Study Guide

Gone With the Wind Memory and the Past

By Margaret Mitchell

Memory and the Past

As you'd expect from a historical novel called Gone With the Wind, this book is obsessed with the past. Everything before the war was better than everything after the war; once there was happiness and honor and racism as far as the eye could see, and afterward there is still racism, but you have to be ashamed of it.

Yet at the same time as it slops about this misguided nostalgia, the book also presents nostalgia as misguided—or at least impractical. Scarlett is able to accomplish so much because she doesn't spend all her time mooning after the past. But the novel also suggests that she's a less worthy person because she is so strong and un-nostalgic. Memory is a source of weakness, but also of nobility in this book. Or, to put it differently, memory is a hot mess.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Is Scarlett's love for Ashley actually nostalgia for the time before the war?
  2. Does Rhett have any nostalgia for the world before the war? What evidence is there for your answer?
  3. What is the relationship between memory and the KKK?

Chew on This

Memory in Gone With the Wind is the source of all virtue.

Memory in Gone With the Wind is fundamentally evil, inasmuch as it erases the experience of slavery.