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The Danger of a Single Story- Gone With the Wind

I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” — Margaret Mitchell

Book Introduction

Gone With the Wind takes place in Atlanta during the time of the American Civil War. It deals with the personal struggle of Scarlet O’Hara, who falls in love with Ashley but ends up marrying Charles, someone she doesn’t love. Later on she meets Rhett, and Rhett loves her and goes through hard times with her. When she finally realizes her love for this man, however, it is too late.

Book Recommendation

rating: 4.6/5

Even though this book is long, it is still worth reading. The story is also very intriguing and many topics are implicated in the book.

The Danger of a Single Story

— Gone With the Wind

While many anti-slavery books and books regarding Civil War were published in the United States in the past few centuries,     such books may potentially contribute to people’s narrowed visions of the Civil War and its effects. Undoubtedly, slavery, according to any human moral, is against human rights and should be banned. Likewise, the unity of a nation can also be a justification for war. However, while books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Life Among the Lowly can both justify the righteousness of Civil War with the goal to terminate slavery, Gone With the Wind focuses on the not-so-popular topics of war and avoids the danger of a single story. Written in a completely different manner, Gone With the Wind centers the story on a Southern town named Tara and narrates the story in Southerners’ view, who, on the contrary of the Northerners, lost the war and many other things. From focusing the storyline of the defeated side, Mitchell reveals the other sides of the story, including the devastation of homes and happiness as a result of the war, women’s roles in the war and slavery as affected by the war. Instead of contributing the typical stereotypes people have about Civil War and of the people and society at that time in the United States, Mitchell shows that from Civil War, many Southerners’ lives were destroyed, women were able to take on an active role in recovering, and she also brings to light an example of harmonious relationships between slaves and their owners.

While many people recognize the effectiveness of the Civil War to ensure abolition and maintain unity of the nation, many often neglect the destructive sides of the war, especially to the Southerners. Like the protagonist of the story Scarlett, many people in the United States were politically neutral and hated wars, they still ended up getting involved in fights and were significantly affected by the war. Many lost homes as a result of the guns and grenades. When war first started, Scarlett knows that it would have a devastating effect on her home. As much as she gets annoyed at any mention of war, “she did not know that from the minute the fighting first began, Atlanta had been transformed”; indeed, Atlanta was transformed, but in a bad way. Coming back home after war has ended, “Scarlett looked about her for the little town she remembered so well. It was gone. The town she was now seeing was like a baby grown overnight into a busy, sprawling giant”. Even though Scarlett does not want to be involved in war at any extent, she loses her home and is at pain to see her childhood memories gone. Mitchell cleverly uses metaphor and analogy to show the intimacy between home and its people and strikes the pain upon losing homes, as the line goes “she was a child and mad with fright and she wanted to bury her head in her mother’s lap and shut out this sight. If she were only home! Home with Mother.” Throughout the course of the book, Mitchell emphasizes the fact that Civil War destroyed precious lands and houses in the South from the perspective of Scarlett, the daughter of a landlord in Atlanta. While the North indeed was fighting for human rights, victory was achieved at the expense of depriving other people, especially Southerners of their human rights, and this is what people frequently ignore when talking about Civil War.

Besides destroying lands and homes, many people were dead from the war and it was detrimental to people’s overall happiness. Mitchell uses stark contrast to show the emotional struggle of the southerners; at first, “the south was intoxicated with enthusiasm and excitement. Everyone knew that one battle would end the war and every young man hastened to enlist before the war should end- hastened to marry his sweetheart before he rushed off to Virginia to strike a blow at the Yankees”. As people realized the impossibility of such conviction, they started to worry and were in great pain. After seeing countless injured soldiers and dead bodies, Scarlett “suddenly thought how nice it was to see a man who was whole, who was not minus eyes or limbs, or white with pain or yellow with malaria, and who looked well fed and healthy”. Clearly, many died in the war, and it wasn’t unusual that people lose their best friends or family members forever. From the war, Scarlett worries that her beloved boy Ashley would be dead and loses other important people. Scarlett goes back to Tara just to find her mom dead, and she also loses the “four Tarletons, the redhaired twins and Tom and Boyd” from the war, and “a passionate sadness caught at her throat”. Mitchell shows that while the war was fought, the world didn’t stop, and there were many things going on. Soldiers fought against each other, and simultaneously women waited for their husbands to come home and checks the latest news every single day.

Mitchell also writes about women rights and their roles in the war- and she breaks the common “single story” people believed- women should stick with their femininity even in wars. While the popular beliefs at the time of the war definitely did not favor women rights, Mitchell uses Scarlett as a great example of what women can achieve. Before the war, Scarlett holds the strong belief that “war was men’s business, not ladies’, and they took her attitude as evidence of her femininity”. During the war, Scarlett sees that many women are actively involved in the war by nursing the injured soldiers or providing other help to the fighters. While women did not necessarily have to fight on the battlefields, Mitchell shows that there are many things they are capable of doing. For example, Scarlett is able to make investments and earn money, which was considered extraordinary for a women at that time. By showing the involvements of women in the war in different extents, Mitchell argues that women are also equally important in the society as shown during the time of the war.

Finally, Mitchell also demonstrates a mutually-profitable relationship between slave owners and slaves, which is very rare the entire history of literature. The harmonious relationship depicted in the book directly contradicts the unequal treatment slaves received as depicted in anti-slavery books such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. While slavery is undoubtedly immoral, Mitchell still points out the importance of the completeness and real picture of a story, even if there is a definite answer. She shows that in Atlanta, some slaves and their owners were able to live happily as friends, instead of the commonly recognized relationships depicted in other literature. The “slaves” in Tara are treated equally and are parts of the family of the white community. The “slave” Mammy “was black, but her code of conduct and her sense of pride were as high as or higher than those of her owners”, and she sincerely cares about Scarlett, Melanie and other friends. Certainly, such relationship exists on top of the fact that the slave owners are extremely benevolent and kind-hearted, even if they are slave owners. The father “could not bear to see a slave putting under a reprimand, no matter how well deserved” and always helps his slaves. Mitchell shows another frequently-dismissed outcome of slavery by showing a mutually beneficial relationship and breaks single story of slave owners whipping their slaves. Admitting that slavery is against human morals, Mitchell still tells the story differently and brings to the audience a completely different world they perceive during the time of the war.

In Adichie’s TED Talk, she emphasizes the danger of a single story, which is when people are blinded by common stereotypes and could not see the whole picture of a story. Examples include people’s biased attitudes toward certain geographical places they have only read about. Adichie also talked about the danger of the stereotypes, as they can lead to biased judgments and even be hurtful. As a result, Adichie claims that it is extremely important for people to see the multiple stories and various sides to these stories. Fortunately, Gone with the Wind didn’t not contribute to the common stereotypes people have for Civil War and slavery, but brings to light a completely different story from a different angle. From doing so, people are exposed to more aspects to the story and will not be blinded.

Information: Gone With the Wind- Margaret Mitchell

Date: 6/27/19


Published by Sunny

I am a high school rising sophomore and I love to read and write.

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