Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Banned, Censored, Challenged: Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell's classic tale of the American South was an instant sensation. The main character is the spoiled, haughty Scarlett O'Hara whose life of leisure is torn apart by the Civil War.

The book caused some scandal in it's day (1936), because of the use of words like "damn" (gasp)and "whore"(heaven help us!). The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (seriously?) objected to Scarlett being married more than once. The Watch and Ward society in Boston wanted to get people upset over the prominence of Belle Ward (a madam) in the novel, but book sellers were making way too much money to care what censors were saying.

In recent years, it's the novel's depiction of Negro slaves and use of the word "nigger" that have drawn complaints. In 1984, the Waukegan,Illinois school district wanted the book removed from the reading list along with Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of Narcissus,Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird,Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Of course, a little bit of scandal never hurt anybody. Gone With the Wind is one of the bestselling novels of all time, one of the greatest films in history and has spawned a legend all its own. All of the "negative publicity" probably didn't hurt.


Mardel said...

I understand that those are some pretty offensive terms, but people forget the time and context that they were used. I don't hear much protest about current books and their language. I'm sure if those authors were writing today they would use correct terminology. People should remember what it was like back then, and understand that it's part of the story, not an insult to people 50 years later.

Anonymous said...

this was not very helpful. Expand this.

Anonymous said...

Belle Watling, not Ward.