Thursday, December 8, 2011

Twelve Oaks and Two Staircases

Having just watched Gone With the Wind--an endlessly analyzed and is a much beloved fictional history--I want to write a little ditty on something I've been thinking for years but have never recorded.
For people who haven't read the book, I wouldn't recommend it, particularly if you like Scarlett O'Hara based on the movie (her character is even bitchier in writing) and the movie is more sweeping and compelling than the book, which is tedious in even the best of scenes, and has much more swooning ("Oh Ashley!!!!") in it.
My favorite part of GWTW is not a character (though Rhett Butler is more than worthy) but rather a place: Twelve Oaks, the Wilkes' plantation. The way it is described in the books is marvelous, especially the outdoor scenes that always make me want to visit Georgia in late summer and have an old fashioned barbeque on 10 acres of land. In the movie Twelve Oaks is as gorgeous as I picture it while reading the book, though Margaret Mitchell was none too happy with its film depiction. She wrote in a letter to a friend:

"I had feared, of course that Twelve Oaks would end up looking like the Grand Central Station...I did not know whether to laugh or to throw up at the TWO staircases....When I think of the healthy, hardy, country and somewhat crude civilization I depicted and then of the elegance that is to be presented, I cannot help yelping with laughter."

But isn't that was GWTW is about? Romanticizing Southern antebellum extravagance and hoop skirts and mint juleps on the front porch? People have plenty of reasons to be angry with Mitchell and her racist Mammy caricature and plantation-load of historical, I posthumously beseech Mitchell to let the two staircase thing go so we can savor the over-the-top antics of those dapper Confederates being fanned by their slaves on the veranda before all hell breaks loose and we end up rooting for the scrappy Scarlett in all of her green-curtained glory without feeling any guilt that this is not the world the author intended or endorsed.

Who wouldn't want a double staircase??

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