Saturday, May 14, 2011

One of the Most Telling Scenes from Gone With the Wind

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

It is hard to run out of things to say about Gone With the Wind. I have seen this film about a million times and shown it to students here and there too. It is a great way to get at the real themes of the Lost Cause interpretation of the war.

This is one of the most famous scenes when it comes to "the CSA never had a chance" theme. Rhett Butler, after an enthusiastic declaration by the other men in the room that the war would be over in one battle and the age-old claim that "a southerner can lick twenty Yankees," tells it (sort of) like it is. "There is not a single cannon factory in the whole South" - and goes on to describe how the North has all the industry and a fleet to bottle up southern harbors. All we have, claims Butler, "is cotton, slaves, and arrogance." Well - this naturally pisses the boys off, and Rhett almost has to fight it out with a young Charles Hamilton

Pretty standard stuff - but pay careful attention to some of the very first lines, when Scarlett's father, Gerald O'hara begins his rant. "It's time we made (the Yankees) understand we keep our slaves with or without their approval!" he shouts - something that seems to be the consensus among the gentlemen in the room enjoying brandy and cigars.

This is a peculiar deviation from the usual Lost Cause interpretation of the war - one that argues slavery was only incidental. This scene would suggest otherwise - indeed...slavery seems about as central as you can get - and straight from the mouth of a Georgia plantation owner.

So I have to hand it (somewhat) to Margaret Mitchell. Yeah...she follows the old "cavaliers and cotton fields" path - but at least gets at the central issue a little tiny bit. I wonder if the Daughters of the Confederacy have ever tried to get that few seconds cut from the film - or maybe somebody just coughs really loudly whenever it comes on. Who knows.

And one other thing - Ashley Wilkes might say that once the wars were over no one knew what they were about. Not in this case my friend - they knew damn well what this one was all about. Just sayin'



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