Author Archives: K. Epps

*Posted on behalf of Amanda Hlavacek.  Please direct your comments to her.*

Despite the numerous times that I have watched Gone With the Wind, it was not until I read the article by Bruce Chadwick that I understood the “political meeting” which Rhett attempted to save Ashley, Frank and Dr. Meade from was a Ku Klux Klan gathering.  I became fascinated by the role which Margaret Mitchell assigned the Klan members “as providing needed protection against blacks and white agitators.”*  However, when I tried to research the topic, I was unable to come up with anything to support her suggestion.

I was also fascinated by Rhett proclaiming that he had made his fortune from blockade running, supported by Dr. Meade’s statement at the Atlanta ball that Rhett was responsible for providing the material for the women’s dresses.  From my basic understanding of blockade running, cotton was exchanged for war materiel, not clothing items.  Historian Alice Strickland explains that in addition to those items many “luxury items such as fans, parasols, cloaks, childrens toys, ladies shoes, and other commodities” were carried on the blockade running ships.**  Strickland further states that cotton was in high demand in Nassau in the Bahamas, where blockade runners would sell it for a high price as well as to exchange it for desperately needed medical supplies.***

While blockade running was extremely dangerous, it yielded high personal profit in addition to supporting the Confederate war effort.  For Rhett to say that he made his money from running would be accurate.  Economic historian Stanley Lebergott asserts that for cotton, “[t]he English and Europeans paid about $500,000.  The North spent over $700,000.”****  The profits could have been exorbitant.  One Charleston company grossed nearly $20 million.*****  However, if this was to be Rhett Butler’s sole income during the war, it is unlikely that he made his fortune from it unless he was extraordinarily successful.  Strickland asserts that blockade runners were typically able to make three trips before being captured, and only those lucky few were able to make eighteen trips.******  If Rhett was able to make multiple runs, the potential exists for him to have cleared as much as $85,000 per trip (one-way).*******

Since GWTW focuses more on Scarlett’s story and that of the O’Hara’s experiences, it is impossible to fully grasp the extent of Rhett’s blockade running unless one was to read Donald McCaig’s Rhett Butler’s People in which the story of GWTW is told from Rhett Butler’s perspective.  It is a compelling read, and I would suggest it is much more historically accurate than Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

*Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film (Alfred Knopf: New York, 2001), 195.

**Alice Strickland, “Blockade Runners,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 36 (October, 1957): 87.

***Strickland, 88.

*Posted on behalf of Mario Arellano.  Please direct your comments to him.*

Gone with the Wind (1939) highlights the evolution of gender roles.  First, gender roles began and remained traditional in that men displayed power and masculine characteristics whereas the women displayed sanctity and innocence.  Bruce Chadwick’sThe Real Civil War also speaks to the male gender issues not only during the Civil War but also during the many decades after.  Similarly, the women in the film maintained traditional gender roles whereas all sought the perfect man or someone to take care of them for the years to come.

During and after the war however, the women in the film realized their handicap and aimed to achieve more not out of pride but out of necessity. As time progressed, women in America aimed to achieve more by relying on the African American precedents, as well as their much earned right to establish themselves as citizens by taking on new roles and new challenges.  Moreover, female gender roles were evolving and continued to evolve following the American Civil War whereas opportunities to express one’s beliefs and opinions grew to the point that they would forever continue to evolve.   Indeed this was quite evident in the film.

From the beginning, the males in the film aimed to display an image of power and strength in arguing for the Confederacy going to war. They not only romanticized the idea, but they even went as far as to threaten Captain Butler when he made the comment about the North possessing more of the resources needed to fight a war.   In addition, Bruce Chadwick speaks to the issue of male gender roles claiming that Clark Gable’s character Captain Butler questioned the idea of crying on film because of the idea that it might tarnish his masculine image.*  This suggests that nearly sixty five years later, men still desired to display manly images of themselves similar to the men in film.

On the other hand, Scarlet’s attitude from the opening scene to the part where all the boys left for war tended to focus on the female desire to find love.  Her personal image is worth mentioning because she went above and beyond to acquire the attention of the boys at the picnic.  Hoping to win the heart of Ashley and secure her own future, Scarlet displayed a sense of innocence in order to win the attention of all the males at the party including Ashley.  Then later in the film after realizing she has nothing left to rely on because the war ruined her families land and Ashley was now married, Scarlet does something totally outside a females means in purchasing a lumber mill to provide herself and her family.  Prior to the war, the idea of a female performing predominantly male jobs remained unheard of.  However, as the times changed during and after the war, Scarlet was forced to take action in order to make amends.

Viewing the film from the gender perspective, it is quite apparent that the evolution of gender roles continued to change during and after the Civil War. Women accepted new roles out of necessity while men aimed to portray masculine characteristics to compensate the ongoing changes that women continued to take advantage of.

*Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2001), 186.

*Posted on behalf of Jamie Adams.  Please address your comments to her.*

When viewing Gone With the Wind several questions came to my mind, but one that really stood out the most is the term escapist.  I have recently come across this term in a previous class and developed an understanding of the word and how it pertained to different groups of people at various times in the past. I have read about Jewish women working in factories in the early 1900’s, Cubans playing baseball in a foreign America during the early nineteenth century, and Elvis Presley and his ‘extracurricular’ medicines; all of these dealt with the term escapism on their own terms in diverse ways. Now, the term presents itself again, but to a different era than the one I connected it to.  Escapist can have multiple meanings across various cultures and times, even to this day.

In the book by Chadwick, The Reel Civil War, he discusses escapism not only for the masses watching Gone With the Wind but also in the movie itself.  Chadwick states that the motion picture industry certainly addressed the Depression in some films, such as the Grapes of Wrath, Dead End, and a string of gangster movies, but it also produced a large number of escapist entertainment stories.*[1]   People flocked to new modes of entertainment to escape the unsympathetic reality of life resulting from the Great Depression. Many people from the South, men and women, were still recovering from the psychological and physical trauma of defeat from the Civil War where they were always skeptical of the government.  Then, the Great Depression engulfed the nation and society’s skepticism grew even more for many in the South.

The movie became an outlet of inspiration and many Southerners, especially females, could relate to Scarlett O’Hara’s ‘escapist’ moment in the movie.  Gone With the Wind was escapist, a finely woven, wonderful soap opera and a rich love story, but it was most importantly a film about the survival of a tough woman trying to keep home and family together in the middle of turmoil.*[2]  Hidden messages of escapism were all through the movie and how different people used them to cope with harsh times but the main escapist message was the even though times were tough in the Great Depression, they still had their families.[3]  Escapism can therefore be on an individual, group, or national level and have multiple meanings depending on what the person(s) is escaping.

I find this very relevant to today since the American economy is in a recession.  Times again are tough on families and we are still in a war, not at home, but still having effects of the home life of many people.  It makes me wonder what people today are using as their escapism?  Is there anything in the entertainment world that is inspirational and good for the morale of the country today, or are we clouded with too much information and is it positive in any way?


[1] Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film (New York: Knopf, 2001), 224.

[2]  Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film (New York: Knopf, 2001), 225.

[3] Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film (New York: Knopf, 2001), 226.

What is escapism:

This website will contain student blogs for a graduate course at Colorado State University–Pueblo, titled HIST501: Studies in Civil War Memory.  Even if you are not enrolled in the course, feel free to browse and comment at your leisure.  The header image is a photograph of the Vicksburg battlefield, from this blog.