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This definitive biography of the author of Gone With the Wind offers a perceptive psychological analysis of the novel and a concise study of the book's shifting critical fortunes in the contemporary South The life of Peggy Mitchell from her birth in the highest reaches of aristocratic Atlanta in 1900 to her death in 1949 in a car accident is detailed in a manner that is sympathetic yet wholly objective A fascinating mass of contradictions Mitchell emerges here as alternately retiring and flirty as a Southern belle confident enough to enter Atlanta's worst prisons and slums during her journalism career at the Atlanta Journal and as an intensely private person who nonetheless answered every fan letter herself The breadth of this biography is vast ranging from the intimate including the astonishing real life model for Rhett Butler to the global exploring the intense responses to the book from people all over the world who continue to see an image of their own political struggles in Mitchell's depiction of bravery in defense of a lost cause


10 thoughts on “Southern Daughter The Life of Margaret Mitchell and the Making of IGone With the WindI

  1. says:

    Not sure what I enjoyed the beautiful rich language or the thorough knowledge of the insider of Southern culture My two cents it would greatly help the reader if the book was prefaced by a long chapter on American South Perhaps it should be written by the outsider The author lived and breathed this culture for so long that he would sometimes use those little shortcuts to explain the local s attitudes beliefsOne might argue that a Southerner would understand it all without saying much A foreigner or even someone from North East or Midwest not immediately and maybe not necessarily in the same vein it would make the first chapter readable to have a genealogical chart of both branches of Peggy Mitchell's family and perhaps her husband's as well Finally I had a very unpleasant encounter pg 308 of 1991 edition with the ghost of anti Semitism very much alive and kicking in 1930's This letter was written to Margaret Mitchell by her friend and fellow Southerner Lois Cole who was at that time working at MacMillan and was trying to ease Peggy's worries regarding the contract with the publisher Here it is in all its beautymay I take the liberty of pointing out that you are not dealing with a fifth rate Jewish publisher? If your contract had come from Greenberg or even A A Knopf your suspicions in fact all suspicions might be easily understood However the contract came from us and it was the regular printed form which some twelve thousand Macmillan authors have signed without a ualm In fact I signed one myselfOh the spirit of the times Oh the Old SouthHow vital was it for the book to resurrect this anti Semitic drivel? How important is Lois Cole's opinion? Let the reader decide


  2. says:

    I am giving up on this one and that is something I don't usually do My two star rating was generous I wanted a biography of Margaret Mitchell What I GOT was a psychological treatise on every aspect of her life I felt like I was back in my college psych classes I will give the author credit the book is researched to the very last tittle and jot But I just wanted a biography not a college course


  3. says:

    So disappointing Darden Pyron's narrative is plodding needlessly scholarly and full of obscure references that add nothing It took a long time to finish this book because I kept falling asleep after reading two or three pages Pyron did an amazing thing by taking a GWTW related subject and making it so dull that even I struggled to get through it However I learned some interesting tidbits about Margaret Mitchell's original manuscript and her deal with David Selznick that saved the book from being a total bore It's too bad the rest wasn't what I was hoping for And what's with that pretentious picture of Pyron on the inside cover? Dude wishes he was John Malkovich


  4. says:

    Pyron's biography of Margaret Mitchell while rather dry at times presents a fascinating psychoanalytic interpretation of Mitchell's life letters and fiction I especially enjoyed his analysis of the novel in comparison to the film version of GWTW His insights into Mitchell's motivations are profound and allow the reader to understand Mitchell as a complicated woman with at times conflicting views but a vast understanding of humanity This biography is also a fascinating read for anyone interested in Mitchell's family's history especially Maybelle Mitchell Pyron provides a wealth of information about the Mitchell family revealing in his opinion the psychological impulses behind much of Margaret Mitchell's actions desires and even writing I felt a swell of admiration and immense sympathy for Margaret by the end She truly suffered for about the last 15 years of her life her art exacerbating her illness and pain than any other forceI recommend this book to anyone interested in researching Mitchell and seeking a thoughtful thorough and academic biography Although Pyron employs a great deal of academic jargon which I liked and his writing while poetic does become dense at times this is nevertheless an excellent book for any scholar


  5. says:

    I'm giving this 2 stars because of the subject Margaret Mitchell If I rated it based on the writing alone I would not be as generousI enjoyed the glimpses of Margaret Mitchell's humor revealed by her correspondence uoted throughout the book I was also fascinated to discover that she was for all intents and purposes either a hypochondriac or at least a victim of illnesses brought on by her nerves and possibly by guilt at being less than the woman she thought her mother wanted her to be I did not however enjoy the book as a wholeThe author managed to suck all the joy and life out of telling the story of a humorous lively woman He irritates with over intellectual dissections of stories written by the adolescent Mitchell and a than passing fancy for leading to overuse of the word insouciant Credulity was strained to the breaking point when he proceeded with a four page analysis of the psychology behind a story that now only exists in a former secretary's vague recollection of plot points I can't help but think that Margaret Mitchell herself would happily smack him for being so tiresome


  6. says:

    This biography includes a lot of opinion from the author and too much psychoanalysis The text doesn't always flow in a timeline order; it jumps around a lot which makes it challenging to knowremember that a lot of life events are happening simultaneously Certainly Mitchell was no saint but this book seemed overly harsh in its approachNot my favorite biography of Margaret Mitchell but worth reading for the research I'm doing on the author her book and the movie


  7. says:

    As a big Gone With the Wind fan I had to read this bio of Margaret Mitchell It gave me a much greater understanding of GWTW It gets kind of tedious at times but it's worth it if you want to learn all about Mitchell


  8. says:

    Southern Daughter took me uite a while to read because it’s extremely dense and LONG Which is the best kind of biography really Lucky for me I’m used to reading academic writing It is EXTREMELY thorough I’m sure I’ll be rereading Not for the faint of heart it’s an academic look at Margaret Mitchell as interpreted through deep analysis of Gone with the Wind as well as her other writings through a psychoanalytical lensDarden Asbury Pyron begins with her ancestry and slowly works his way through her childhood her teen years young adulthood two marriages the writing of Gone with the Wind the explosive reaction when it published and in the years following her work against international piracy her efforts in the Second World War her illnesses and her husband’s illnesses and finally her deathHis premise is that Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton represented two sides of Mitchell known in her personal and professional life as Peggy The good Peggy and the bad Peggy and that this splitting in two of her self was the result of confusion about her place as a woman in the Generation of 1900 His claim is that Mitchell’s mother Maybelle laid a heavy burden of expectation on the shoulders of Margaret Mitchell because of her own feminist beliefs She wanted her daughter to be a doctor and a success and BOLD while Margaret Mitchell was naturally diffident and retiring She had to actually change who she was to live up to her mother’s expectation for her and this journey began on the Road to Tara when she was six years oldGone with the Wind circles around Scarlett’s own Road to Tara scene which is the defining moment for Scarlett O’Hara and determines who she will be from that point forward Pyron suggests that Rhett Butler if he was inspired by anybody was inspired by Maybelle Mitchell — that steel tongued not uite five foot tall redhead who dominated Mitchell’s life for years and then left her one day as uickly as the wind scattering a legacy of expectation on the young girl’s shoulders Mitchell was never able to live up to all that her mother wanted for her and she was never able to reconcile the idea that she had not lived up to it Her mother wanted her to be bold and resilient yet in Maybelle’s death bed letter to Margaret she suggested that while boldness was a necessity in women Margaret’s place was still in the home her role was still ultimately to care for her family Maybelle personified this by screaming for women’s rights while performing the nineteenth century role of Great Lady wife and motherMaybelle never resolved the incongruities for her daughter — she only insisted that she live up to all of them and Mitchell couldn’t untangle the pressures She only knew that she didn’t want to get married that she didn’t want to have children that she didn’t want to go to school that she didn’t know what she wanted As the years passed this sense of inadeuacy manifested in physical ailments that excused what she perceived as her own inadeuacies — and finally sadly claimed her friends into a petty temperament that smashed down Scarlett O’Hara fashion on any penny she believed was owed to her whether it came from her own agent or a war torn European nation barely staggering to lifeThis was the Peggy some remembered in her final years Yet others remembered a selfless angel a woman who gave and gave This woman Pyron dubs “the good Peggy” Like her mother she contributed her time to those she believed needed it tirelessly working to sell bonds during the war years writing to soldiers volunteering in prisons nursing friends and neighbors when they fell ill nursing her own servants when they fell ill Bessie Jordan her maid said that there wasn’t a week that went by that she didn’t receive a gift from Margaret Mitchell Peggy nursed her when she was sick — she nursed them all when they were sick and gave of herself generouslyThe clash between the two Peggys manifested in her fiction than once Pyron cites specifically a favorite story of mine which Mitchell wrote in her teens “Little Sister” is about a little girl who sees her parents killed and her sister raped one night during a war This innocent child hardens overnight to become a hard soul with a gun trained on the invaders This hardening of innocence is a repeated motif in Mitchell’s literature the girl is thrown out into the frightening world and must harden and metaphorically become a manNot all of the chapters in Southern Daughter are psychoanalytical Some simply cover her frustrations at the invasion of Hollywood into her world her contract issues when she sold the rights to the movie her thrill at hearing the scoop on the film making from her friend Susan Myrick a hilarious woman who was serving at Mitchell’s own suggestion as an historical advisor on the set of the film Pyron uses many primary sources including interviews with Margaret Mitchell’s own brother Stephens Mitchell and her best friend from childhood Courtenay Ross as well as letters childhood stories anecdotes from friends letters from the Hollywood archives her stories from childhood the ones that survive to offer an extremely thorough picture of the life of a woman born into an adolescent country still reeling from civil war and trying to find its voiceMitchell was part of a generation pessimistic about the romanticization of the Southern myth Her novel especially since World War II has increasingly been confused with the 1939 adaption which propagated the idea that the South was filled with happy enslaved people idle planters mint juleps and columned houses In reality she’d worked hard to defy this suggestion in Gone with the Wind by pointing her camera at Southern scalawags Rhett and Scarlett and focusing on the capitalistic reality of the American Civil War and Reconstruction in the South Her North Georgia is as it really was filled with all manner of voices dialects and faces Yeoman farmers and the economically deprived fill up the Home Guard as well as seasoning the pagesShe searched high and low in Clayton County to find one columned house which might have been Twelve Oaks but Tara was an ugly mismatched little farm house as described in her book Her purpose was to defy the idea that the South was one happy monochromatic chivalrous place of knights and ladies until the North invaded She was not a Liberal thinker She didn’t like the New Deal when it came along and had a lot of criticism for Roosevelt She didn’t like left thinkers and felt that it was a waste not to look to the old ways for some good in a world going so dark She didn’t attempt to challenge the slave system in her novel but Pyron notes that she and her husband included the slave system among the things they hated Rather than challenging that system in her work directly she parallels the enslaved characters with white counterparts suggesting that the system as a whole from aristocrat to servant was limp and ineffectual For example Pork is Ashley’s double ornamental not much use once war comes and disrupts the hierarchy he’s known all his life He cannot change with the new times or think on his feet nor can Ashley Prissy is Scarlett’s double she lies and finagles to get what she wants Dilcey like Maybelle is regal and respectedThere was a huge cultural variance between the North Georgia Piedmont region middle Georgia and the coast Savannah Mitchell makes this clear in Gone with the Wind depicting the North Georgians like Gerald O’Hara as hardy unrefined hard drinking immigrants just a step away from the pioneer days while the genteel planter class Virginia Charleston Savannah is depicted as washed out The Wilkes and the Hamiltons stuck in the old ways Rhett Butler’s father distant aloof and mute Ellen O’Hara Those without color fade away the planter class including Cathleen Calvert so beautiful at the start of the novel and the Great Lady who wrings the final pages with tears while the capitalistic scallawags like Rhett and Scarlett who had been erased from the romanticized version of Southern History take what they can get Her point? The South was not some mythical happy place that was demolished by incoming Northern boots It was a place filled with all sorts of voices and backgrounds Even Dilcey is given a Native American lineage signifying the Creek and Cherokee origins of the state and reminding this reader of the ueen of the Muskogee nation Mary MusgrovePyron suggests ultimately that motherhood is the soul of Mitchell’s novel In Gone with the Wind Melanie’s labor pains happen alongside the destruction of Atlanta childbirth is war is death is conflagration A key character is destroyed because of motherhood and a key character goes in search of her mother and finds herself deserted by the loss of her left alone with no other option but to become hard She feels unprepared for the world as it really is — because of romanticized old fashioned ideas about what a lady ought to be None of those rules really matter and this she realizes on the Road to Tara — the same road Margaret Mitchell traveled when she was six years old and told her mother she didn’t want to study math because she saw no use for it Her mother in characteristic violence snatched her up and dragged her to Jonesboro to look at old houses that had once stood strong and had been decimated by war She told her you WILL be educated because when it all comes crashing down all you have is your education and your brain She piled expectation on her only daughter and then left her one day in 1919 barely an adult to face a world she wasn’t ready to face She told her YOU BE STRONG YOU BE BOLD She taught her to fire a gun She said BE A DOCTOR BE A MOTHER BE A WIFE BE A LADY And Mitchell was left to reconcile that with herselfThe result was Gone with the Wind Peggy was terrified of childbirth and associated Pyron believes Tara with her own mother Tara was the seat of the kings of Ireland and had been mythologized by her own mother as a place lost to the wind my words — a place where kings had once sat and had disappeared as surely as the king in Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”The Tara of Gone with the Wind was a place of refuge a place where Scarlett should have found relief and felt only burdens — weary loads This is perhaps how it felt to be raised by a woman who I believe sincerely wanted great things for Peggy but could not harmonize those great things with the world that awaited her daughter — a world which would have sorely embraced a woman doctor especially in the South and which had yet to widely accept mothers who worked or independent women who didn’t want to be mothersI wonder if the two had been able to talk candidly as women if Maybelle might have been able to give her daughter the answers she desperately needed — to lessen that load as the years passed by helping her fight for her place in the world without blaming herself for the world’s inadeuacies The two were never able to talk as adults and Peggy forever had a child’s viewpoint of her mother as a powerful great unattainable woman Maybelle died when Peggy was only nineteen in the middle of her first semester at Smith College She wouldn’t arrive home in time to tell her mother goodbye and within years she had become a debutante a wife a hard boiled journalist a victim of marital abuse a divorcee and a wife all over again She would learn what it felt like to uit working to take on her husband’s name to sit at home and to run out of things to do She would never become a motherMitchell mythologized Gone with the Wind’s birth She didn’t want anyone to know she had hoped for success as a writer so she claimed to not actually care about the book — that it had just sort of come out because she was bored after uitting her job in journalism In reality hers was a steel trap mind and she had worked diligently for years researching editing trimming reworking She didn’t want people to know this perhaps because Southern ladyhood still clashed too loudly in her ears against manly ambition She preferred to couette to demure to perform her role as a great lady to retire to her bed and hide from the world to fight over copyright infringement and to win — rather than write another novel or let on that she had tried and succeededI find Southern Daughter well researched well argued well written and unbiased Pyron is a Southerner but he isn’t romantic about it He writes with knowledge on the region and though he seems to like Mitchell as well as her famous novel he writes about her with candor detailing the good and the bad in her character and laying it out frankly I’d definitely reread Southern Daughter I’d say while a bit dense in places it’s the finest biography I’ve read on Margaret Mitchell I love the way it lays out so candidly the pressures that women were facing at the dawn of the new century It’s sort of as if women were reconstructing themselves at the same time the South was Maybe that’s why Mitchell identifies Scarlett so strongly with Atlanta Both had to rise and regroup So too I’d say did Margaret MitchellI think Mitchell though she might contest some of Pyron’s analysis would nonetheless find his conclusions fascinating to read since she was so interested herself in psychoanalytical theory She was apparently in the middle of reading a medical book on frigid women when she began writing Gone with the Wind


  9. says:

    By the fall of 1936 a million Americans had read Gone with the Wind although it had not been out much less than a year Need I say to demonstrate proof of one great American novel? David Selznick found that the public was so fiercely possessive of Gone with the Wind think Twilight in today's lingo that he had to tread very diplomatically over the casting trail Never in the moving picture business has there been such a deluge of letters on the casting of a picture not even in advance of the casting of David Copperfield wrote SelznickMargaret Mitchell spent her life writing yet she is known only for this one novel It is enough Silly rumors spread about her after the fact that she had been nothing but a bored housewife That is nonsense She was a journalist in her younger years and suffered from debilitating health problems It took her ten years to write Gone with the Wind after tremendous research and those ten years were partly chalked up due to her illnesses and her husband's Sadly she was struck down by a car at the age of 49 1949and died of brain damage five days later Disputes over ambiguous contracts with publishers and foreign rights arguments tormented her final yearsThere are many reasons to be attracted to this well written biography Besides the fact that Gone with the Wind won a Pulitzer prize for its author and returned to the bestseller list 50 years later besides the fact that it sold a million copies in the middle of the DepressionPyron uneuivocally demonstrates that Margaret Mitchell was one of the most ualified people to ever write about the Old South not just as a researcher but as a blueblood Her family roots trace deep into Atlanta history In fact Pyron points out Gone with the Wind reflects Mitchell's own life and ancestry Yet she was a fiery dynamic feminist the new Southern belle leaping out of the hoary bosom of the Old SouthDarden Ashbury Pyron addresses the over forty year old mistake of biographers and critics in having ignored Mitchell's contribution to literature See grassrootswritersguild at wordpress for on Margaret Mitchell


  10. says:

    I did not expect a biography to be so compelling but I honestly couldn't put this book down The style is lively and the content fascinating It's a pretty thorough examination of Margaret Mitchell's childhood adulthood and the way her life changed with Gone With the Wind The book is also thorough in describing the way Gone With the Wind took the nation by storm while giving us an inside look at all that went into publishing the book and creating the movie