It looks silly to judge a book because it has racist characters. It is like judging Jane Austen books to be materialist because it is about rich people. You can’t call a book racist because it has racist characters – the more exact measure is whether the book has a world that justifies racism. Scarlet justifies slavery by arguing that black people are too naive to manage to do anything unless they are ordered. Yet, you see this argument refuted when some of the minor black characters achieve success. Farm slaves abandon their masters and join Yankees showing they didn’t agree with the southern values as most white southerners believed. It is in this way that novel acts as an argument against slavery. If you need another proof, then there is black nanny characters – an important minor character who is never named in the book. The only black characters who show submissiveness are house servants – for one reason going with Yankees would have been much riskier than their present life and secondly, they weren’t the lowest in the racist hierarchy and so had something in the system to take pride in.
One argument against is that it doesn’t highlight miseries of slaves but it is written from and limited to point of view of Scarlet, who was a teenager girl living in a protected environment till the time of war. She can’t have known the terrible things done to slaves. She didn’t know much about prostitution either.
There are so many things to like in this book – the way feel of book changes in different eras, the well-written characters, Rhett and Scarlet start at opposite poles in some ways (Scarlet popular and trying hard to be a good southerner and Rhett a rebel and outcast) – and towards the end comes a point where they have exchanged their roles.
Mitchell meant it to be a story of survival – and that is a theme no one here seems to be exploring. Scarlet hardens herself in face of difficulties and survives while also saving a bunch of weak ones – but this same hardening means she is no longer able to enjoy her life when she had chance. Melly who probably wouldnt have survived without Scarlet is better able to live happiness of life. Charlie’s selflessness fails him in the jungle rule that followed end of war while Scarlet and Rhett are saved by selfishness. Even the last sentence is something one might say in face of a hopeless situation.
” After all, tomorrow is another day!”
“Dear Scarlett! You aren’t helpless. Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you.”