Frankly, My Dear

The publication of Gone With the Wind in 1936 was a major event in publishing—if not literary—history, compounded by the overblown movie of 1939 and by worldwide sales that continue to this day. Margaret Mitchell was overwhelmed by the reaction, which was complex and multifold. The novel was read by people on both sides in the Spanish Civil War, and Mitchell received all sorts of letters showing she had struck a nerve. One German thought that she had intuited his experience of World War I and the economic slump that followed, and a French town wanted to make her a citizen. The resistance to Gone With the Wind seems to have come mostly from the Nazi Party, the Communist Party, and American liberals—a suggestive convergence. Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, perhaps the greatest novel ever written by an American, was passed over for the Pulitzer Prize, swamped by the massive phenomenon of GWTW. Dissenters did object to the novel on racial and historical grounds: the stereotyping of blacks and the "Southern" rendering of Reconstruction.

The whole matter is of considerable interest, embracing as it does the problematics of writing and representation as well as controversial episodes in American history; still, we must admit that it is limited by the passing of the years. There comes a point when Scarlett O'Hara (or "Scarla O'Horror," as she is referred to...

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