Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Jane Hill

Second Advisor

Michael Householder

Third Advisor

Whitney Douglas


In this thesis, I explore the performances of motherhood in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and how those performances conflict with culturally constructed expectations of that role. An analysis of Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Wilkes, and how each woman compares to the South’s model for motherhood, reveals implications that extend beyond the novel’s Civil War setting to reveal the ongoing negotiation of modern readers still living within patriarchal conceptions of mothering. In Chapter 1, I outline the novel’s spectrum of motherhood, which is composed of characters who nurture and manage others. Each individual on that spectrum contributes to or rejects the traditional model of motherhood. In Chapter 2, I analyze Scarlett’s rejection of motherly expectations in favor of financial security and the consequences of that decision for not only her offspring but future generations in the South. In Chapter 3, I examine the conflict between Melanie’s desire to have children and her inadequate body, a conflict that ultimately leads to her death and reflects the fate of the Confederacy. Mitchell, I conclude, utilized narrative’s powerful rhetoric to reveal the choices women must make when navigating their performances of motherhood because mothers are responsible for (re)constructing cultures when crisis disrupts existing norms.


Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949. Gone with the wind - Criticism and interpretation.

Motherhood in literature.