Teaching "Gone with the Wind" in High School: Ideas & Activities
- Students will analyze and interpret primary and secondary documents.
- Students will explain and justify their literary analysis of the novel, particularly regarding the theme, conflicts, and character motivations.
- Students will construct creative and artistic interpretations of the novel and its characters with products such as essays, posters, and storyboards.
- Students will write to express and persuade.
History Connections In groups, read a collection of letters from Civil War soldiers to their family members. Based on the information in the letters, brainstorm a list of conclusions about the typical soldier’s life.
Novel Analysis Have students review the conflicts which plagued Scarlett’s life. Are they internal or external? Are they resolved or not by the end of the novel? Which conflicts best provide a clear picture of Scarlett’s personality?
Another analytical activity involves presenting the class with a list of themes before reading Gone with the Wind. Suggested themes include loyalty, perseverance, pride comes before the fall, and greed. As students read, they should consider which themes are prevalent in the novel. Using a graphic organizer such as a spider map, students should demonstrate with text evidence how the novel supports their choice of theme.
History Connections Research the duties and experiences of Civil War soldiers. How does this information compare with the conclusions created earlier? What is learned?
Novel Analysis In groups, students will create a cause and effect graphic organizer to demonstrate the source of Scarlett’s motivations and the outcome of her choices.
By the end of the novel, ask students to select one theme and argue in an essay how their choice is the best selection for a lesson about life. They should provide textual evidence.
Compare Scarlett’s strengths and weaknesses to Melanie’s strengths and weaknesses. Which is the more favorable character and why?
Write a persuasive essay in favor of Scarlett as the ultimate heroine. Which aspects of her character would you cite? Provide textual evidence to support your claim.
After reading the novel, watch the movie from 1939. What are the differences amongst the two? Why did the screenwriter choose to eliminate portions of the novel from the film?
Students will write a letter to one of the characters in the novel offering advice on how to deal with one of the many conflicts within the novel. Should students try to coach Scarlett about her love life, or teach Melanie how to toughen up around Scarlett?
How does Scarlett’s world compare to our modern world in terms of social standards and etiquette, world events, resources, romance, and expectations? Create a bulletin board display comparing the old to the new. Would Scarlett survive according to modern standards?
Rewrite the ending of the novel for one of the following options: Scarlett marries Ashley, or Scarlett and Rhett reconcile.
Create a phony dating ad for Scarlett on a singles web site. Students can answer questions such as what is her favorite color, how would she spend a Saturday night, what are her relationship intentions, what are her work ethics and religious beliefs, and so forth. Take this ad and activity one step further by providing a set of fictional suitors from other literary classics.
Ask students to research and possibly demonstrate etiquette and manners from the antebellum South. Why were these limitations placed on society? Compare the etiquette and expectations of civilized society from the past to our modern standards.
Recast actors in a modern version of the classic film. Which parts of the novel would be included in a modern script? How might a director provide a modern twist on this classic novel? Students will create a story board to propose their modern movie version and include pictures of suggested actors and actresses to play the parts.
Author's personal experience
Spider Map, http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/students/learning/lr2grap.htm
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind. Avon Books: New York, 1936.