Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell’s Presentation of White Femininity in Gone with the Wind (1936) College

In Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936), Mitchell engages with the concept of white femininity in a number of ways. This essay will consider how, through her characterization of female characters who adhere to, and/or subvert ideas of what it means to be ‘feminine’ contemporary to both the novel’s ante-bellum historical setting, and the period within which Mitchell was writing – early twentieth century America – Mitchell presents readers with differing ‘types’ and ‘modes’ of white femininity. Mitchell neglects to provide readers with a tangible presentation of any non-white femininity within Gone with the Wind.

Mitchell’s characterization of the novel’s main protagonist, Scarlett O’Hara, especially, depicts a woman to whom femininity is simply an extension of her focal characteristic – an ability to adapt to a rapidly changing social structure. For Scarlett, femininity is just a tool she can use to aid in both social progression and self-preservation, as opposed to a sociobiological essentialism. Through writing Scarlett in this fashion, Mitchell prompts readers to consider both the continued relevance (or lack thereof) of femininity within changing societies, and the negative consequences for those characters who –...

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