Ghana · Musings

Gone With The Wind

My “love affair” with Gone With The Wind has been going on for as long as I can remember. It was quoted in passing in some of the books I read, routinely praised as one of the best stories ever written and its characters eulogised in various ways in other books. So when my dad quietly handed me a copy of a paperback version of the novel, I was enthused at finally being able to see/read for myself what the hype is all about.

Gone With The Wind is the single most racist book I have ever read. Written about a period when white slave owners routinely bought, kept and sold black slaves, it is unapologetically racist. The author at every opportunity points out the foolishness of the back race, compares blacks to animals, denigrates the intelligence of black people and even, for the characters who thought themselves good, completely dismissed the idea that blacks were or could ever be equal.

One thing I found fascinating was how the black slaves viewed themselves. Every article/story/book/movie on slavery I have read/watched tells a narrative of black opposition to slavery and racial injustice, pitting the two races in an everlasting battle for equality. Gone With The Wind explores another side of this narrative. There were slaves who were proud to be slaves, who even had a hierarchy based on where they worked and slaves who looked down upon white slave owners who didn’t have as many slaves as was “respectable”. The book even extolls these “loyal” slaves, using them to denigrate other slaves who sought their freedom.

This may be unpopular but I have always wanted to hear the stories of these people: the ones who didn’t fight, those who were comfortable in their servitude, those who for one reason or the other wore their slavery as a girdle of honor. Their stories don’t suit the narrative of black freedom and I can understand why we would want to tell and retell the Solomon Northup story in 12 Years A Slave rather than that of Poke or Mammy in Gone With The Wind. However, they survived the best way they new how, the only way they knew how, and if nothing at all, their stories can at least serve as a reminder of a world we never want to return to and that the desire to be superior to others and dominate them is not just a black or white thing but a human plague.

Having said all of that, Gone With The Wind is more than just a book about racial relations in the 1800s. It is up there as one of the most incredible pieces of writing I have ever seen. If you’re momentarily able to ignore the underlying racism and prejudice against the Yankees in the book, it is a wonderful body of work which challenges you to rethink your definition of heroes and villains. The protagonist, a self-obssessed and self-centered young woman, is in simple terms a villain who you still keep on rooting for because the world around her is the bigger villain. It’s about life and living. It’s about those tiny little things which over the years transform us from what we used to be to what we are now. How many of you went from wanting to be a millionaire at 20 when you were 5 to just wanting a house of your own at 40 as you grew older and life happened. How have your dreams, aspirations, goals, or even personalities changed over time? These changes are usually subtle, small enough to go unnoticed but cumulatively, they turn us into something completely unrecognizable from who we used to.

I’m not done with the book yet. At times, the racial epithets are just so much I want to stop reading but maybe, in a world that feels like it is slowly regressing on all of the progress that was made in previous decades, especially in relation to race relations, more people being confronted with stark examples of some of the lowest periods of human existence, may allow us a rethink our current depressing path.

And to be honest, it takes wonderful writing to have your readership caring about a spoiled, racist, self-centered, egoistic protagonist.

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16 thoughts on “Gone With The Wind

  1. I first had Gone With The Wind read to me at age 8, while recovering from heart surgery. I fell in love with the story until I re-read it about 5-6 years later, better able to understand the slavery issue, and then I did not like it so much. Today I would agree that it is excellent writing, and I believe a fairly apt description of life in the deep south at that time. That said, I see it through different eyes now, and I think it should go down as a classic, if for no other reason than that we never forget how an entire race was treated in this nation. Study the differences between Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X … same ultimate goal, but very different paths for getting to that goal. Our nation owns as much shame as Nazi Germany … the difference being that Germany sees theirs as shame and tries hard to rectify past wrongs and to make sure it can never happen again, while the U.S. tries to find justification in the past … justification where there can be none. The only excuse is a lack of humanity, and we can still see that today. Sigh. Okay, stepping off my soapbox now … 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, my mind has always functioned fairly well, but it’s been an uphill battle with the body since day 1. But I don’t whine or complain … just thankful to be here and still have a mostly functional mind! 🙂 Yes, read the book, by all means! It is a good story, just a very sad testament to the way things used to be. And now, I think we are going backward instead of forward, and that greatly distrubs me. But you’ve probably already noticed that 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d like to ask something tho. From what I can see in GWTW and some snippets of conversations on your blog and elsewhere, it seems Democrats were pro-slavery and the Republicans helped in its abolishment. I may be wrong but right now, it seems to me the Democratic party is more “black friendly” than the GOP. If that’s right, I guess my question is, what caused the changes?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. This is a great question! The full answer is more than I can give here, and in fact I could do an entire series of posts on it, but I will give you my nutshell version. It starts, as do most things, with money. Post 1929 (stock market crash, depression) the economy tanked and many, especially farmers, were barely surviving. Enter Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, with his New Deal, a set of reforms that provided federal jobs, infrastructure development, banking regulations, welfare and pension programs, Social Security, etc. Many African-Americans switched party loyalties during those years, while the republicans remained the party of business and corporations. Fast forward to the 1960s – John F. Kennedy & Lyndon B. Johnson – and the Civil Rights movement. Southerners, not willing to give up their “white aristocracy”, switched to the republican side of the fence, while more liberal thinkers became democrats. As I said, there is a lot more to it than this, but I believe the New Deal and Civil Rights movement were the two things that mostly drove the change in party ideologies. Does this help?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched GWTW when I was in grade school and I almost instantly had a big crush on Rhett. GWTW became one of my all-time fave movies. It’s interesting how people interpret things differently. My young mind only saw the “romance” and it revolved around Scarlett’s world and how she manipulated men when she was so fortunate to have Rhett.It irritated me.
    I didn’t realize the racism and slavery right away though I have felt the unfair treatment of certain people towards others and I just thought of as others are more evil and others are more kind and it’s probably just their upbringing.

    I love the way you write. You have a new fan… just gave you a “follow”

    Namaste!
    ❤ BP

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s a really good story when it comes to talking about love, survival and even feminism. It’s just really hard to ignore the racism in it when you’re black. Thanks for the follow. I’ll surely check out your blog too asap.

      Liked by 1 person

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