understand one another fully.

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