LEARNING GUIDE TO:
GONE WITH THE WIND
SUBJECTS — U.S./1860 - 1865 & Georgia; Cinema;Age:12+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 1939; 231 minutes; Color.Available from Amazon.com.
Description: This epic drama traces the life of the fictional Scarlett O'Hara, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, from before the Civil War to Reconstruction and makes clear the conflicts, values, corruption and character types that dominated the south in its struggle to free itself from the Union and maintain slavery, a system essential to the wealth of the southern aristocracy. It is adapted from the book by Margaret Mitchell.
Rationale for Using the Movie: The characters in this film, including Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler, Melanie and Ashley Wilkes, have become fixed in the American consciousness and are frequently referred to in conversation and in writing. They afford students the opportunity to see why southern were willing to go to protect a way of life that, in retrospect, was immoral and untenable.
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Through research, presentations and writing assignments at the film's end, students will gain deeper insight into the most devastating and deadly war ever fought by the U.S..
Possible Problems: Moderate. The story accepts slavery and the way of life of the wealthy plantation owners without criticism; however, this illuminates the thinking of southerners and is essential to understand in a fair consideration of the causes of the Civil War. The black characters are stereotypes who "just love their masters." Alcohol use and abuse are shown.
LEARNING GUIDE MENU
SUGGESTIONS FOR USING GONE WITH THE WIND IN THE CLASSROOM
After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.
1. Scarlett O'Hara has both positive and negative qualities. Looking closely at her character, do you see her in balance or dominated by the "dark side." Suggested Response: Answers will vary as opinions will range from viewing Scarlett as manipulative and money grubbing to strong and independent. Students should refer to scenes in the film to support their point of view.
2. Most people who grew up with slavery were unable to see it as wrong even though most western countries at the time of the Civil War had outlawed the "peculiar institution." What factors do you think blinded them to the truth? Suggested Response; All reasonably argued responses are acceptable. Most students will assert that economics and social status played key roles in attitudes toward slavery. Some may suggest that ethnocentrism is a more powerful force than morality.
3. Relationships between Scarlett and the men in her life are an important part of Gone With The Wind. What do you think motivates Scarlett in her relationships? Suggested Response: Students may decide that Scarlett seeks to maintain status and financial security. Others may posit that she has a corrupt and adventurous streak and thus is attracted to Rhett Butler. Still others may see Scarlett as a powerful and independent woman who does not need men but uses them to further her own aims.
4. What do you think may be the basis in facts that account for how black characters are portrayed in the film? Suggested Response: What is now seen as stereotypes are portrayals of roles blacks had no choice but to play as slaves. They were specifically trained to behave as, among others, house servants, nannies, estate workers or field hands and their personal status was determined by which role they played. The stereotypes remained long after slavery ended and in many cases the training continued for the various roles blacks played as paid servants rather than slaves.
5. What elements in the film do you think make both the film and Margaret Mitchell's novel such popular fiction in the south even in the 21st century? Suggested Response: Answers will vary: Many will assert that in the south, the Civil War still looms as a great injustice which has still not been mitigated by an honest approach to history. The Civil Rights Movement is seen by a significant number of Southerners as another front in the battles begun in the Civil War.
For additional discussion questions, click here.
Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:
1. Research and write an informative essay on one of the following topics:
3. Research two significant individuals of opposing position in the build up to the Civil War or in the actual battles themselves. Be sure that one choice reflects a northern attitude, such as an abolitionist or unionist, or military leader and the other reflects a southern pro-slavery attitude or that of a secessionist or military leader. If your chosen participants survived the war, be sure to include how he or she carried on after the guns were silenced.
4. Write an informative essay about methods of warfare utilized in the Civil War, including the Napoleonic charge, the siege, and scorched-earth. Be sure that your essay explains the rationale behind the use of the tactics and the rate of success earned in battle.
5. Prepare a power point presentation on women who served in the Civil War as spies. Give details about what motivated them to serve their cause as spies and what finally became of them. Include the following:
See additional Assignments for use with any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.
Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.
Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.
Last updated July 21, 2011.
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