You Can't Be a Lady without Money: American Modernism in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind

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Ledbetter, Emily Nicole
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Middle Tennessee State University
Scarlett O’Hara is not remembered as a symbol of American modernism. Since its publication in 1936, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind has been dismissed as historical romance with little literary value. This perception may be a testament to Mitchell's private nature and her desire to remain in the good graces of Southern society. Yet beneath Mitchell's melodramatic depiction of the South's collapse lies the story of a woman caught between two ages and forced to reckon with modern, chaotic circumstances that include rapacious consumerism and gender role reversals. Mitchell employs her own mythical method to align her narrative with Norse mythology, including Ragnark, and to link her contemporary experience of the Great Depression with the collapse of the antebellum South and the destruction of an ancient world. Scarlett O'Hara emerges as a capitalist force with dynastic ambitions that mirror those of another hallmark modernist character: Thomas Sutpen of William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, which was also published in 1936. Through Scarlett, Mitchell explores her region's rigidly guarded yet evolving gender roles and presents a modern woman as heir to a new South.
American Literature, Gender roles, Margaret Mitchell, Modernism, Mythical method, Southern Literature