Conde, Mary. “Some African-American Fictional Responses to Gone With the Wind.” The Yearbook of English Studies. 26. (1996) JSTOR. University of Pennsylvania Library. Philadelphia. 1 Dec. 2008. < http://www.jstor.org/stable/3508659>
In her essay, author Mary Conde addresses the African American community’s reaction to Gone With the Wind, and the novel’s writer Margaret Mitchell’s reaction to their criticism. The most common criticism of the novel is that it appealed to a mythic and romanticized ideal of the “Old South” that ignores the atrocities of the Civil War and the practice of slavery. However, Mitchell vehemently denies these accusations, claiming that she herself denies the existence of any rosy Southern ideal. Further, it is important to note that her novel’s protagonist, Scarlett O’Hara, does not support the Confederate cause and, as illustrated by her emotional breakdown in the hospital while treating veterans, is deeply moved by the atrocities war. Despite Scarlett’s dismissal of the Confederate cause as a justification for war, many African Americans continue to dismiss Gone With the Wind as a gross misrepresentation of the era of slavery in the South.
The reaction of the African American community to the Hollywood adaptation of Gone With the Wind provides numerous examples of the historical inconsistencies and myths present in the film. Many of these reactions have taken the form of fictional writing intended to undermine the glorification of the “Old South.” Novels like Dessa Rose and Jubilee depict the black woman’s struggle during the Civil War. In both novels, the protagonists are hideously scarred, and the plot is ridden with violence and exploitation. Such novels stand in direct contrast to Mitchell’s novel, and paint a more realistic, albeit grim, picture of the American South in the Civil War.
Toplin, Robert Brent. “Hollywood’s History: The Historians’ Response.” Reviews in American History, 24.2 (1996)
Robert Brent Toplin’s review of Hollywood’s adaptation of literature to film throughout history analyzes the historical accuracy of David Selznick’s celebrated blockbuster hit Gone With the Wind. In his analysis, Toplin acknowledges the common tendency of Hollywood producers and writers to remove minor stories or characters to simplify the story into a streamlined melodrama. Further, moviemakers will often overstate truths in addition to simplifying them to elicit a response from the audience. Such “creative uses of evidence” are apparent in Hollywood’s Gone With the Wind.
Toplin cites historian Catherine Clinton’s discussion of Gone With the Wind in which the scholar addresses the film’s classic flaws. Clinton argues that Selznick’s constant appeal to “Old South” romanticism detracts from the broader historical and cultural message of the film. However, the most troubling issue for Clinton concerns the depiction of slaves as “happy-go-lucky darkies who are ever loving and loyal to their… benevolent masters.” Clinton finds Selznick’s illustration of slavery and the slaves themselves as offensive and distastefully romanticized. Clinton concedes, however, that the film provides an adequate and realistic view of an “up-country” Georgia. Gerald O’Hara’s humble foreign origins, coupled with Scarlett O’Hara’s rise from “southern belle” to matriarch during the Reconstruction, serves as a reliable reflection of the social fabric of Northern Georgia in the post-war South. Futher, Rhett’s initial resistance and skepticism toward the war movement in the beginning of the film was a sentiment shared by many Confederates in the antebellum period.