Academic Journal of Modern Philology vol. 2 (2013)
Uniwersity of Wrocław
Approaches to the History of the American Civil War in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and its Film Adaptation by Victor Fleming
Gone With the Wind, a bestseller written in 1936 by Margaret Mitchell is a novel and unique chronicle narrating the events of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Period, presented from the Southern point of view. The novel and its film adaptation by Victor Fleming are two American masterpieces and both have been objects of numerous research. However, the fi lm seems to have overshadowed the book, as not much research has been done on the latt er so far. Although historical information gathered by the author happens to be amazingly abundant and accurate, the novel has been neglected in the field of historical novels. While the novel constitutes (almost a personal) representation of the Civil War era seen by Margaret Mitchell, told from the point of view of a Southerner, the fi lm omits numerous historical details and interprets some of them individually, making it an adaptation of the novel, and not of the history. As a result, the film can be seen as a performance within a performance. Alterations of the historical information presented by the fi lmmakers could be the result of censorship or lack of recognition of the sensitivity towards understanding the war. In other cases, it could be the result of a deliberate artistic action in order to make the content of the fi lm more melodramatic. The task of adapting the novel of a thousand pages in a fi lm was complex and resulted in a limitation of the content that was to be transferred. Therefore, the film makers chose to limit the historical information. The film centers on the protagonist, Scarlett O’Hara and does not represent the War. In fact, the war only constitutes the background for the plot presented. The film omits and limits some information, which sounds very logical considering the dense form of the novel. The aim of this work is to compare the official historical version of the American Civil War recognized to be “reliable” by historians with its literary and film adaptations and investigate the reflection of the war in both.
Keywords: American Civil War, the Reconstruction Period, Margaret Mitchell, history, film adaptation.