James A. Michener on Gone with the Wind

I’ve always been a fan of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. I have the novel, the movie, have books about the movie, and collect every article I can on it. I know of two museums devoted to Mitchell’s novel–one is in Jefferson, Texas and one in the Atlanta area. I intend to visit both of them. I’m designing a college course of Civil War fiction, and I intend Gone with the Wind to be one of the works we study. Certainly, the novel was one of the books that inspired me to write my own, Stories of the Confederate South.

I just finished Michener’s book, Literary Reflections: Michener on Michener, Margaret Mitchell, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote & Others (Forge 1993). One section was devoted to Gone with the Wind, and I was delighted to read Michener’s thoughts on Ms. Mitchell and on the novel. I’ve always admired Michener as a writer, though I’ve only read two of his novels–Caravans (about Afghanistan) and The Covenant (a prophetic work about South Africa). One late night when I lived in Naples, Florida, I remember hearing him interviewed on a distant talk radio program. That is one of the memories we writers have, one of the trigger experiences that plunged us into the brutal world of writing.

Here are some quotations from Michener’s book concerning Mitchell and Gone with the Wind:

“[T]he things Scarlet set her mind on were unthinkable” (205)

“[C]ritics will have to grapple with the problem of why her novel has remained so readable and so important to so many people” (207)
“Within a year of publication, 1,383,000 copies had been sold. Today [1993] sales stand at about 21,000,000” (207)

“[T]his story of a saucy French-Irish girl of sixteen facing up to the Civil War and holding her family together through the post-war reconstruction became more than a mere novel. It became a symbol” (208).

“Primarily, however, it is the South that changes, altered by war and defeat and social upheaval and stark determination to reestablish itself” (220).

Trivia: Mitchell’s original title was “Tomorrow is Another Day.” Scarlett’s original name was Pansy (after Mitchell’s favorite flower).