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.)

54 comments Add your comment

FCM

October 21st, 2010
8:52 am

Ms. Brown…it was my understanding that much of the background came from the stories Mrs. Mitchell overheard from CW vetrans talking on her Grandmother’s porch. So it surprises me that she would have grown up hearing such things, but her mother wouldn’t let her read same.

I love how the child missed the point of Watling. Classic…and proves what I believe to be true: Kids get their own things and don’t need to get the same as an adult from what they both read.

Honestly the sex angle went over my head the first time I read it. Same is true of the first time I read The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

FCM

October 21st, 2010
8:57 am

diedre –don’t know if you read “Rhett Butler’s People” by Donald McCaig but I enjoyed it as a companion to GWTW. I hated “Scarlett” (the book) and wish I could hit a backspace key in my mind to erase what Ms. Ripley wrote. I read the Wind Done Gone and didn’t like that either…it was poorly written and completely jaded.

ElleTR

October 22nd, 2010
11:05 am

I believe I was 8 or 9 when my dad first let me watch it. It was a big deal because I got to stay up past my bedtime the nights TNT showed it! I seem to remember they split it over two nights. I first read the book in junior high. To this day it is my all-time favorite movie and book. I think at that age, I didn’t catch on to many of the details you talk about–I was too caught up with the mansions, hoop skirts, practicing my Scarlett accent and Prissy impression.

fer

October 24th, 2010
9:34 pm

GWTW is too LARGE for her to read??? Did I read that right? LARGE? I surely am glad that my mom didn’t determine what I read by its size! Actually she let me read whatever I wanted to whenever I wanted to. And yes, she had to deal with a few librarians who wanted to censor what I read, but she always won! A great way to encourage reading!