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Author

Hunter Moyler

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Film Studies

Abstract

The Lost Cause is an ideology that eulogizes the failed Confederate States of America,

the ideals of white supremacy and states’ rights that it promulgated, as well as those who struggled and died in service of its survival. It deliberately downplays slavery as a reason for southern secession and subsequent conflagration, and holds the Confederates as uniformly upright men who courageously held their own against reprobate Northerners commanded by a tyrannical president. Furthermore, it depicts the Reconstruction era not as a time of regional reconciliation and expansion of minority rights, but as a dark period in Southern history where only the likes of the Ku Klux Klan prevented total societal collapse.

Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind, and its filmic adaptation of the same name are among the popular works of fiction most credited with propagating the ideology of the Lost Cause into the twentieth century (Andriani). This is due to their being among some of the most commercially successful pieces of media ever produced. The story centers around Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, selfish daughter of northern Georgia aristocracy as she navigates the rapidly changing society of the American South as well as her own tumultuous romantic life through the Civil War and early Reconstruction Era. Readers and viewers follow Scarlett as she faces adversity from occupying Union troops, rival neighbors, the Freedmen’s Bureau, and

recently emancipated African Americans. Scarlett’s unabating determination to achieve financial

security in the shamed, ruined postbellum South — her “gumption,” as Mitchell was fond of calling it — assures her survival, but also comes at the cost of severely alienating her from the rest of her society. In the end, her societal transgressions and romantic failures leave her scorned and alone; she resolves however, to not give up hope, because “After all, tomorrow is another day” (Mitchell 959). The irony here is fairly obvious: The novel and its characters have spent so much time fixated on bygone days, yet the final hope of the protagonist is in the fact that the future exists.

My analysis advances our understanding of these texts because it expands upon what

previous scholars have noted about Gone with the Wind’s relation to the sense of dispossession and loss during the Great Depression and ties it with the Lost Cause and the cultural and racial zeitgeist of the 1930s. While previous scholarship has appeared to exclusively focus on the sense of dispossession and displacement, my analysis not only thoroughly examines the texts themselves, but grounds their reading in much of what else was happening in American society during that time.

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