Every Man Has Got the Right to Get Killed?: The Civil War Narratives of Mary Johnston and Caroline Gordon

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Every Man Has Got the Right to Get Killed?: The Civil War Narratives of Mary Johnston and Caroline Gordon

by Sarah E. Gardner
Southern Cultures, Vol. 5, No. 4: Winter 1999

"The vivid—and graphic—novels of two women authors usher in new views of the War and redefine a genre."

In early September 1936 Caroline Gordon contemplated death, diarrhea, and her Civil War novel and became mightily irked. Her publisher had recently commented that the novel, None Shall Look Back, then titled “Cup of Fury,” was “all right so far as it went” but complained that the author “killed too many young men.” An exasperated Gordon wrote her friend Sally Wood that she returned home, “settled down and . . . killed one more young man, besides giving one chronic diarrhea and the other [a] gangrenous foot,” adding, “I don’t care whether he likes it or not.” Gordon’s vision of her Civil War novel clearly differed from that of her publisher, whose expectations had undoubtedly been influenced by Margaret Mitchell’s recently released Gone With the Wind. Nearly thirty years earlier, novelist Mary Johnston engaged in a similaralthough perhaps even more protracted and heateddebate with her editor over the content or her two-volume fictional account of the Civil War, The Long Roll (1911) and Cease Firing (1912).