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Depiction Of Civil War In Gone With The Wind

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Gone With The Wind Writing Assignment

‘War! War! War!’ cried headlines of numerous newspapers being spread throughout the North and the South. On April 12, 1961, shots were fired on Fort Sumter, officially starting the Civil War. With Americans killing Americans and around 620,000 Americans dead, the Civil War was named the deadliest war in America. How could someone depict such a horrific event accurately?

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Margaret Mitchell, in 1936, published Gone With the Wind. This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937, and was then filmed for show in 1939. The film based on the novel, has been said to have become “the single most influential interpretation of the Civil War in twentieth-century popular culture [and it] defined that war for a mass audience.”

The film Gone With the Wind depicts the Civil War in a number of ways. The main interpretation of the War from this film is the one of slavery. Slavery was so distinct in the 1900s, and many Americans don’t realize how much of a tragedy slavery is. In the Horton text, Berlin informs us “slavery was an institution of suffocating oppression, so airtight that it allowed its victims little opportunity to function as full human beings”. Berlin also says that slavery differs from place to place. Most of us learn in school that slaves were treated like nothing and beat, but as we see in the movie, characters like Mammy and Pork were treated with decent respect, and were just constant servants. While, yes, they were treated with some respect, they really didn’t get to live the life they wanted. They were always at the O’Hara’s beckon call: feeding, cleaning, dressing, and keeping everything organized. When watching the movie, the audience can clearly understand that the O’Hara’s took for granted having these servants; they never showed their gratitude.

Berlin also brings about the idea that “Slavery robbed Africans and their descendants of their culture.” As culture does represent many different things, Gone With the Wind portrays a strong view on clothing. The O’Hara’s are constantly wearing extremely fancy dresses and suits, even for just casual occasions. In this era, it was actually normal to wear these, what we call fancy, clothes. It depicted your social status. Comparing the O’Hara’s to their servants, the servants were not in as nice of clothes. While they weren’t in tattered barely wearable clothing, they were casually in cloth “work” dresses and aprons and casual pants and a button down. So not only can the audience know they were most likely servants because of their skin color, they could also tell by their clothing. The audience can also note from the movie that a lot of men fighting the war were African American. Mostly the African Americans were forced to fight in the war.

So not only can the Civil War be a sensitive subject for African Americans, but also for any American. Most Americans today don’t really know what actually happened during the Civil War or what the time period was like. Horton even mentions that the public is really unprepared to learn about and reluctant to deal with a history like this. Especially since it can get very personal in some aspects. Gone With the Wind, the book and the movie, is a phenomenal depiction of the Civil War. “’We should never forget slavery. We should talk about it every morning and every day of the year to remind this country that there’s an enormous gap between its practices and professions.’”

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