The Wind Done Gone sparked heated argument even before it was published. The estate of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind (1936), filed suit in March, 2001, to block publication, claiming that Alice Randall’s book is an unauthorized sequel to Mitchell’s classic romance and tribute to the antebellum South. Estate lawyers claiming copyright infringement charged that Randall stole Gone with the Winds plot, characters, settings, and scenes and even plagiarized some passages. Randall and her publisher argued on appeal that her book is a literary parody of Gone with the Wind. In May, the Atlanta Federal Court of Appeals agreed and overturned the lower court’s decision. Houghton Mifflin began shipping the books in June, but Mitchell’s estate fanned the flames of controversy by filing an appeal.
The Wind Done Gone is indisputably a sequel of a kind. It begins about a month after Gone with the Wind ends, with Cynara making her first entry in the diary she has just received as a twenty-eighth birthday present from R, who is recently separated from Other. Cynara’s diary will go on to chronicle, among other things, her ongoing relationship with R. and the ultimate fates of Mammy, Other, and Tata, all fit subjects for inclusion in a sequel. Atypical of traditional sequels, however, is the book’s radical shift in point of view and voice. Gone with the Windpresents its romantic portrayal of the Old South through third person omniscient narration from the point of view of the Southern aristocracy.The Wind Done Gone tells another aspect of the same story through a former slave’s first person narration. The book further eludes easy categorization in a manner reminiscent of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), a “prequel” to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) that describes how Rochester meets and marries his Creole bride, who is fated to become the insane shut-in whose existence and identity is hidden from Jane Eyre. In The Wind Done Gone, Cynara’s diary accounts of her childhood at Tata serve a similar purpose by extending into the past the reach of the original.
Whether or not The Wind Done Gone should be called a literary parody is subject to debate. Where it inverts Mitchell’s story so that the masters are the puppets and the slaves are the puppeteers, it is an ahistorical, wish-fulfilling fantasy. Where it attempts to undermine the racist stereotypes of Gone with the Wind, it is a critique, once again recallingWide Sargasso Sea with its negative depiction of British colonial practices in the West Indies. The most common definition of parody refers to a caricature of the original work, a lampoon or burlesque where the style of the original is imitated and exaggerated for humorous or satirical effect. With the exception of a few isolated passages and the characters’ altered names, the style of Randall’s novel does not fit that definition. In common with most parodies, however, understanding and appreciation of The Wind Done Gone is dependent upon familiarity with the earlier work. R., Mammy, and the other characters derived fromGone with the Wind are flat and undeveloped. The plantation and Atlanta are only sketchily drawn. Moreover, the outline for Cynara’s life story is provided by Mitchell’s plot, with many of her most emotion-drenched recollections based on some of Mitchell’s most memorable scenes. There is one crucial difference, however. Gone with the Windcontains only one fleeting reference to white slave owners having sex with their slaves. Miscegenation becomes the overriding focus of The Wind Done Gone.
Cynara’s diary opens with her childhood memories of life in the plantation house, Tata. Cynara bitterly recounts how Other monopolizes the attention of her own mother, Mammy, while Mammy ignores her. Lady, Other’s mother, becomes her solace for a while to such an extent that a complete role reversal takes place, with Other nursing from Mammy and Cynara nursing from Lady. Whether Lady allows such unlikely familiarity because she is jealous of Other’s love for Mammy or of her husband Gerald’s lust for Mammy is unclear. In any case, the unorthodox arrangement ends when Cynara reaches puberty and is sold for one dollar to a nearby plantation owner to save her from becoming the mistress of Other’s future husband. Gerald, Cynara’s father, prefers that she become Mammy’s equivalent there as mistress to his neighbor’s future son-in-law rather than as mistress to his own, apparently because he worries that Other’s charms would suffer by comparison with Cynara’s.
Before Gerald’s plan has time to become a reality, fate in the...
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