“I Was Tellin It”: Race, Gender, and the Puzzle of the Storyteller

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“I Was Tellin It”: Race, Gender, and the Puzzle of the Storyteller

by Anne Goodwyn Jones
Southern Cultures, Vol. 5, No. 1: Spring 1999

"Scarlett's imagined return to the arms of Mammy is the real conclusion to Gone with the Wind."

I’d like to thank Drew Faust for taking on what still seems in some quarters to be an unpopular project: applying actual thought to popular literature. Between Faulkner and Mitchell, scholars have chosen Faulkner. Few have taken Gone with the Wind seriously enough to write about it. It’s not anthologized, either. Of the southern literature anthologies I’ve seen, the only one to include a portion of, or even mention of, Gone with the Wind, is the Oxford Book of the American South, whose senior editor, Ed Ayers, is a historian. Certainly one of the reasons for this critical and anthological neglect is the sheer size of the 1037-page book. Another must be the flapping of the last tatters of the old boundary dividing high literature, demanding study, from popular literature, which a true scholar would not even stoop to read. A third reason is the subject of Faust’s talk: the knee-jerk racism evident in both what the book makes of black characters and what it omits. This last reason was critical a few years ago in the editorial board’s decision to leave Gone with the Wind out of the Heath Anthology of American Literature. I was at that meeting and well remember the passion with which African American editors articulated their repugnance to and fear of what they saw as a novel that not only represented racism, but could actively construct racism in its readers.