Margaret Mitchell was herself something of a pioneer for women's rights, working as a journalist at a time when few women did. In that spirit, Gone With the Wind admires Scarlett's gumption and her ability to be a successful businesswoman in defiance of the restricted role of women in her day.
At the same time, though, the novel mourns the loss of the Confederate South—and part of that society was a pervasive sexism. Gone With the Wind, then, both revels in Scarlett's accomplishments and sees them as a problem: She's good at making money, but that doesn't make her happy; she protects her own, which is presented as cool and admirable, but doing so also (the novel says at various points) makes her unwomanly and unattractive.
On the other hand, the icons of "good" femininity—Ellen and Melanie—both die nobly sacrificing themselves, Ellen through nursing the Slatterys, Melanie through trying to have a child. So that doesn't sound so great either.
Questions About Women and Femininity
- Would you like to be a white woman in the pre-war South? Why or why not?
- Compare Melanie and Mammy. Whom does the novel treat as more feminine? Are black women seen as women in the novel?
- In Ellen and Melanie, is femininity in the novel seen as weakness? Explain your answer.
Chew on This
The novel admires Scarlett for not being feminine.
The novel condemns Scarlett for not being feminine.