What’s the right age to introduce ‘Gone with the Wind’?

My 9-year-old’s class was assigned to read a historical fiction novel, and Rose chose the Dear America book “When Will This Cruel War Be Over? The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson, Gordonsville, Virginia 1864.”

The book was pretty depressing (as the Civil War tends to be!). Loads of people died including a baby, soldiers and the young girl’s brother, mother and father. Soldiers had their legs amputated. Her cousin had a nervous breakdown. The Yankees robbed and occupied houses. Some slaves murdered their master and then hung him on a tree (because he used to beat them).

The whole time we were reading the Dear America book I kept thinking Rose would have a more clear picture of the South during the Civil War if she watched “Gone With the Wind.” (It’s much too large for her to read at this point.)

However, there are definitely a lot of questionable scenes in it – the bloody recovering scenes where all the bodies fill the train yard, the hospital with the screaming during an amputation, the murder of the Union soldier when he invades Scarlett’s house, the attack on Scarlett’s carriage and the attack on the shanty town after. I don’t think there are any slaves being whipped or beaten in “Gone with the Wind.” (I have a vague recollection of watching “Roots” with my parents and seeing a slave being whipped. I found it very upsetting!) I forgot Belle Watling’s house of ill-repute, although I don’t think Rose would figure out what it is.

So is 9 too young to introduce a child to “Gone with the Wind?” What is an appropriate age to watch the movie? (I remember Michael’s sister visiting us and she had never seen it before. It was on one of the Turner stations, and she was just mesmerized. But she was probably 12 or 13 at the time.)

Is “Gone with the Wind” part of the book or film history of the South that you will introduce to your kids?

What films or books do you think give an accurate portrayal of the South during the Civil War that would be appropriate to share with a 9 or 10 year old?

(Along these same lines how do we feel about the book or movie version of “Anne Frank: The Diary of Young Girl?” I read it in middle school. I don’t remember a lot of Nazi violence, just them living in fear. The end was pretty upsetting though.)

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October 20th, 2010
6:41 am

At 9 years old, I’m pretty sure she has seen war’s violence. It may not be the pictures from the Civil War but there are more current wars that she has been exposed to. I grew up seeing the Vietnam War on tv and in Life magazine. The stuff in the fictional books are nothing compared to the truth.

bunch of yentas

October 20th, 2010
6:47 am

It won’t matter what age you show it to her, she won’t “appreciate” it as its the single most over-rated movie of all time. Regardless of the few people who still try to romanticize the era, it is overacted, unbelievable in every regard, and in no way represents a quality film.

You want to show her a quality old film, show her Citizen Kane instead.


October 20th, 2010
7:04 am

We watched GWTW in 5th Grade as part of a Georgia history unit (as a companion to reading Turn Homeward, Hannah Lee). Yenta’s (accurate) synopsis notwithstanding, I think your kid will be fine. Stop helicoptering.


October 20th, 2010
7:11 am

9 is not to young – it is a classic …children process what they can and the rest is forgotten in a blur.
Are children under the age of 10 going to be scared of GWTW….nah.
Will they be bored with GWTW…yep!
I say let her watch it…talk through some of the key point so she understands the chain of events…what the characters represent?
Melanie and Ashley are metaphors for the ‘old south.’
Scarlett and Rhett are metaphors for the ‘new south.’

library volunteer

October 20th, 2010
7:12 am

Turn Homeward, Hannah Lee – a much better choice!


October 20th, 2010
7:33 am

Spoiler Alert on GWTW!


October 20th, 2010
7:34 am

Oh I forgot how much I loved Turn Homeward, Hannah Lee!! We were living in Alpharetta when I read it and I loved that it was set in Roswell.

I think 9 is fine….sorry to say but she has probably seem worse on regular TV. My absolute favorite movie of all time…I didn’t get to see it till I was 11 but my mom was VERY strict. She fast forwarded through Rhett sweeping Scarlett up the stairs. I had no clue as to what they were going to do…play cards??:) Watch it with her and be sure to explain the Atlanta history associated with it…the movie history too. Makes me miss having a daughter, not sure if my boys will enjoy seeing it one day…Have fun!!!


October 20th, 2010
7:41 am

I do think it is interesting that the only “explanation” in your synopsis of the “Dear America” book was on the part of why the slaves murdered their master. I mean, we can kind of figure it out as to why they would do something like that, right? Why amputation, then? Why a nervous breakdown? In other words, I don’t think the slaves needed a reason, other than the fact that they were slaves. That’s reason enough.


October 20th, 2010
8:07 am

Sorry, but I never cared for this movie…I know I shouldn’t say it out loud living in the Atlanta area, but it just didn’t do it for me.


October 20th, 2010
8:13 am

You don’t really think GWTW would provide a “more clear picture of the South”? I love that movie as much as anyone, probably more so perhaps. But GWTW is a highly romanticized view of teh south, and far from providing a clear picture of the south, anymore than Avatar provides a clear picture of space exploration…


October 20th, 2010
8:15 am

I don’t think 9 is too young bc it seems most kids process what they understand and gloss over the rest. I was first introduced in 8th grade and I think around that age is prob better. I will def introduce my girls to both the book and film. I cannot think of any other books or films that may be more appropriate. I think it is best to expose children to true historical accounts to broaden their perspective, which will hopefully increase their gratitude. After all, it is a blessed privilege to be able to decide when/how to introduce parts of history that include war, genocide, and torture to our kids, knowing that there are children for whom these horrors are a present day reality.


October 20th, 2010
8:17 am

If a 9 year old can tackle that book, GREAT! I have no problem with the majority of adult subjects in well written books as long as my child is reading. Bravo to you Theresa on your accomplishment of developing READERS!


October 20th, 2010
8:18 am

I watched it in my fourth grade classroom in a Gwinnett County Public School


October 20th, 2010
8:35 am

If she can handle what you describe from the diary she read, then GWTW should be a piece of cake! I think I read it at 10 or 11 and I had seen the movie before that. There are some grotesque scenes, but nothing like we have -even on tv -today! Personally I find reading about grotesque things like amputations more disturbing than watching a movie with them (especially like this where it’s pretty tame -the screaming is awful, but you’re not watching a close-up of them sawing the guy’s leg off) -because my mind is allowed to run wild with the imagery! I really can’t think of a single thing in GWTW that a 9 year old girl, especially one in 2010, shouldn’t see.

One word -I realize the movie definitely has its faults, although I love it for the classic, mega-film it was for its time. However, PLEASE don’t show it to her as an “accurate” portrayal of life during the Civil War. Yes, there was a planter class who got to live like Scarlett, but most didn’t, and please press home the point that the slaves weren’t all fairly happy to be in their position. Sure, there were slave owners who did treat their slaves well (aside from the fact that they owned them) but many didn’t. Life directly proceeding the Civil War wasn’t all about BBQs and beaus for most folks -white women or men included. It’s a lovely ROMANTICIZED portrayal, and I do love it myself, but make sure she’s watching it with that knowledge up front.


October 20th, 2010
8:35 am

I was around 9 or 10 when I saw the movie for the 1st time. My dad is a huge fan of the movie and he took me to a special screening. I liked it, it didn’t particularly scare me or upset me, but for sure I didn’t get a lot of it. I saw it again later as a teen and appreciated it much more.

The book, I think, is too much of an undertaking for a child that age. But I think she can see the movie.


October 20th, 2010
8:39 am

OH -and I do plan to show the film to my boys! I can imagine maybe at 8 and 10 or 10 and 12 during one of the Thanksgiving airings of it. No matter what you think of it, it IS a classic, and I really enjoy watching it every few years. Especially since Atlanta is their hometown, I think they should know the history of the film and its premier, Margaret Mitchell (whose grave they’ve already seen several times), and what happened in Georgia and Atlanta during the Civil War and after. I hope they’ll read it, although they may be more pre-disposed to something else like Lord of the Rings, but maybe they’ll be like their mother and enjoy both! They are both really into books!


October 20th, 2010
8:39 am

should never be introduced, what a snooze fest!


October 20th, 2010
8:59 am

The BOOK is a classic. I remember through school always being offered the movies of all the classics (Moby Dick, Tale of two Cities, Great Gatsby, etc). My teachers cheated me out of reading these things. I don’t see any real value in showing GWTW the movie to young kids. How is watching a Hollywood movie educational? It’s technically rated G, but there is some questionable things in it. For example, how about the Union soldier who Scarlett and Melany killed and stashed his body! That is a bit on the iffy side!


October 20th, 2010
9:03 am

I think 9 is a fine age to introduce this movie! Personally, I read GWTW when I was 9 because I had already seen most of the movie before then. It still stands as one of my favorite books and movies. I remember enjoying the movie not only with my parents, but with my grandmother as well, who gave me her special edition copy of the book that remains as one of my most treasured possessions. As others have already said, children take what they can from it and move on. I’m 25 and I STILL pick up on things in that movie that I may have missed before.


October 20th, 2010
9:09 am

I read GWTW for the first time in 3rd grade and saw the movie many times growing up. However, I agree with someone else who said this is definitely not a clearer picture of the South. And I think kids of any age would probably be bored with this movie now just due to the lack of technological flashiness that they are used to. The book, however, remains a literary accomplishment whether it depicts a true picture of the South or not, so I think if you can get your child to read it that would be great.


October 20th, 2010
9:23 am

GWTW is NOT good history, but it’s an entertaining story. Way too long for a 9 year old. Ask the children’s librarian at your local public library for advice. There are many age appropriate books on that topic.


October 20th, 2010
9:32 am

@TWG -weird -I could SWEAR my first comment posted, but now it’s nowhere to be seen and it didn’t have anything even slightly questionable in it! I posted it probably around 8:30 this morning.


October 20th, 2010
10:22 am

i was 8 when i read it the first time. my sister who was a year older had read it so i read it whenshe finished it. i loved it then..and as i got older and read it over again (several times) i understood more. ’shenandoah’ was a very good movie set in the civil war times…that was one my sisters and mom and i watched all the time. it was like a tradition. as i have said before, if my kids wanted to read a book that was considered ‘adult’ i always let them. sometimes they finished them soimetimes not…but i never said oh you arent old enough. as soneone above posted-kids get what they get and leave the rest-if they re-read when they get older they will get more…my kids loved gwtw movie and book when they were young…i think if i had waited til they were older they would have appreciated the movie as much since they were then used to more action crap. it may not be a clear picture of the south-no movie is really a clear picture of anything. i guess roots would come closer…and another one-with cecilie tyson-cant remember the name of it…was a great movie.


October 20th, 2010
10:24 am

“i think if i had waited til they were older they would have appreciated the movie as much since they were then used to more action crap”
should have said wouldnt have appreciated it as much…


October 20th, 2010
10:46 am

Would you believe that at my age, I have NEVER seen the entire movie. I’ve seen bits and pieces, but not the entire movie……..Nor have I seen Casablanca.

I have a very hard time sitting through a movie…..of course I could rent it and watch it at my leisure.


October 20th, 2010
10:52 am

I first saw GWTW when I was 12 and was totally, irrevocably, romantically entranced. It was also the very first VHS tape we ever bought (when it came on the market in the 80’s, it was $89!) and I can’t even tell you how many times I saw it as a teenager and young adult – a LOT.

Notwithstanding — I love it for its story of selfish, spoiled, daring, loyal, obsessed and single-minded Scarlett. I do NOT love it because I think it’s an accurate representation of the Civil War. The Civil War has so much propaganda written about it, I think that it’s difficult, even from 150 years later, to get an accurate, unemotional rendering of the conflict. GWTW is basically a romance, set against the Civil War. It’s NOT a historical rendering. Even Peggy Marsh (Margaret Mitchell) was alternately horrified/amused at what Hollywood’s interpretation of a Georgia farm plantation was.

I showed it to my kids when they were 12/13/14, and they were uniformly bored by it, much to my dismay. My son just rolled his eyes and wandered away half-way through, and my daughter stuck it out, but her comment, at 12, was “Scarlett was dumb.” They tease me about my love for it, but I haven’t suggested that they watch it since. I guess it doesn’t have enough CGI graphics :-)

I would hold off introducing a 9 year old to it — if she found it and wanted to read it, I wouldn’t stop her, but I wouldn’t give it to her as a suggestion. While she might enjoy some parts of the story line, I think you need to be prepared to talk to her about the choices Scarlett made, why she made them, and why they came back to bite her in the butt. :-) I think the tragedy of Bonnie’s death, and understanding why Rhett kept coming back for more abuse is hard for kids her age to understand, and it’s one of the central pivots of the story. It IS a long book — at 12, I read it through once, and then promptly read it again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-read it since. One copy has long since fallen apart, and the replacement is a bit worn, but my MIL found a first-edition amongst her mother’s effects after she died, and, knowing my love for the story, gave it to me, along with the program from the premiere here in Atlanta that her mother attended. So cool!

As far as Anne Frank — yes, that’s interesting, too, in that the girl is closer in age to Rose and she might identify with her more. But ANY book like that deserves to be discussed with your child, to help clarify things they might have misunderstood, or to help them express the feelings engendered by such a story.


October 20th, 2010
10:52 am

@JJ, Casablanca is a far better movie than GWTW. I could watch that anytime it turns up on TCM or AMC, but if I happen upon GWTW, I will move on. I think I saw all of GWTW only once, and it was a huge snoozefest as someone else mentioned, and I don’t think an accurate depiction of the Civil War. Personally, I much prefer “Glory” with Denzel Washington as a more accurate telling of one aspect of the Civil War, but that film is definitely not for the elementary school crowd. Heck even the ’80s miniseries “North and South” was more interesting than GWTW!


October 20th, 2010
11:04 am

JJ, Casablanca is fairly short too, I think under 2 hours, (GWTW is loooooong) so it won’t be as hard to sit through. If people want to show Glory to younger kids (probably not elementary, but maybe middle schoolers), I think somewhat sanitized version was produced specifically so it could be shown in classrooms. You might be able to find that version somewhere.


October 20th, 2010
11:14 am

I cannot imagine any 9 year old not being able to handle the GWTW movie, but, personally I think the book is A LOT better. The Civil War and Reconstruction are the true focus of the book, whereas the movie really just focuses on Scarlett. The book may be a little long for her and probably not entirely appropriate, but it just has so much more depth to it than the movie.


October 20th, 2010
12:08 pm

@DB and @A – I totally agree, and can’t understand why people take GWTW as gospel of Civil War events. It’s a great book and a classic movie, but not some sort of biopic. People should stick to the History channel for factual renditions :o)


October 20th, 2010
12:13 pm

I, too, have never seen Casablanca, so here’s lookin’ at you JJ.

Regarding GWTW and the book being long, yes, it is, but no longer than most of the Harry Potter books, but then it does not have any sorcery(sp) or wizards, so it probably would not hold her attention like Harry (or is that’Arry).


October 20th, 2010
12:56 pm

I haven’t seen any of those movies, and I really have no desire to watch them either. I always thought they seemed boring!

mom of 3

October 20th, 2010
1:02 pm

Ok daughter named Tara. GWTW fanatic NO. I loved the portrayal of a Southern woman outside the norm. What’s wrong with going after what you want and getting it? It did turn her into a GWTW fanatic. I don’t think the book would hold the attention of a 9 year old. The movie would be fine but maybe not all in one sitting. Boredom does set in especially if they are relating to the story.


October 20th, 2010
2:28 pm

Your daughter is the perfect age to watch Gone With The Wind. My kids saw it around that age…both really enjoyed it. I couldn’t believe how much my son had liked it as well. He thought the battle scenes were really cool…my daughter loved the southern belles and still says Prissy is her favorite character. The movie really helps kids to understand the civil war and the battle of Atlanta. Since we live in Atlanta- I think they really appreciate the history here more. After watching the movie we visited the Gone With The Wind museum and saw lots of things shown in the movie such as the beautiful costumes, ect. The kids enjoyed it all the more for having just seen the movie. A tip…the movie is pretty long for kids…just hold a couple of “intermissions” for everyone so they will stay alert!


October 20th, 2010
2:29 pm

lol@mom of 3…i wanted to name my daughter katie scarlett and honestly the name would have fit her perfectly lol…her dad was oppsed to the scarlett part and i didnt want just katie…so….


October 20th, 2010
2:44 pm

Depends on the child…their reading/comprehension level.

I was in 8th grade and read it over Christmas Break. It literally changed my life.

(Probably more than anyone wants to know about FCM below):

Like Scarlett I am proud to be from Atlanta. I am proud of this city and how it does seem to rise like a pheonix when things “hit” it. Like Scarlett I war with how I was brought up vs what I believe. Like Scarlett I tend to “fall” or get involved with men I should not–though unlike her I do not steal other people’s beaus or chase after married men.

Like Scarlett was (a few times) I am a single mom–think she wasn’t you didn’t read the book–and responsible for the house/bills. Like Scarlett I seem to have a head for business. Like Scarlett I do not tolerate fools. Like Scarlett I tend to be a bit headstrong–maybe because we both are Irish? Like Scarlett I feel the pull of home/land.

Like her I do what is necessary to keep the roof over my head. Unlike her I do not do it at other people’s expense.

I find that Rhett would likely tell me that I still think I am 16 and the belle of the ball, or the cutest trick in shoe leather…with the same dersion in his voice. Like Scarlett I found that I enjoyed marital relations–with the right person…and like her I found the wrong person.

Like Scarlett there is still a childlike quality inside of me. Like her I long to find a real lasting love.

The list is endless…but I did find the courage to think and be from the heroine in this book. I also learned to eat before I went on date so he wouldn’t think I ate like a field hand (yes men, we really do that).

Now will ROSE get all that? Probably not. I didn’t get it in 8th grade either. I re-read it in 10th and again in College and again later. Every time I read that book I get more from it. What I did get was a life long respect for the things we women suffer through, for how much relationships and loyalty mean (see Melanie), a desire to make something of myself and not just settle.

Like someone said, it is a classic and if she wants to read it let her. Then see what she gets out of it.

If you need a good Civil War book try Irene Hunt’s Across 5 Aprils. My child and I read it recently(I read it in 5th grade the first time) and what she got from it was not what I did. Yes folks died, things were sad, and scary. HOWEVER, that is part of life and you cannot protect Rose from all that.

Still let her read and ask what SHE got from it, and if it is not the same as you did that is OK.


October 20th, 2010
3:21 pm

I memorized the movie when I was 4! I think 9 is most certainly an appropriate age to watch Gone With the Wind.


October 20th, 2010
3:59 pm

@DB…my best friend went to France and found a (paperback) copy of GWTW to bring back. He said it took him a bit to understand he had to buy 2 books…It proudly sits on my shelf as volumes 1 & 2.


October 20th, 2010
4:00 pm

oh and yes it is in French.

Jesse's Girl

October 20th, 2010
4:01 pm

If Rose can attack the likes of GWTW…or one of my personal faves, War and Peace or Pride and Predudice…..just wait till she can appreciate the real classics. Like Anchor Man or The Hangover:)


October 20th, 2010
7:16 pm

Check out this list…you may find something that would be better. I remember watching the miniseries “North and South” (preferred the book) but don’t know much about all the other selections. Loved the movie “Cold Mountain” and it does a good job of showing how the women tried to survive with all the men gone.


October 20th, 2010
9:00 pm

Just finished “The Perilous Road” with my fifth graders. Great book about a family from Tennessee who is almost torn apart because one brother chooses to join the Union Army. The boys in my class loved it, as it was geared more towards them, but the girls liked it too. Not a classic-but a good read that shows some of the hardships of the Civil War and teaches a good lesson about family and forgiveness as well.


October 20th, 2010
10:14 pm

Across 5 Aprils is a great book..as is cold mountain…FCM…i so agree with you about scarlett. she did what she had to do to survive…yes some of the things she did were not great…but it was a different time. i have to say i hated the sequel…it came a long way from measuring up. i was really hoping for a real book for a sequel.


October 20th, 2010
10:16 pm

i dont remember who on here mentioned that they were reading lisa unger books…but thanks..im now addicted lol :)


October 20th, 2010
11:33 pm

I always enjoy watching GWTW. Haven’t watched it with the kids yet.

I would worry less about the railroad hospital scene and more about the more psychological aspects of Rhett/Scarlett’s argument before he leaves for Europe; his reaction to the death of their child and the miscarriage. I think it’s fine as long as you have the remote handy to fast forward if you see something you think would bother her.

Based on what we heard recently during a tour of Oakland Cemetary, some of the story was based on stories handed down through Margaret Mitchell’s family. So, while I don’t think GWTW is a complete picture of the South, it does portray a slice of life that I think is not wildly off the mark.

Ellen F. Brown

October 21st, 2010
7:38 am

Margaret Mitchell would have appreciated your concern. She was surprised so many children were reading the book when it came out, including her young nephew, and claimed her mother would never have let her read such a story as a girl. But she took comfort in the fact that the “sex angle” went over the heads of most children. She once described an eleven-year-old girl who had given a book report on Gone With the Wind, referring to Belle Watling’s house as “the swankiest night club in Atlanta, run by a lady named Miss Watling who, I think, was sorta like a blues singer.”


October 21st, 2010
7:43 am

I think no matter when she reads it, she will understand it better in subsequent readings.