In Mitchell's Gone With the Wind Scarlett O'Hara is perhaps the most pragmatic of all of the characters. Faced with a hostile, Reconstructionist South, Scarlett is consistently faced with crises that she can only surmount by redefining herself and her values. Rhett Butler is similarly pragmatic, but when faced with the end of the Civil War, he decides to join the Southern army, embracing the heroic ideal that he disdains. Melanie Wilkes, perhaps the most balanced of the characters, accepts Scarlett's pragmatism without embracing it. Melanie's husband, Ashley Wilkes, and Scarlett's father, Gerald O'Hara, both unable to release their prewar value systems, are left powerless by the war.Representative of many of Mitchell's idealized former slaves, Uncle Peter refuses to abandon the world he knew before the war.

In William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! Thomas Sutpen desperately attempts to construct and maintain his family and his plantation, Sutpen's Hundred, in the time before and after the Civil War. The story is told as it is being gradually understood by Quentin Compson, a young man who is intrigued by Sutpen. Quentin tries to imagine the choices faced by Sutpen's son, Charles Bon, who plans on returning from the war to marry his own half-sister, Judith. In his quest for understanding, Quentin is aided by Sutpen's sister-in-law, Rosa Coldfield, the daughter of an objector to the Civil War, Goodhue Coldfield. Rosa's own quest for the truth ends in her confrontation with Clytemnestra Sutpen, Thomas Sutpen's daughter by a slave, who futilely tries to preserve the family after her father's death.

This site contains contemporary reviews of Gone With the Wind from the New York Times as well as contemporary reviews of Absalom, Absalom! from the Macon Telegraph and from the Nashville Banner. These reviews give an idea of the difference in critical reception that these two novels received.

Also contained on this site are two reading aids for Absalom, Absalom!--Faulkner's corrected chronology from Absalom, Absalom! as well as his genealogy from Absalom, Absalom!. Moviegoers may wish to use the cast list from the 1939 movie of Gone With the Wind as a way to remember characters.

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Tara as it appeared in the 1939 film, Gone with the Wind.


For Further Reference

Any student of William Faulkner will find extremely useful Edmond L. Volpe's A Reader's Guide to William Faulkner (1964 Farrar, Straus and Giroux--New York). Volpe provides analyses of all of the novels as well as genealogical tables and charts.

The images from the movie version of Gone With the Wind were scanned from Herb Bridges' The Filming of Gone with the Wind (1984 Mercer University Press--Macon). In addition to black and white stills from the movie, Bridges includes many pictures and documents taken from the film's set.

For a student interested in a detailed analysis of the two literary works, Matthew Martin's 1994 dissertation from the University of Virginia, The Frontier Plantation: Failed Innocence in Gone With the Wind and Absalom, Absalom!, investigates both works as modernist retellings of the myth of the Old South.

The intellectual conflict in 1930's America is given detailed analysis by Edward Purcell in his Crisis of Democratic Theory: Scientific Naturalism & the Problem of Value (1973 University Press of Kentucky--Lexington).

Reviews of Absalom, Absalom! and others of Faulkner's works are gathered in M. Thomas Inge's William Faulkner: The Contemporary Reviews (1995 Cambridge University Press--Cambridge).


This site was created by Hal Waller in the spring of 1998 for:

American Studies at the University of Virginia