Gone With the Wind and its Enduring Appeal

Open Access
Author:
Wesner, Tiffany
Area of Honors:
American Studies (Berks/Lehigh)
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Raymond Allan Mazurek, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sandy Feinstein, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Vivien Leigh
  • Hattie McDaniel
  • Gone With the Wind
  • Feminism
  • New Women
Abstract:
The white antebellum woman has occupied an evolving archetypal status in American culture throughout the twentieth century. In 1936, Margaret Mitchell published Gone with the Wind and extended the tradition of featuring Southern belles in novels. However, Mitchell chose to alter stereotypical depictions of her heroine and incorporate a theme of survival. Her main character, Scarlett O'Hara, was a prototypical Southern woman of her day. Scarlett was expected to conform to rigidly defined social boundaries but, through acts of defiance and independence, she forged new paths for herself and her family along her route to survival. This thesis investigates the 1939 film adaptation of Mitchell's novel and the contributions of David O. Selznick, Vivien Leigh, and Hattie McDaniel to the story that chronicled Scarlett's transformation from stereotypical Southern belle to independent survivor. This analysis demonstrates that Scarlett depicted the new Southern Woman whose rising to define a diversity of roles embodied the characteristics of the New Woman. The film’s feminist message, romantic grandeur, ground-breaking performances, themes of survival through times of crisis, and opulent feminine appeal all combined in Gone With the Wind to create an American classic with enduring appeal.