Dress And Meaning In Gone With The Wind
This research intends to work on the influence of dress on the book Gone With The Wind by Margret Mitchell and in the movie Gone With The Wind directed by Victor Fleming. Scarlett O’Hara as an individual is being discussed through various sources. The ability of dresses to create stories and personalities around them are also explored in the works that are discussed in this literature review. Irish history has a considerable impact on Scarlett, her personality, color choices and dress sense. The works are reviewed in the order of their themes.
Not Just Any Dress; Narratives of Body, Memory, and Identity is a book written by Sandra Weber and Claudia Mitchell. Its chapter one “Dress Stories” and Chapter 32 ‘Theorizing Dress Stories’ are taken for the purpose of this research. This book begins with a quote by Antole France that explains how important dress of a particular time is, in understanding even the minor aspects of the existing society. He reemphasizes the importance of dresses by explaining that a fashion magazine will communicate more about a society than a work of fiction or history. Dress is influential in “looking” the job or any task you do. It explains how a teacher has to look as a teacher.
A teacher is expected to be dressed prim and proper in ironed outfit so that people will respect them and listen to them. Anyone who does not “look” like a teacher is not respected with the due respect for a teacher. The influence of clothing may seem minor but it is enormous. The significance given to dressing up is explained in this book with a school based programme that was conducted among teachers. In this research they were asked to take their class photographs they have, from their childhood to the ones they recently have in their teaching life. They were asked to examine their photographs by themselves. Most of them had stories to narrate around what they were wearing during on those days. This book argues that by looking at one’s own attire, one will get an amount of self knowledge. Dresses seem to have a meaning based on the context it is made to wear and the actual context it is being worn. They can be read as traffic signals and show a visual representation of the wearer’s identity. It also says that a particular unit of clothes does not have an inherent meaning that connects itself to masculinity of femininity. Culture plays the role of connecting clothes to gender roles.
This research paper explains the meanings produced by dresses as “denotative historical and cultural meaning” and “connotative personal meaning”. Denotative meaning is related to the actual purpose of the cloth for which it is made in a certain colour or with a certain material in certain length, exposing or concealing certain parts of the body. “Connotative personal meanings” reinterpret the denotative meanings from a personal point. The paper argues that what they call “dress stories” are not just any stories. They are autobiographical in nature. They are memories wrapped around particular dresses. A childhood picture from a drama in which you were part of or pictures with your family are examples how certain dresses tell stories. An example of a dress made by sewed together latex condoms are given in the paper. This example helps to show how dresses can represent deeper meanings. Scarlet Letter is a book written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is the story of Hester Prynne a young lady who is accused of adultery. The book begins with the angry puritan crowd coming together at a street in Boston to shame the accused adulteress and to judge her. The crowd wants to know who the father of her baby is. Hester does not give them any answer or any clue. She is punished to wear a scarlet A on her bosom.
This A proclaims that she is an adulterous. Furthermore she has to stand for three hours bearing the public humiliation. Ladies are jealous about the beauty and silent dignity that she has. Hester makes the bright scarlet A by herself. She stitched it and embroidered it in scarlet and gold colour very elegantly leading to people’s accusation that she is proud about it than ashamed. Meanwhile Hester’s husband saw her shame and asked one person from the crowd the reason. Learning what happened to Hester he is infuriated and plans to take revenge on her lover by finding him and killing him. To get this done he adopts the name Roger Chillingworth. Hester is questioned by Reverend John Wilson and Arthur Dimmesdale. But Hester does not respond to any of their questions. In the prison jailer brings Roger Chillingworth the physician to treat Hester and Pearl her baby. Chillingworth questions Hester about the child’s father for which she gave no reply and asked her not to tell anyone that he is her husband.
After returning from prison Hester makes a living from needlework. Hester has an incomparable skill in needlework. Her handiworks were elegant looking and most beautiful that people bought it in spite of it being produced by an adulterous. Except for weddings the pieces that was stitched by her was used everywhere. Even by the priests. But they found that a piece that an adulterous made cannot be used in a wedding. Meanwhile Hester is concerned about Pearl’s strange behavior. People of the town call Pearl a demon child as her conducts become unacceptable. Hester gets rumors that pearl will be taken from her by the church. She pleads to the church officials and gets Pearl back. As the story progresses Reverend Dimmesdale’s health begins to fail. Roger Cunningham the physician is sent to live with him so that he can aid in recovering Reverend Dimmesdale’s health. Roger Cunningham suspects that reverend Dimmesdale is sick due to some unconfessed sin. Ones when Dimmesdale was sleeping Roger Cunningham finds out a scarlet A coming on his chest. Driven by his consciousness reverend Dimmesdale confesses his sin to Hester and Pearl. After many other traumatic paths his health becomes extremely weak. During a church procession he stands up to the crowd and confesses his sins. Then he fell down in Hester’s lap and died. Reverend Dimmesdale left a huge amount of money for Pearl to live and have a wealthy life. After this Hester became a person of boldness to whom other ladies came for consolation and support. “My Mother’s Wedding Dress” is an anecdote published in Prairie schooner by Lex Williford. The author narrates the family life of his parents. Their conflicts and love for each other. It focuses on the time when they lived in a desert. Scorpions are a major part of a desert life and so was it in their life.
Once while arranging the house, his mother found her wedding dress folded and kept. She was delighted to find it. To surprise her husband she slipped it on herself. To her horror there was a nest of baby scorpions on it. She screamed out for help but the dress was stuck on her. At last her husband tore the silk dress off, with a scissor. They swiped out the scorpions from her naked body as her husband killed the ones on the floor. The wedding dress made itself a comfortable place for the scorpion to lay eggs and produce babies. To wear a wedding dress after its real purpose is painful. This review was published in The Sixteenth Century Journal. “Dress and Meaning in Rembrandent’s Paintings by Marieke de Winkel” reviewed by Tawny Sherril. Many have looked on the various other aspects of Rembrandt’s painting. But no one has paid much attention to the importance of dress in his painting. It is an area with very less attention paid on it. The study of dresses from early modern time is difficult to people from twenty first century as they could not be read as easily as the modern ones. “In the first chapter of the book the author discusses the iconography of the tabbaard(more commonly referred to in English as gown or a robe)”. The second chapter deals with “fashion accessories, from hats to handkerchiefs to jewelry- objects that often provide insight into the status or identity of the wearer”“The ‘Freedom suite’: Feminism and Dress Reform in the United States 1848-1875” is written by Amy Kesselman and has been published by Sage publication in the Journal Gender and Society.
The Dress reform movement during this time is often represented as the first show off that feminist did. But these reforms and the urge towards it came from the nineteenth century health reforms. During this time women had to live their life in the restrictive clothes that tightened up their body to fit into the pre constructed measures. Each body part of theirs had to be in the measurement that was approved by the society. These restrictive clothes made them fragile. Their bodies were extremely sensitive and most of them suffered from fainting and other bodily disorders. A woman being fragile was considered to be appealing. Women who had the courage to deviate from these norms and live their life as models for the social changes that has to be done were criticized. The tensions between these conservative belief and progressive belief created problems for the coming generation as they were stuck in the dilemma between personal change and political transformation. Irish Cultural Influence“The Novel ‘Gone With The Wind’: Irish-American Adaptation” is a journal published in the bulletin ‘The Harp’ in 1994 by IASIL-JAPAN.
Contribution to American Literature has been given widely by Irish American writers. A reason for the popularity that Gone With The Wind got in spite of many critics accusing it to be meritless, is the strong ties that connected Irishness and American South. Even though this connection is an important theme the central spot of it is Scarlett O’ Hara. The Irish Voice in America written by Charles Fanning states that Irish American fiction has two separate cycles involved. According to him, the first writers were “well-educated Protestants who satirized the British Government”. The second were “intended as survival manuals. ” “These novels contained ‘sentimental rhetoric, stereotyped characters, simplistic conflicts and moralizing themes’” These narratives had a role play in spreading the stereotypical characteristics about Irish people such as “strong mother, great house, family solidarity, hard work, parochial education, Catholicism, confessions, deathbeds, Irish Nationalism, and the extremes of dissipation/ abstinence, profligacy/piety, solid citizens/ criminals, and the public oration/ private silence about deep emotion. ” Gone with the Wind was written in late 1920’s and early 1930’s.
Margret Mitchell is careful in giving out the initial expectations of the readers in the beginning. In the beginning she describes Scarlett O’ Hara’s face as “too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French Descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father” Margret Mitchell gives Scarlett green eyes, fair skin, thick black hair and eyebrows to connect her more to Irish ancestry. Scarlett’s father is an Irish man who believes that land is the only thing on earth that will survive and is worth fighting for. Seeing land as mother is a dominant characteristic of Irish people. Gerald’s love for land made him kill a rent agent who insulted him about a land loss that happened to his ancestors hundred years back.
He is a man with all the stereotypical Irish characters. But Gerald O’Hara did not show his Irish spirit in two parts of his life. His marriage to Ellen Robillard a lady from an aristocratic French family and his love for her does not go with his Irishness. He loved Ellen more than anything in the world. He loved Ellen even more than his land, Tara. He stood strong when problems came against his land but when his wife died his wife passed away he had a mental breakdown. This makes him different from the stereotype as an Irish man who loves his land more than anything on earth. Divergent from the general stereotype of hard working Irish men , Gerald is hard drinking and earns wealth by gambling. Gerald equates American south to his mother country Ireland. According to this research work “Mitchell’s description of the South’s battles and the aftermath of the war are equivalent. To those of Edna O’Brien in her book Mother Ireland” The patriotic loyalty is equally given as qualities of South and Ireland. In the book Gone With The Wind Scarlett is associated with Irish spirit more than her father. Initially only her physical features connect her to Ireland ancestry. But as the plot gets complicated Scarlett represents Irishness more than her pure Irish blooded father. Scarlett is attached to Tara more than her father. To preserve Tara, Scarlett kills a Yankee soldier, defies an army, gives herself as mistress to Rhett butler, steals her sister’s lover and marries a man she could never love. She sacrifices not only to keep Tara but also to keep her family together. However unlike Ellen, she does not love her family; she keeps her family together because it is her duty. She sees her family members as mouths to feedIn the process of struggling to sustain her and others, Scarlett lost her lady hood. She lost her good reputation and decency. Even though she earned financial security she was looked down upon by the society.
Other ladies were respected even when they are dependant and poor. But Scarlett was not. After the death her mother Ellen, she could no longer live as a lady. She struggled to keep herself and her family alive. Melanie is the third most important lady in ‘Gone With The Wind’. Melanie dies after a miscarriage. It is while Melanie dies Scarlett gets enlightened that Melanie is the only person after Ellen who loved her truly. Ellen and Melanie are representatives from the “tradition of great ladies” as Ellen puts it. But Scarlett refuses to follow this; hence she survives the test of time while the tradition of great ladies dies of with sufferings, war, diseases and misfortunes. Scarlett is very different from other ladies of her time. She is compared to the Celtic goddesses. “According to Joseph Campbell in his Occidental Mythology, these females figures originated in pre-Celtic times and strongly influenced the Celtic ‘brazen dames’ who ‘were in no sense wives in the patriarchal style’ Examples of Celtic goddesses goes exactly with Scarlett’s rebellious nature. Queen Maeve, Morrigan, Brigit are some goddesses with whom she is compared. The rebellious and cunning nature of Morrigan, the hard-headedness of Queen Maeve comes together in Scarlett O’Hara. Mother Ireland. Documentary Aired on Channel Four 1991. This documentary looks upon the representation of Ireland as the mother figure. The Irish nationalism has a lot to do with the concept of nation as mother. The mother represented is the divine power of strength and support. This mother figure can be often confused with Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The feminism that emerged from Ireland has also been influenced by these concepts. This documentary was directed by Anne Crilly and produced by Margo Harkin. Its cinematographer was Tom Collins. In this documentary historians discuss how cultural aspects have influenced in looking at Ireland as a woman. The images and music in the documentary proves how Ireland has been represented as a woman.
This image has been ascribed stereotypical qualities of motherliness. The documentary show these qualities are demanded from the women in the real Ireland. This documentary presents historical films, music, cartoons, political drawings and photographs that portray Ireland as a woman. ScarlettMarian j Morton wrote this journal “‘My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn’: Scarlett O’Hara and the Great Depression” in Frontiers: A Journal of women Studies published by University of Nebraska Press in 1980. It is interestingly titled after Rhett Butler’s proclamation that he does not give a damn about Scarlett. “For a woman, financial success can be achieved only at the expense of personal failure” According to this research paper in ‘Gone With The Wind’ Margret Mitchell is trying to attack the new emerging affinity towards wealth and is also condemning the new arising trend against tradition. The paper argues Margret Mitchell intentionally made the protagonist a lady as a warning to women because they were held responsible to keep social order and culture at its place. The struggle that Scarlett went through in the Gone With The Wind was the representation of what many American women faced during that time. They were confused if they should keep themselves as honorable ladies during the crisis or if they should earn money to survive. The large profit that the book and movie collected makes it clear that Margret Mitchell pleased her readers and gave them what they wanted. This is because she has included the regular popularity gaining masala. Rags to riches elements, romance, and adventure are there to make it acceptable for laymen.
A very attractive theme in this novel and film is survival. The American society was having this challenge as they struggled to survive after the American Depression. This survival story came to them as an inspiration. The problems in the novel emerge from the clash between old and new “old values and new realities, the past and the present, the south and the north. ” The struggle of a nation is represented through the struggle that Scarlett O’Hara goes through. Scarlett had to face the pressure of her times like many other Americans. The luxury that they lived in came down to nothing. As the income reduced females had to cut down on many things and where blamed for all the financial crises that the family suffered. Like many other families Scarlett also keeps her family together. But her femininity has a drastic change by the time the disasters got over. Scarlett only became more of herself but her feminine nature changed its style. Scarlett had to take up the responsibility of her family. Taking responsibility till then was always men’s business. Scarlett took up the burden of her house to survive through the time as there was no able bodied men in the family. She was not rebelling against patriarchy but was being submissive to fate.
After her second marriage she buys a saw mill and earns enormous profit from it. Her society finds it unladylike. This time she works for the greed of money. Scarlett became financially secure after all the struggle to find out at last that all the money that she and Rhett possess can’t buy their daughter the social position that they want her to have in the society. The story ends in a sad note. Rhett leaves her at the time when she realized that she has loved only Rhett all the while. Bonnie her daughter dies and everything remains blank before her. This ending is a warning to the society from Margret Mitchell that money cannot buy happiness. By the end of everything Scarlett is no longer the person that she initially was. She had two options, to let go of money and be a lady or to live without poverty and be scorned by society. She chose the second option like many Americans of her time who knows how horrible hunger and poverty can be.
- Ball, Valerie M. “The Novel ‘Gone with the Wind’: Irish-American Adaptation. ” The Harp, vol. 9 ,1994, pp. 83–95. JSTOR, JSTOR, www. jstor. org/stable/20533339.
- Derry Films And Video Collective. Mother Ireland, Producer Anne Crilly, Jim Curran, Stephanie English, Margo Harkin, Tomas MacCoilin, Geraldine McGuiness, Brendan McMenamin,Channel4, 11March1991. Youtube. https://www. youtube. com/watch?v=3glM5PYoB7s. De
- Winkel, Marieke. Fashion and fancy: dress and meaning in Rembrandt’s paintings. Amsterdam University Press, 2006. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, and Maxwell Geismar. The scarlet letter. Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
- 1961. Kesselman, Amy. ‘The “freedom suit”: Feminism and dress reform in the United States,
- 1848- 1875. ‘ Gender & Society 5. 4 (1991): 495-510. Morton, Marian J. ” My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn’: Scarlett O’Hara and the Great Depression. ‘ Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies (1980): 52-56.
- Weber, Sandra, and Claudia Mitchell. ‘CHAPTER I:’ Dress Stories’. ‘ Counterpoints 220 (2004): 3-9. Weber, Sandra, and Claudia Mitchell. ‘CHAPTER 32: Theorizing Dress
- Stories. ‘ Counterpoints 220 (2004): 251-272Williford, Lex. ‘My Mother’s Wedding Dress. ‘ Prairie Schooner77. 2 (2003): 21-26. .
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This research intends to work on the influence of dress on the book Gone With The Wind by Margret Mitchell and in the movie Gone With The Wind directed by […]