Cover image for Southern daughter : the life of Margaret Mitchell
Southern daughter : the life of Margaret Mitchell
Pyron, Darden Asbury.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1991.
Physical Description:
xxii, 533 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3525.I972 Z82 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3525.I972 Z82 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3525.I972 Z82 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
PS3525.I972 Z82 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Gone With the Wind is an American phenomenon. Arguably the most popular American novel of all time, it sold over a million copies in its first six months (in the heart of the Depression), won a Pulitzer Prize for its author, and more remarkable still, returned to the New York Times BestSeller list fifty years after its first appearance. Crowning its glory, David O. Selznick transformed the novel into one of the great films of all time, lifting its characters--especially the unforgettable Scarlett O'Hara and her lover-antagonist Rhett Butler--to the pinnacle of American popularculture. Now, in Southern Daughter, Darden Pyron provides an absorbing biography of Margaret Mitchell, the author of this American classic. In a solidly researched, sprightly narrative informed by a deep knowledge of Southern culture, Pyron reveals a woman of unconventional beauty, born into one ofAtlanta's most prominent families, and imbued from childhood with tales of the Civil War. Mitchell was a rebellious child, an independent woman who wanted a career and not a family (children made her wince), and a Catholic who defiantly left the Church, divorced her first husband, Red Upshaw (ane'er-do-well and sometime bootlegger), and married John Marsh (who had been Upshaw's best man). Fans of Gone With the Wind will find several chapters in Southern Daughter that trace how these elements in Mitchell's biography made their way into her fiction, including the most surprising identityfor the fictional Rhett Butler. As a further surprise to most Americans who know only the film version of Gone With the Wind, Pyron reveals how Mitchell intended her book as a repudiation of the then popular "moonlight on the magnolias" genre of Civil War romance. Equally interesting is hisportrait of Mitchell after the novel's success: the incredible flood of letters (in the 13 years before her death, Mitchell wrote at least ten thousand letters, an astonishing number of which ran pages and pages); the filming of Gone With the Wind, whose script ultimately required seventeen writers,including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ben Hecht; and the lavish film premier in Atlanta. Whether describing Mitchell's earliest writing (such as The Cow Puncher and Phil Kelley, Detective, in which she played Zara the female crook), or discussing her final years, which were marred by constant pain and illness, wrangles with agents and publisher, and her increasing affection forlitigation, this perceptive, sympathetic, and engagingly written biography illuminates the life of a major writer and the book she created, a work peopled with characters who still loom large in the American imagination.

Author Notes

About the Author:Darden Asbury Pyron is Professor of History at Florida International University.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Pyron, a professor of history, takes a workmanlike approach to his subject, meticulously detailing the personal, cultural, and historical influences on Margaret Mitchell's masterful novel Gone with the Wind. The author has drawn heavily for information about the intensely private Mitchell from a vast collection of archival materials, many of them never before consulted. The reader learns, for instance, that Mitchell's grandmother served as the inspiration for Scarlett O'Hara and that Mitchell, a onetime reporter for the Atlanta Journal, worked secretively on her famous novel--and why. Pyron also looks at the more public side of his subject, including the much-publicized making of the movie version of Gone with the Wind and, more revealing and interesting, how the tides of opinion about the merits of Mitchell's novel have changed over the years with the shifting political winds. Though frequently dry and scholarly, this biography is worth reading for its important new insights into Mitchell's own character and the creation of her fictional characters. ~--Mary Banas

Publisher's Weekly Review

In more than 500 pages, packed with details from archives and interviews, Pyron, professor of history at Florida International University, delivers the definitive biography of the author of Gone with the Wind. Included is well-informed analysis of the 1936 novel and of David Selznick's 1940 film epic about the Civil War in Georgia. But the book's major achievement is the sympathetic yet objective coverage of Mitchell, from her birth in Atlanta in 1900 to her death in 1949 in a car accident. A mass of contradictions, the novelist emerges here as shy yet bold and flirty, as insecure yet tough enough to compete with overbearing males during her journalism career, as essentially a very private person. She had so little faith in her talent that she kept her 10 years of work on GWTW secret from all but her husband, John Marsh. Pyron suggests that Mitchell's vividly portrayed characters (some based on kin) explain the novel's appeal and staying power, which he attributes also to the book's historical reality. One senses in Pyron the passion for accuracy that drove the novelist; it yields here an utterly absorbing biography. Photos not seen by PW . (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gone with the Wind swept away the public when it appeared in 1937 and later when it became the most successful film epic of its time. In this well-documented biography, which contains never-before-published material, Pyron has unearthed the fascinating life of its author. Born into the upper crust of Atlanta society, she eschewed the role of Southern lady to be a journalist. After quitting, she began to write the novel that would set a standard for historical realism in fiction. She was a perceptive perfectionist whose characters were genealogically linked to her own family. Obsessed with the novel and uncomfortable with its ensuing success, she eventually withdrew into a world dominated by ill health. The author treats the multifaceted Mitchell evenhandedly and empathizes with the crosscurrents in her life, as she tried to counterbalance her ties with the antebellum South and her interest in the contemporary literary scene of the 1920s. Particularly fascinating is the chapter that traces the making of the film and the search for the perfect Scarlett. Recommended for public libraries and Mitchell scholars. (Illustrations not seen.)-- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Reading this massive, incredibly detailed biography of the author of Gone with the Wind is very much the same kind of experience as reading Mitchell's massive, incredibly detailed novel itself: no matter how strong one's initial impulse to disparage it, the story simply sweeps one away. Pyron (editor of the 1983 critical antholgy Recasting: Gone with the Wind in American Culture, CH, Jan'84) says he first read GWTW in 1974 and discovered at the same time that "no one had 'done' either the novel or its author." Southern Daughter, no question about it, remediates that lack. The story of Margaret Mitchell's diverse family background, her childhood scribbling, her youthful amours as a "baby-faced vamp," her two marriages, her newspaper work, her "labor pains" in bringing forth her literary child, and all the turmoil that followed the worldwide success of her novel and its Hollywood film version have now been "done" to a degree that should satisfy not only every legitimate scholarly interest but even the nearly insatiable curiosity of Mitchell's most importunate fans. Those content with something less comprehensive should go not to the earlier lopsided biographies by Finis Farr and Anne Edwards, but to Elizabeth I. Hanson's concise but insightful Margaret Mitchell (CH, Jul'91).-A. J. Griffith, Our Lady of the Lake University