My Reading Life by Pat Conroy:
Gone with the Wind is as controversial a novel as it is magnificent. Even after its publication year, then after Margaret Mitchell won a Pulitzer Prize, the book attracted a glittering array of literary critics, including Malcolm Cowley and Bernard DeVoto, who attacked the artistry and politics of the novel with a ferocity that continues to this day. Margaret Mitchell was a partisan of the first rank and there never has been a defense of the plantation South so implacable in its cold righteousness or its resolute belief that the wrong side had surrendered at Appomattox Court House. In this book, the moral weight of the narrative is solidly and iconoclastically in line with the gospel according to the Confederate States. It stands in furious counterpoint to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which Margaret Mithcell ridicules on several occasions by scoffing at Stowe’s famous scene of bloodhounds pursuing runaway slaves across ice floes.
Margaret Mitchell writes of the Confederacy as paradise, as the ruined garden looked back upon by a stricken and exiled Eve, disconsolate with loss. If every nation deserves its own defense and its own day in the sunshine of literature, then Margaret Mitchell rose to the task of playing the avenging angel for the Confederate States. There have been hundreds of novels about the Civil War, but Gone with the Wind stands like an obelisk in the dead center of American letters casting its uneasy shadow over all of us. It hooked into the sweet-smelling attar that romance always lends to the cause of a shamed and defeated people. Millions of Southerners lamented the crushing defeat of the Southern armies, but only one had the talent to place that elegiac sense of dissolution on the white shoulder of the most irresistible, spiderous, seditious, and wonderful of American heroines, Scarlett O’Hara.