Of course a writer can write from the viewpoint of Southern slave owners who of course would be racist and view black people with, at best, benevolent paternalism, without her characters' attitudes necessarily being her own. But it's very apparent that Mitchell was wholly and uncritically sympathetic to her antebellum ancestors. The Old South was a graceful, chivalrous land where slavery was not a horrible and oppressive institution creating generations of misery and oppression, but a divinely-ordained means of preserving racial harmony. And for all that Mitchell, like her characters, probably considered herself to be kind and affectionate to all the African-Americans she knew personally, there isn't a single black character in the book who isn't an ignorant, semi-human ape -- which is literally how they are described. Even beloved Mammy is repeatedly compared to a monkey.
Scarlett O'Hara grows up on the family plantation, a magnificent place. In April, 1861, she and her sisters wear hooped dresses; their scores of Negro slaves are lovable and happy. Yams drip with butter; plates overflow with golden-brown fried chicken. Young men who come to call are furnished with mint-juleps, and bear such given names as Stuart and Brent and Ashley and Boyd. They wear riding boots; their faces are sunburned; their eyes are merry and arrogant. Fine horseflesh they talk of, and the threatening war. "Why, honey, of course there's going to be a war!" cries Stuart; "the Yankees may be scared of us, but after the way General Beauregard shelled them out of Fort Sumter day before yesterday, they'll have to fight or stand branded as cowards before the whole world."
Published in 1936, Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind has been banned on social grounds. The book has been called "offensive" and "vulgar" because of the language and characterization. Words like "damn" and "whore" were scandalous. Also, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice disapproved of Scarlett's multiple marriages. The term used to describe slaves was also offensive to readers.
Confronting the legendary headstrong heroine Scarlett O’Hara, Haskell explores the power she exerts on the romantic and political imagination — first as a creation in Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling 1936 novel, then as a screen personification by the British actress Vivien Leigh in a Hollywood adaptation produced by the independent mogul David O. Selznick.
Yet, despite its 1,000-page length and four-hour running time as a movie, Gone With the Wind is most often interpreted as shorthand--for moonlight and magnolias, plantation mythology, Confederate nationalism, or, to be very short, racism.
There are many ways to approach the Irish elements of Gone With the Wind-from Mitchell's Irish genealogy to the historical references to Irish history in the text to the representation of Irish characters in the novel and film.
Along the way, Mitchell also reveals a diverse array of characters including pompous bureaucrats who stay out of the war to give political speeches, veterans who straggle home with psychological wounds from witnessing the unspeakable horrors of war, and entrepreneurs known as "carpetbaggers" who sweep down upon the South to reap huge profits from the land that has been ripped apart.
Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind is an epic tale of the American Civil War. It is the story of Scarlett O'Hara, the daughter of wealthy Georgian plantation owners, who must overcome incredible adversity during and after the war. As she transforms from a selfish teenage girl into a confident woman, the United States undergoes a similar transformation, changing from a divided nation at war with itself into a unified country striving to heal from the wounds of a protracted battle.
The literary reputation of Mitchell's book has been favorably reassessed by numerous critics, and with the rise of Southern history and literature as a subject of scholarship, Gone with the Wind has become a touchstone, spawning numerous symposiums and studies, with Scarlett herself lionized as "modern" and a feminist heroine.
Gone with the Wind is a rich, sentimental, and starkly partisan story of a Southern belle, charming and selfish, who recklessly pursues the wrong man (the genteel Ashley Wilkes) throughout the narrative which spans the Civil War and Reconstruction, marrying three times, enduring war, famine, and personal tragedy. At the story's end, after the death of the saintly Melanie Wilkes, who resolutely loved Scarlett despite her pursuit of her husband, she finally recognizes that her now-departing husband Rhett Butler is indeed her true love.