Margaret Mitchell

1900-1949

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Biography:

  • born as Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell on Nov. 8, 1900
  • from Atlanta, Georgia: her family had been living in Atlanta since the American Revolution
  • Her mother, May Belle, and father, Eugene Muse Mitchell, were both supporters of the women's suffrage movement
  • brother: Stephens
  • when she was younger, Margaret used to make up stories to recite to her mother. As she grew older, she began to make "books" using cardboard covers and writing her stories in them
  • Throughout her childhood, she wrote hundreds of books; she was a natural writer.
  • After the family moved houses, she began to come out of her shell and started writing, directing, and starring in plays, putting them on with the help of her neighborhood friends
  • 1914-1918- attended the Washington Seminary; a finishing school where she was the founder of the drama club, president of the Washington Literary Society, and editor of the yearbook.
  • During a school dance, in 1918, she met Clifford Henry, a 22 year old bayonet instructor at Camp Gordon
  • While they fell in love and quickly got engaged, he was called to fight in France during the war (WW1) and was killed in France, October 1918
  • After that, she began college in Northampton at Smith College
  • Here, she went by the nickname "Peggy"
  • Her mother died in an influenza epidemic, and Margaret had to finish her first year of studies and go back home to be "mistress of the household" and enter the debutante season
  • Scandal: she promiscuously danced while in a nightclub in France
  • In 1922, she married Berrien Kinnard Upshaw (rich from NC), but it was annulled two years later when Upshaw left for the Midwest 4 months into their marriage
  • During her marriage to Upshaw, he abused her constantly and alledgedly stalked her after the annulment.
  • She worked and wrote for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine under the name of "Peggy Mitchell"
  • After breaking her ankle, she had to quit her career as a journalist
  • Margaret married John Robert Marsh on July 4, 1925
  • set up a house in a small apartment called "the Dump"
  • Because she was stuck at home with her broken ankle, she began writing Gone With the Wind (on her Remington typewriter!)
  • She wrote the last chapter first, and wrote all the others out of order. It took her three years and she was very secretive about it to all her friends and family
  • Some people say the characters were based off real people, but she claims otherwise
  • Someone commented and said that Margaret was not a serious enough writer to write a novel so she retaliated by going to meet Harold Latham (editor for Macmillan publishing company) with her manuscripts
  • Scarlet's name was originally Pansy, one of the many things that were changed during the editing process
  • The title of the book was changed many times and included Tomorrow Is Another Day, Another Day, Tote the Weary Load, Milestones, Ba! Ba! Blacksheep, Not in Our Stars, and Bugles Sang True
  • She got the title Gone With The Wind from a poem by Ernest Dowson
  • GWTW was published in 1936, and was 1037 pages long
  • sold for 3 dollars
  • huge success
  • made into a movie 3 years later
  • Spent a lot of time protecting the international copyright of her novel
  • After a while, she got tired of the spotlight and tried to lead a quiet life
  • GWTW was her only published novel
  • Margaret worked for the American Red Cross during WWII and also set up scholarships for black medical students
  • She requested that all of her other writings be destroyed after her death
  • Died in a car accident on the way to the movies with her husband

"If I were a boy, I would try for West Point, if I could make it, or well I'd be a prize fighter - anything for the thrills."

Gone With The Wind

Margaret began writing the novel while bored on bedrest. During the late 1930s, America was going through the Great Depression. Her novel, in a small way, offered many readers a chance to seek refuge in literature, and later, in entertainment. The novel described a different time of national crisis which led to many readers to somehow relate to the setting of the novel.

When Mitchell first began writing the novel, only a few people knew she was writing a solid manuscript. The characters in her book, as claimed by Mitchell, are not based on people in real life. However, the relationships between her characters reflect part of her own life. For example, Scarlet is very fond of her Mammy (her maid), just as Margaret was while she was growing up. While she never confirmed it, her publishers as well as her friends say that Rhett Butler reflected characteristics of her husband, John Marsh.
Gone With the Wind is set in the Civil War time period, and shows the racial tensions of the era. The book itself covers the situation of white southerners during the war, as well as during Reconstruction. Here, Margaret uses her experiences growing up in the South to help create Scarlet's southern elitist life. However, the book also focuses on Scarlet's troubles as she searches to find herself while caught up in her own confusing feelings. Hence, the book also shows the feminism movement of the Civil War time period. Mitchell portrays Scarlet as an independent young woman who learns from her mistakes and makes a name for herself in her own little ways. A major theme of the book is survival and is shown through the different problems O'Hara faces as a woman, as a widow, as a friend, and as a citizen from the South during the War.

If Gone With the Wind had been published today, I think it would have a similar affect on its readers. However, while the novel itself is beautifully written and has a meaningful plot, it might have been overshadowed by all of the other Civil War era romance novels available today.

Comparisons -1860s

If she lived during the Civil War period, I think Margaret would have still written about what was going on around her. Most probably, she would have been a journalist for a newspaper, but due to the fact that her family had lived in the south for many years, it would be hard to tell for sure whether or not she would be a part of the abolitionist movement back then. Family was very important to her, yet because she has the perspective of a free thinking a young woman in the 1920s, she might have gone against her family's traditional beliefs.
As an author and a journalist, I think she would still have been acknowledged in the 1860s. Women's rights campaigns were picking up and she would have definitely been a part of the movement, therefore, she would have written about things which impassioned the people.
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Parallels

Margaret was a part of the flapper generation, something which influences her writing and her portrayal of Scarlett in Gone With the Wind. Scarlet is shown as an independent and kind of selfish woman, both similar traits of flappers of the 20s. As a woman of the 20s, Margaret herself showed parallel traits to the time period's stereotype from her multiple divorces and choice in not having children; both different from the traditional familial background she grew up in.
In comparison to other authors, I think Margaret Mitchell is unique for her time period. In 1930s America, the midst of the Great Depression, she didn't write about a utopian world of happiness and success, a fact which made her stand out.

If I could write like Margaret....

I would use her talents as a journalist to become a muckraker. I think its important for the public to know what is going on politically and socially, and with Margaret Mitchell's natural writing talent, my work could have a significant impact like Erik Larson or Upton Sinclair.
On the other hand, I would also love to write in the romance genre, just because I love that genre of books.
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