Places: Gone with the Wind

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1936

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1861-1873

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*The South

*The Gone with the WindSouth. Southern region of the United States. Most of the characters of Margaret Mitchell’s novel see the “South” as encompassing the states between the Lower Mississippi River on the west to the Atlantic Ocean on the east, from Tennessee on the north to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida to the south. However, the novel’s central characters–with the exception of Rhett Butler–have a narrower view of the South, which they see as encompassing the region between their part of Georgia, east to Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. To others, the limited area includes only the Clayton County and Atlanta area.

The novel depicts the South as a great lady who sheds tears of blood on the Civil War battlefields. Her strength endures just as the strength of the Southern women when fighting to hold on to a way of life that is fast sliding away with the loss of each Confederate soldier and the destruction of homes, plantations, and towns. During the Civil War, Union general William T. Sherman–who became famous for his devastating march through Georgia–said that the spirit of the Southern matriarch would have to be broken for the Union to win the war. As the novel progresses, the South slowly relinquishes her gentility and gracefulness to the realities of an unfamiliar, unwelcome, and harsher way of life.

Tara

Tara. Elegant plantation of Gerald O’Hara and his family, located in Clayton County, Georgia. Tara symbolizes the way of life and the entire world as perceived by plantation families. Her graceful hospitality, the well-greased joints of farming, entertaining, caring for the sick and elderly, reflect the strength and loving care of the matriarchal society. The functioning of this family within a Celtic society symbolizes the work supervised and completed to conquer the wilderness and create the lavish homes, in which white women rule supreme and their men sit back and bask in the glory of their smiles. Just as the characters feel security within the arms of the matriarch and her “mammy,” Tara itself provides safety and security for all of those who live within its confines.

*Jonesboro

*Jonesboro. Seat of Clayton Country, immediately southwest of Atlanta. As the home of the central government of Clayton County, this town provides the controlling elements. In the prewar period, it embraces the formation of the Troop, maintains its status as transportation and communication center, and houses county governmental agencies and privately owned commercial businesses. During the war, the railroad creates the impetus for the Union armies to attack and occupy the town. Many beautiful homes are destroyed by fire, looting, and occupation by both Confederate and Union troops. Their headquarters and hospital is the Warren House. Reconstruction creates an unknown world of scalawags, carpetbaggers, Union soldiers, and free blacks, and a general feeling of fear previously unknown to the residents of Clayton County.

*Atlanta

*Atlanta. Capital and largest city of Georgia. Established as the cultural, social, commercial, and transportation crossroads, Atlanta symbolizes the genteel Southern matriarch in a comfortable urban setting without the ever-present supervision of a plantation. Before the war, new money and aristocratic hostesses rub elbows for the benefit of the Southern cause. During the war, these same women nurse the wounded in the Atlanta hospitals, care for the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in Oakland Cemetery, feed the hungry, and defend their homes before they are forced to evacuate to places they hope will be safer. Postwar Reconstruction brings military law under Union troops, roaming bands of free blacks, and carpetbaggers. The matriarchs who have returned to their homes must protect themselves with both bodyguards and weapons. The establishment of the Ku Klux Klan and nightriders creates fear as well as antagonistic courts and law enforcers. No one wins this war. In attempting to break the spirit of the Southern women, Reconstruction creates an even firmer resolve, not to restore the slave-labor society, but to maintain the family property despite heavily levied taxes and foreclosures.

Butler home

Butler home. House that Rhett Butler builds for Scarlett when they are married after the war ends. The house is gaudy, pretentious, dark, and unfriendly; it symbolizes everything that Scarlett believes she has lost in the war. It may be characterized as a sporting house, built with money from a man for a kept woman who resents being kept. Just as rebuilding other areas of the South supposedly provides a better life for free blacks, more opportunities for “white trash,” and a harder life for the genteel white Southerners, this new house supposedly secures all that Scarlett regards as having been lost at Tara. However, the component all Southerners most need does not appear. Contentment, security, and the loving arms of the matriarch are gone forever.

Aunt Pittypat’s house

Aunt Pittypat’s house. Home of Sara Jane Hamilton on Atlanta’s Peachtree Street. A small house by prewar standards, it provides respite and security for Emily and Wade Hampton and freedom from the rigidity of widowhood for seventeen-year-old Scarlett before the war. During the war, the small but steadfast house feeds and cares for battle-worn soldiers and allows occupants to view the steady trail of soldiers early in the war. Later, the wounded and dead pass by the house on their way to the hospital and cemetery. Like many Southern women who survive the Union siege of Atlanta, this small secure house is gray, tired, worn, and ragged, but unbroken. After the war, it provides security for Aunt Pittypat, her coachman, Uncle Peter, Scarlett, Wade Hampton, and Ella Kennedy, Scarlett’s daughter by Frank Kennedy, her second husband.

Twelve Oaks

Twelve Oaks. Plantation home of the Wilkes family; patterned after the real Lovejoy Plantation near Jonesboro. It is even more graceful than Tara, but the Union army burns it as it sweeps across Georgia. Although battle worn, Twelve Oaks provides a kitchen garden of withered vegetables for the starving residents of Tara after the Yankees plunder and destroy all sources of income and food at the O’Hara plantation.

Fontaine plantation

Fontaine plantation. This yellow-stucco house, home of three generations of strong Southern women, provides moral support and some food for Scarlett and her family.

Tarleton plantation

Tarleton plantation. Largest horse-breeding farm in Georgia. All of its horses and men serve in the “War Against Yankee Aggression.”

BibliographyEdwards, Anne. Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell. New Haven, Conn.: Ticknor & Fields, 1983. A biography of Mitchell which describes her as a mixture, like Scarlett, of Southern belle and emancipated woman, both conventional and rebellious.Egenreither, Ann E. “Scarlett O’Hara: A Paradox in Pantalettes.” In Heroines of Popular Culture, edited by Pat Browne. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987. Places Scarlett O’Hara in the context of popular culture heroines while describing her resistance to such limits.Gailliard, Dawson. “Gone with the Wind as Bildungsroman: Or, Why Did Rhett Butler Really Leave Scarlett O’Hara?” Georgia Review 28 (1974): 9-18. Argues that the work is a female maturation novel. Scarlett moves from being a “Southern Lady” to becoming a “New Woman,” but not with impunity, for she loses Rhett. Sees her as a child, and when she grows up, he leaves.Harwell, Richard, ed. “Gone with the Wind” as Book and Film. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1983. A series of essays from both scholars and the popular press that review the traditions of Southern and Civil War novels, Margaret Mitchell as person and writer, the novel and its characters, and Gone with the Wind as a film event.Harwell, Richard, ed. Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” Letters, 1936-1949. New York: Macmillan, 1976.Jones, Anne Goodwyn. Tomorrow Is Another Day: The Woman Writer in the South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. Jones describes the influences from Mitchell’s life that forged her sometimes contradictory positions regarding the roles of the traditional Southern man, the ideal Southern woman, the courageous woman, and the rebel.May, Robert E. “Gone with the Wind as Southern History: A Reappraisal.” Southern Quarterly 17 (1978): 51-64. Asserts that the novel is not really romantic, but rather propaganda that exaggerates the horrors of Reconstruction. Footnotes lead to sources about Gone with the Wind, Southern history, slavery, and the Confederacy.Pyron, Darden Asbury, ed. Recasting “Gone with the Wind” in American Culture. Miami: University Presses of Florida, 1983. A collection of essays by various authors that explore Gone with the Wind from a critical perspective, as art, and in terms of its historical location.Pyron, Darden Asbury. Southern Daughter: The Life of Margaret Mitchell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Devotes a considerable number of pages to the composition of the novel, including problems, inspirations, and reactions.Rubin, Louis D., Jr. “Scarlett O’Hara and the Two Quentin Compsons.” In The South and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha: The Actual and the Apocryphal, edited by Evans Harrington and Ann J. Abadie. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1977. One of the greatest scholars of Southern literature argues that the death of Scarlett’s mother frees her from the rules of the Old South to become an entrepreneur in the New South.Sweeney, Patricia E. Women in Southern Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986.Taylor, Helen. Scarlett’s Women: “Gone with the Wind” and its Female Fans. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989. A collection of women readers’ responses to survey questions about the novel and Scarlett, reflecting the basis for their constant popularity. Includes analyses of theme, character, biography, politics, and film and literary history.
Categories: Places