Recently I took (and passed!) my English doctoral exams. The only uh-oh moment came when a committee member asked about Margaret Mitchell’s southern classic, Gone With The Wind, who everyone one has read–except me. I had actually bought the book on a trip to an Alton bookstore with my dad years ago but never got around to reading it. Yesterday when my Kindle died (the sad downside of electronic reading) I decided to dive in and learn the “true” story of Scarlett O’Hara.
What strikes me most about this book is how little has actually changed in 150 years. We don’t have corsets anymore, but we do have “shapewear” and dieting books and “insanity” workouts and countless other body-breaking, soul-crushing methods of achieving that famous seventeen-inch waist. Although O’Hara has recently been touted as a symbol of female empowerment, refusing to be crushed by her circumstances or dependent on men, the culture in which she moved is strangely familiar to our own.
Is Mitchell right and this is a civilization “gone with the wind,” or is it still our present reality with slightly different codes and accessories?