Gone with the Wind as the Historical Document

A bestselling novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell becomes a sensation and the best movie adaptation in 1939. The brilliant cast, play, and general arrangement of the picture receive world recognition. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable associate with eternal symbols of strong man and woman, love and real implementation of South on the theatre of the Civil War. The movie has also some atmosphere of the 30th of the XX century and confirms the documental aspect of the picture as a valuable source of American history.

The Civil War affairs, exquisite Southern life and total hate toward Yankees are only the tip of the iceberg. The true heart of the story is the reflection of a time period when it was produced. Gone with the Wind showed all the details of racial inequality during the Civil Rights movements. It addressed the social issues of the Great Depression and illustrated the New Deal program. Although the movie depicts the Civil War and the beginning of the Great Depression Era, the movie is a reflection of values, fears, assumptions of the historical period and culture in which it was produced.

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The Plot of the Movie

The plot of the movie is a story of a young and strong woman on the background of war. Scarlet loves a man, who does not experience the same feeling toward the miss, but her true and real love was always close to her. Scarlet is an implementation of the Southern lady with charm and exquisite behavior. However, she is quite strong and morally enduring. All men around her are weak, unless Rhett Butler. A daughter of a rich cotton field master and planter is used to live luxury and untroubled life. However, the Civil War makes her not only a widow of an unloved man but also an impoverished southern girl, who lost both parents. Certainly, it is an opportunity given by the destiny to demonstrate her strong character and fight for victory. Scarlet’s hard work saves her from hunger and death. Moreover, she helps to survive her cousin Melanie, a wife of Scarlet’s beloved man Ashley. The war, hunger and poverty reveal the character and true soul of Scarlet. In addition to it, this issue brings her together with Rhett Butler. Actually, Scarlett plays with him and uses his prosperity as a tool during hard times. Consequently, Rhett learns about her deep feeling toward Ashley and walks away, living her crying on the staircase. However, Scarlet never loved Ashley, and Butler was her real true love for all her live. These changes make her understand it. Nevertheless, Scarlet shows her strong character again and promises to get her beloved Rhett back.

Reaction on the Movie

Although, the movie gets worldwide fame and recognition, the beginning of its adaptation and production was not as easy. It was a complicated period of time. The Golden Age of Hollywood was not as untroubled as it seems, since the complicated political and economic situation in the country demands an appropriate film reflection without any ideological elements and actors without the threatening reputations. All the successful studious refused from the new published book. However, David O. Selznick’s 1939 movie adaptation won 11 Oscars, and Victor Fleming implemented the book into the eternal story. Moreover, it was the first picture with the first black star, Hattie McDaniel. Actually, the word “first” is a key word of the movie. The director applies the first Technicolor technologies. It was the first successful part of an unknown in America actress Vivien Leigh.

The success of the movie was quite impressive, though it gets different responses and critical reaction. Moreover, the Civil Rights movement followers accepted the picture as an open opposition to the racial equality in America. Gone with the Wind is a brilliant movie about love and passion in the frames of the Civil War historical context. It is a certain struggle of the Confederation and the Union armies based on the issues of slavery in America. It seems a quite romantic background for the contemporary spectators but in 30th of the XX century, this idea was too controversial and oppositional. The movie illustrates the true life of the South. The slavery was a part of their casual affairs and order. However, this order seems to be quite oppositional for the leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Besides, the activation of the second period of the Ku Klux Klan terror makes the African Americans believe that the picture proclaims the “gentler racism”. Gone with the Wind shows a perfect order of those times, where a white man is a master and a black one is a slave. This issue provokes uncertain critics concerning the movie. However, the majority of the responses admit the overwhelming success of the picture. Moreover, the biggest part of the Oscar prizes was awarded for the brilliant casting. This movie still gets positive responses and devoted love of the audience.

Historical Value of the Movie

Gone with the Wind was produced during one of the hardest period in American history. Under the influence of the complicated racial relations, the movie shows ideal society of the South during the Civil War and confirms the brutal socialistic politics with the elements of Darwinism. This approach regards the white population to be the highest race and proclaims the Black people to be their slaves. Some features of this ideology are presented in the movie. Although the first African American actress gets the Oscar award, the context of her part in the film reveals the sense of the White people priority. Less educated and developed African Americans presented in the movie prove the unequal attitude and position of them in the American society. Finally, its mythologized vision of history, where all Yankees were money-grabbing “baddies” and all Southern landowners nice to their slaves, can barely ring true; nor can its frequent declarations of romantic love. The story of the movie strengthens the idea of social trauma and it is a certain base for the second wave of the Ku Klux Klan activity and Lynching practice.

However, the movie becomes a perfect symbolical conclusion of the Great Depression in America. It was not a violation of a painful page in American history, it was a certain logical end and summary memorizing the terrible ordeals of the citizens after the First World War, Great Depression and hunger period. There are several fragments in the movie, which illuminate the social problems during the Great Depression. It is possible to assume that the picture gets an overwhelming popularity because of the developed ideas, which have some internal context. Scarlet survives because of her hard work (women’s work). It was the key idea of the XX century, when females had to work when their husbands served in the US army. Hard work in the picture illustrates an appropriate alternative to huger. The Great Depression issues are reflected in the film, though the movie seems to be quite far from this idea – Great Depression makes all the society be equal.

However, the Great Depression finishes in 1939 under the influence of the Roosevelt’s New Deal program, which was also illustrated in the Gone with the Wind. It is hard to define all elements of this policy in the picture at the present moment, however, some features are quite obvious. Certainly, it is a direct adaptation of the novel, but it is necessary to admit the influence of the moviemakers, producers and actors on the picture, who lived during the New Deal program. Victor Fleming shows his total support of the southern citizens as well as the Roosevelt’s politic. The movie is a symbolical reflection of this program. The Southern people have total superiority, although they are quite kind to their slaves, but African Americans have no rights serving them. Roosevelt proclaims the same ideas: he proposes some help to Southern citizens and black people. However, he does not abolish segregation and antiracial ideas in the society.

Gone with the Wind develops open feministic ideas on the theatre of the Great Depression and the New Deal program hidden context. A depiction of the main woman part is quite strong and morally independent. Scarlet reflects not only a female of the Civil War, but implements the symbol of the Southern States, which keep strong opposition to the Northern States. Scarlet is an attractive lady, however, all men around her are weak and not courageous enough. Kathryn Stelmach Artuso states that the movie is a combination of different political elements which reflects the ideology of modernism, depression-era social realism, and feminism. The general idea of the film is the Civil War period, though it illuminates some views and beliefs of people supporting ideology of the 30th of the XX century. “Scarlet shows fierce perseverance and shrewd courage in the face of external disaster as a model for survival—and a feminist one at that”.

Actually, the views of people in the 30th of the XX century were formed not only by political aspects of life but also by cultural issues. The development of culture, its technology and practices are depicted in the movie. Some essential cultural patterns leave their imprints in the picture. It can be the most vivid for the contemporary spectators. The audience may notice the details of headdresses, costumes and behavior of the actors in the movie. It is necessary to admit that these details do not correspond to the Civil War period. However, it was the reflection of the XX century. The movie contains several verbal and nonverbal messages, which confirm this idea. For instance, the Scarlet’s headdress looks quite normal for the 30th of the XX century and not appropriate for the Civil War era. It seems as if she comes to the stage without additional help of the makeup service. Clark Gable behavior shows sometimes his arrogant character. It is possible to assume that the achieved fame of Gable during the Hollywood Golden Age makes important influence on his part in the movie. The Golden Age period is presented in all the details of the film. The technical issues, the colorful pictures and light give the possibility to observe the essence of the Golden Age reality. The key idea was total idealization of the heroes and landscapes. The spectators can notice that Scarlet is quite beautiful, but according to the book, she is not such. Thus, the moviemakers could not get rid of the atmosphere and ideological influence on the movie and reflected there some issues of the 30th of the XX century.


Therefore, a brilliant adaptation of the book by Margaret Mitchell brings for actors, studio and producers enduring fame and love of millions of people around the world. The movie is an interesting story of amazing, ambitious, emotional woman. However, the biggest value of the picture is the historical context. It seems that the historical aspects of Gone with the Wind are obvious; however, the film reflects and illustrates the time period when it was produced. The movie depicts the problem of racism, the Great Depression, the New Deal program, and feminism. It contains many hidden messages through which the spectator may see these elements. Thus, the movie Gone with the Wind can be an essential source of the Civil War history and 30th of the XX century period as well.