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Corinna Baschirotto, University of Padua
… they have been hung, and burned, and shot —
… they have been hung, and burned, and shot —
This article focuses on the first
novel written by author Alice Randall, The
Wind Done Gone, an unauthorized parody of Margaret Mitchell’s
1936 classic Gone With the
Wind. Starting from an overview of the legal battle fought over
the publication of Randall’s book, it attempts to weigh some
cultural and linguistic issues implied in the public debate that
accompanied the case. It tries to unravel a number of problems
raised by the parodic rewriting of a book whose position in – or
outside, according to some - the literary canon is all but clearly
established. It then proceeds to analyse some crucial aspects of
Randall’s book, namely her portrayal of a black, previously
silenced, history, her articulation of a black aesthetic and her
adoption of Black English. Thus, this analysis also revolves around
issues of collective memory and national identity. In particular, it
interrogates one very powerful source in which collective memory has
been shaped, and points to the tensions that result from a
questioning of this source.
The Wind Done Gone was
scheduled to be published on June 6, 2001, by Houghton Mifflin.
However, SunBank Trust, representing the Stephen Mitchell Trusts,
which owns the copyright to Gone
With the Wind, petitioned a court in Atlanta to prohibit the
publication of Randall’s book. The plaintiff claimed that The
Wind Done Gone infringed copyright law and argued that the book
engaged in “blatant and wholesale theft” of Mitchell’s
bestseller, being “an unauthorized derivative work which
incorporates and infringes upon the fully developed characters,
settings, plot lines and other copyrighted elements of Gone
With the Wind”.
As a result, U.S. District Judge
Charles A. Panell Jr. granted the Mitchell Trusts a preliminary
injunction to prevent the publication of the novel. A month later,
the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that the
injunction was an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” that
“amounts to unlawful prior restraint in violation of the First
Amendment”. The book was finally allowed to enter the bookshops in
June 2001 and stayed on the best-seller lists for weeks. Even though
it was already available, lawyers for the Mitchell estate said they
would continue the lawsuit in hopes of getting damages. Only one
year later, in June 2002, did the two parties finally reach an
out-of-court settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, Randall's
publisher, Houghton Mifflin, consented to make an unspecified
contribution to Morehouse College, an historically black school in
Atlanta. In return, the lawyers for Mitchell's estate agreed to stop
trying to block sales of Randall's book.
From the vantage point of the
after-math, it may be all too easy to speculate over the real
problems underlying the debate, which accompanied the case on a
national level. However, the brouhaha stirred by Randall’s novel
and the scope of the problems it touched deserves attention, since
they went beyond the mere copyright issue. The petitioner’s
accusation against the book, despised as a work of “subliteracy”
and a mere theft of the original, contained a negative evaluation of
Randall’s work not simply in relation to its supposed plagiarism.
Randall’s reversal of Gone
with the Wind's (henceforth GWTW)
story and language, together with her parodic treatment of
characters, were taken as unauthorized distortions that could harm
the original work and its reception. The fact of forcing readers to
reflect upon their acceptance of Mitchell’s portrait of the old
South was considered an inadmissible effrontery, although, as
Nobel-laureate Toni Morrison pointed out in her declaration to the
court, the “process of being stimulated by one narrative into a
writer’s own literary invention and creativity is virtually the
history of literature”.
This same process informed the creation of Mitchell’s own story.
The action taken against Randall’s
exploration and explosion of GWTW’s
story and of its racist stereotypes seems to reveal, more than the
limits of her work, a desire to avoid a serious questioning of the
national identity, of the past on which this identity rests and of
the sources which have most powerfully articulated it. That
Randall’s attempt was deemed a violation implicitly suggests a
kind of ownership over the contested ground of memory, together with
a desire to keep in place “the racial structures Gone
With the Wind describes, depends upon, and about which a war was
As those who submitted a letter of
support for The Wind Done Gone
(henceforth TWDG) pointed
out, due to “the extraordinary popularity of GWTW
and its unique mythic status, Mitchell’s novel has become a prime
source of knowledge about plantation life for much of mainstream
America’s obsession with GWTW
– as Janelle Collett defined it
– began with the publication of the novel in 1936, subsequently
grew with the popularity of Selznick’s film and does not seem to
be receding today. Since its publication, GWTW
has sold an average of 500,000 copies each year,
conditioning the nation’s popular view of the Civil War period and
the Reconstruction Era in the South.
Mitchell’s single novel is unquestionably among the most popular
of popular books ever written. Despite its several historical
inaccuracies, in the last sixty years it has been shaping and
influencing, more than any other text, American popular memory of
the Old South. TWDG aims
at undermining the myths created and perpetrated by Mitchell’s
story. It forces readers to question the hypotext’s world and
“explode the archetypes that have leapt off its pages into
In spite of its undisputed
popularity, GWTW’s own
status within the literary canon is not without its ups and downs.
The story of the book’s reception, of its “place, or
‘non-place’ in American letters”,
may help us to understand the evolution of modern American
intellectual history and is revealing in itself.
When GWTW appeared in the
early summer of 1936, a welter of enthusiasm welcomed it.
Particularly outstanding was Henry Steele Commager’s review in the
front page of the New York
Commager summarized all the virtues critics immediately saw in the
novel, appreciating Mitchell’s “recreation of life itself” and
praising the book’s authenticity “in capturing the regional
of the South in the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
Along with this first enthusiastic
wave of criticism, however, the novel also stirred harsh reactions
and soon became the target of leftists’ and modernists’
disdainful dismissals. Malcolm Cowley’s review, “Going with the
Wind”, criticized the book for three main reasons. First of all,
for its popularity, which the critic read as a mirror of the
depreciable commercialization of literature; secondly, for its
Southernism; and finally, for its overdue emphasis on the female
apparent air of escapism in the face of the contemporary crisis of
the 1930s, coupled with its entertaining character and enthusiastic
popular reception, were all read as evidence of its poor literary
value. Cowley dismissed it as “an encyclopaedia of the plantation
After him, the cultural and intellectual misogyny typical of the
Modernist era led critics to condemn the book as “written by women
for women, with a large use of tearful scenes, moonlight and
magnolias and all the paraphernalia of the plantation mythology”.
The fact that for almost thirty years the academy kept
Cowley’s review as the final word on GWTW
is indicative of the general tendency of American culture to read
the feminine as synonymous with the popular and thus dismissible.
What is more, as Elizabeth I. Hanson observed in her biography of
Margaret Mitchell, for a long time even feminist scholars tended to
avoid female popular texts, considering them of little value for
scholarly investigation: “[T]he popularity of novels by women –
whether Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Warner’s The
Wide, Wide World, or Mitchell’s Gone
with the Wind - has prevented them from receiving critical
attention and has excluded them from the American literary canon.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, however,
renewed critical interest in popular culture, the development of
reader-response approaches and a new appreciation of the sentimental
tradition, have contributed to modify GWTW’s
position within the canon – if such a thing still exists. Although
still largely relegated to the status of a minor, popular and
entertaining literary artefact, GWTW
has become the object of renewed critical attention, largely due to
the emergence of forms of criticism that are more and more aware of
literature’s - as well as criticism's - implication with ideology.
As a result, feminist scholars have been investigating and
questioning GWTW in the
light of its immense success. They consider the book’s strong
appeal for women on the basis of its close links with the female
experience of everyday and particularly focus on the book’s
engagement with the theme of survival.
In the light of this critical
overview, Alice Randall’s parodic rewriting of GWTW may be read as a way of contributing to the canonization of
Mitchell’s book. Writing back to a text always implies the
acknowledgment of its cultural import, if not of its literary value.
Randall explicitly admits her mixed feelings towards Mitchell’s
book: having read it when she was twelve, she loved the novel and
tried to ignore its explicit and blatant racism. Later on, as she
became aware of the power of Mitchell’s story in contemporary
society, she decided to question the continued and uncritical
acceptance of the novel.
Indeed, the reality of slavery
remains largely untold in GWTW.
Its portrayal of the peculiar institution is at best blind and
unfailingly benign. Mitchell
marginalizes slavery as just one component of southern society and
as a factor in the outbreak of the Civil War. She represents
plantation life and the bonds between slaves and master within the
reassuring frame of family ties and gives no voice to alternative
and more realistic views of the reality of repression and violence
under slavery. What is more, in Mitchell’s representation of
characters, individual slaves are never allowed to become “active
agents in the story”.
Blacks always remain flat, cartoon like caricatures, and their
portrayal is overtly racist. They never reach the status of complete
human beings, associated as they are to harmless domestic animals,
“before emancipation yields to a more virulent depiction of
dangerous and powerful beasts in freedom (…) animals that now
threaten whites and the social order to which they cling.”.
Randall’s novel can thus be read as a legitimate attempt to right
the balance and, occupying “narrative
spaces and silences never once touched upon nor conceived of in Mrs.
to make the black slaves’ voice heard.
TWDG’s first important
achievement is that it makes the reader question her/his own
reception of Mitchell’s story. If it is undeniable that several
literary critics have attempted similar actions in writing about GWTW,
nevertheless, maybe because the terrain on which literary criticism
works is generally reserved for the few, such critical readings have
rarely affected the popular reading public. Randall, on the other
hand, smartly chose the format of the novel to launch her critique
and thus addressed the vast audience of Mitchell’s readers, making
the effects of her work potentially immense. Far from attempting to
rob GWTW of its readers,
however, TWDG makes them
enter another plausible narrative world, which explodes some of the
themes of the hypotext and, through parody,
questions their passive acceptance.
That Randall’s novel was given
such a controversial reception does not necessarily reflect on the
value of her work, but rather serves to illuminate other crucial
problems. It reveals the petitioner’s limited view and approach to
her work and, even more, it shows how problematic the memory of the
nation’s past still is. The legacy of slavery remains the
“closed arena of conflict” Michel de Certeau wrote about.
Slavery’s historic representation and racist heritage still stir
controversial reactions and may even lead, as in this case, to legal
battles: "Considering the First Amendment rights properly
accorded Gone With the Wind,
in spite of the pain, humiliation, and outrage its historical
representation has caused African Americans, it seems particularly
odd for the Mitchell estate to deny this clever but gentle effort to
assuage the damage Gone With the Wind has caused. That it has asked legal redress does
not seem to have embarrassed it."
Furthermore, the accusation that the
novel is sub-literate seems to point to a number of issues
intimately related to the problem of African American Vernacular
English and its literary dignity. Randall’s decision to write from
a black perspective is carried out through her articulation of a
black language and aesthetics, which perfectly match her subject
matter. Black English in the US today is a contested minority
language too often associated with the presumed “sub-literacy”
of its speakers, along with their supposed “non-verbal” or
linguistically deficient communication skills.
As several highly advertised cases
suggest, Black English can easily become a target of sarcastic and
superficial perspectives often expressing racial prejudice. What is
more, the diffused ignorance of Black English, whose development
runs parallel to the peculiar history of the African American
community, often hides a political aim (the will to reduce the
minority’s discursive power by labelling it as “street talk”
or “slang”) and induces black speakers to linguistic
self-hatred. Conversely, resistance to the adoption of Standard
English can easily become a way to promote cultural identity and
resist the dominant discourse of the white majority. In this sense,
Randall’s adoption of a black voice and, even more, her
representation of the growing awareness of Cynara’s own blackness,
are extremely relevant to the current issue of minority language
legitimization through the exploration of its artistic
Looking at TWDG from the point of view of its content, the book narrates what
could have been, “if GWTW
was history and
not fiction, a part of the story that has been left out or
Since GWTW “is more powerful than history because it is better known
Randall accomplishes a sort of historical revision of GWTW’s
inaccurate portrait of the South - “a South that never, ever
- and manages to include her book as part of that same history.
The novel is
written in the form of a diary discovered among the papers of a
deceased woman, a diary whose author is the mulatto Cynara. Cynara
is the beautiful, intelligent, cultivated half-sister of
Mitchell’s Scarlett, who, in TWDG,
is simply referred to as Other. Given the literary genre of the
fictive diary, Cynara is both narrator and protagonist of her story.
The adoption of the first person narrative places her work within an
important tradition of black literature. In the XVIIIth and XIXth
centuries, the black subject was often given voice in
autobiographical works like the slave narratives; that is
autobiographies of slaves who had won their freedom. These works had
a strong political impact and were intended to promote the abolition
of slavery. The choice of the autobiographical format, in TWDG,
openly puts Randall’s work in the line of the slave narrative
genre. In particular, the narrator aims at accomplishing
“something like Mr. Frederick Douglass” (7). Nevertheless, she
also distances herself from this prestigious antecedent: whereas
Douglass wrote in polished, Standard English, Cynara often adopts
Black English in her diary.
Cynara’s point of view stands for
Randall’s wish to give voice to a previously untold story. The
diary, which she begins on May 25, 1873, at the age of twenty-eight,
alternates the recollection of past memories of the pre-war period
with present events taking place in the Reconstruction Era. The
protagonist lives through two profoundly different periods of the
nation’s history, which is divided in two by the Civil War, a sort
of “new metaphorical crossing of the Red Sea”
for America. In the pages of her diary she mixes private and public
events; she recollects memories of her childhood as a slave and
describes her present life as a free black woman and a concubine.
The book can be read as the story of
the growth of her self-consciousness paralleled by the choice of her
distinctive, increasingly black, voice. Before analysing Randall’s
style and the typically black rhetorical devices she uses, it is
important to consider some of the historical themes she deals with,
since they work as so many revisionist strokes
directed against the hypotext’s blindness. One of the most
significant historical aspects in the book is the revelation of
miscegenation as a diffused practice within southern plantation
life. Cynara’s own birth is the result of miscegenation, since she
is the daughter of Mammy, Lady’s
body slave, and Planter, the character who corresponds to
Mitchell’s Gerald O’Hara. Sexual intercourse between the white
planter and his black female slaves was a diffused practice in the
South, and its perpetration was legally safeguarded by the fact that
a woman’s legal status determined that of her offspring. Cynara is
extremely explicit in uncovering white men’s sexual exploitation
of their black slaves, especially when the latter were young girls.
When she remembers her years as a maid at Beauty’s brothel, she
the planters that came to Beauty’s didn’t need to pay for poontang
they could steal back home, so I was usually the only female virgin
in the house. Males of that persuasion were frequent visitors.
Mainly the planters liked their meat what we liked to call pink –
before a girl began to bleed. They had less brats around the place
that way (21-22).
The idyllic family ties characterizing the
relationship between master and slave in GWTW
are thus harshly questioned and the lenses through which whites
choose to read blacks are dismissed as over-simplifications, with no
correspondence in the novel’s world. Cynara cannot accept the
Uncle Tom stereotype too often attached to black identity; she does
not want “to go in disguise”(7). She prefers to be candid in her
depiction of the repressive mechanisms slavery implies.
The violence directed against blacks, both under the
siege of slavery and in the Reconstruction Era
finds expression in several places of Cynara’s account: she speaks
of whippings, writes about her experience when she had to stand
bare-breasted in a slave auction in Charleston, and bluntly makes
the reader aware of the humiliation and dispossessed identity slaves
had to suffer:
pissed bed on a cold night to read words on paper saying your name
and a price, to read the letters that say you are owned, or to read
words that say this one or that one will pay so much money for you
to be recaptured (35).
Throughout her diary she
makes repeated reference to important figures of black resistance,
from Harriet Tubman,
the black Moses, to Frederick Douglass, whom she pictures as her
literary model and whom she meets in Washington. If Randall’s wish
to tell another history renders her prose at times too overtly
she is successful in providing a completely new view of the
historical moment Mitchell dealt with in her novel.
Cynara describes the Reconstruction Era as a new
beginning and always keeps her eye focused on Black society, among
which she witnesses the emergence of a black middle class, together
with the birth of black institutions, such as Fisk and Howard
University. The pages of her diary are filled with the spirit of
novelty and possibility. In her construction of a black-centred
narrative, Randall openly tries “to provoke a new consideration of
the Reconstruction period, particularly as it relates to
After giving us some glimpses of life in post-war Atlanta, Cynara
travels to the capital. There she investigates several novelties
peculiar to the society of the time, such as the presence of black
congressmen, and also notes the persistent discrimination towards
blacks and women alike.
The exploration of these historical themes expands
and at the same time successfully questions GWTW’s
world and characters. In TWDG even characters whose white
origins are apparently unproblematic are revealed to have a far more
complex family past. Thus, racial purity is replaced by hybridity,
which above all is embodied in Cynara but also, unexpectedly, in
other characters. Although Other does not know it, even she has
black ancestors, since her mother’s great-grandmother was “a
Negresse” (124). As a result, the book is a revelation and
exploration of hybridity.
It manages to deconstruct the lies on which the myth of racial
purity is built and calls into question the ideological basis of
slavery. Hybridity, at the same time, is a source of creativity and
allows a fresh look into history and memory. Only in the context of
hybridity can TWDG’s other story exist: its narrator and her style
embody and reflect it.
Duplicity is the rhetorical device
governing the book. From one perspective, the two levels of private
and public life are simultaneously present in the book. Cynara is
constantly mixing references both to society and to her most
intimate life. She enjoys the interplay of private and public and
investigates the way in which the public affects the private. The
air of change and ambivalence so characteristic of the post-war
period is thus paralleled by a period of self-discovery and
emancipation in Cynara’s private life. If the book is an
individual story of “a woman, a black woman, who reads her way
into writing and writes her way into redemption”,
it is also a collective history in that it gives voice to what
Randall, appropriating Jose Marti’s words, calls “our America”.
Duplicity governs the symbolism and
the structure of the book. Cynara is Scarlett’s double, and her
life mirrors Scarlett's in many respects. The colour line, which
divides Other’s whiteness from Cynara’s blackness, nicely works
as a mirror through which differences are at first marked and later
on, with the discovery of Other’s hybridity, dissolved. Cynara’s
childhood is strongly conditioned by her mixed race, which makes her
a slave and causes her to be sold. Duplicity structures relations at
the cotton farm, since the relationship between Other and Mammy and
between Cynara and Lady are symmetrical. At first Cynara is jealous
and envious of the privileges Mammy allows her. Other has everything
she longs for, above all Mammy’s attention. After Mammy’s death,
however, Cynara slowly comes to realize that slavery makes it
impossible to know whether Mammy’s feelings towards Other were
sincere or forced: “Maybe Mammy loved her and maybe Mammy
didn’t. Slavery made it impossible for Other to know” (103). In
other words, the novel seems to start with an affirmation of racial
separateness and then proceeds to unfold its real meaning, finally
showing how this duplicity both is and is not real.
If slavery affects everybody, white
and black, the reader is forced to go beyond appearances and
question colour, identity, and even meaning. In chapter 62, which is
particularly long and is situated exactly in the middle of the book,
Cynara describes a dance at the Russian embassy. She concentrates on
the image of the swirl, evoking the different colours surrounding
her and forcing us to enter a verbal swirl through which colours are
mixed and confused. After that, the subject’s position is
questioned: “I’m still playing pronoun games. Who is object; who
is subject; is it me, or am I it?”(141). Appearances are shown to
be deceitful: “I can’t recall how to tell a curing from a
killing herb” (143). Everything “collapses or disappears”
(144). The chapter closes with the image of R. and Cynara dancing
together. While the black Congressman, representing the ideal New
Negro, “walks away”, bringing with him the feeling of freedom,
the dance floor where Cynara is with R. becomes a stage, and their
dance is a “cake walk”.
The image of the cake walk offers us
the interpretive key to understanding Randall’s rewriting: the
cake walk was seen by whites as an imitation of European quadrilles,
much like her book, which contains several elements of Mitchell’s GWTW. However, the cakewalk is a subversive image because it was
used by African Americans as a form of parody and commentary on
dances performed by whites. As reported in Houghton Mifflin’s
becomes immediately interesting, complicated, and especially
relevant […] is the fact that in many cases, white folks living on
great plantations misunderstood the dance to be an imitation of
European dance. Many Southern aristocrats perceived the cakewalk to
be a gross or vulgar mimicry, which ultimately they found amusing,
as an illustration of black inferiority. In truth, the cakewalk was
a subtle and critical commentary on the differences between the
aesthetics of black and white dance styles. In time, plantation
owners began to encourage cakewalk contests or competitions between
black dancers. The winning dancer or dance pair were rewarded with a
cake, so to win the contest was to "take the cake."
In similar fashion,
Randall’s book has been read as a mere imitation of the hypotext,
while its aim is to provide a critical commentary and a parody of GWTW,
borrowing its themes, characters and plot, but bending them to its
own ends. What is more, the style Randall uses to articulate her
parody is distinctively black and distances itself from Mitchell’s
diction in several respects.
Apart from the
choice of the first-person narrative – a standard device in much
American writing, from the Puritans to Moby
Dick and Huckleberry Finn
– several expressive devices contribute to the articulation of a
specifically black aesthetics in the book. The insistence on the
importance of reading and writing is one of them and echoes other
famous black narratives. Until the abolition of slavery, to be a
black writer in the Southern States constituted an oxymoron, when
not a crime. Literacy was forbidden because it supposedly made
slaves unhappy, besides providing them with a means of escape. Thus,
the quest for freedom in slave narratives often runs parallel to the
quest for literacy.
is her own way to gain freedom for her mind and body from the
spiritual and physical legacy of slavery. Writing allows her to
pursue physical and moral independence as well as to emancipate
herself as a woman from gender hierarchies. As a matter of fact,
literacy and sexuality go hand in hand in this book, and they
provide the spaces where Cynara can effectively affirm herself. It
was a man, her first and for a long time only lover, R., who taught
her to read, in bed: “I praised him for it. His stomach was my
first paper, lip rouge was my pencil, and the cleaning rag was my
tongue. We learned me well. R. gave me the tools. I learned to
write, right on his belly” (12). Cynara learns from the master,
and R. thus becomes a god for her: “then he was my God. He taught
me how to read and write, and it was as if he created me”.
However, she then transforms what she learns into a revolutionary
means of emancipation. She completely subverts the stereotype of the
female as a blank, virginal page to be written upon by the male
pen(is) and this subversion is what allows her to gain independence.
acknowledges that illiteracy and ignorance may have saved her some
pain: “After some of the things I’ve read, I know if God had
loved me, I’d a been born blind” (35). Still, her growth and her
self-respect would be unconceivable without her writing. Not only is
she an acculturated woman; she also becomes creative and bends the
master’s means to her own ends, with her own words. What she
yearns for is not simply R’s love. She gradually comes to realize
that what matters to her is “the music of my way of telling, of
being, of seeing” (164), something nobody can teach her and which
R. is unable to understand. He is her “creator” and sees her
only as “a doll come to life. A pretty nigger doll dressed up in
finery, hair pressed for play” (164). What she longs for, however,
is mutuality and respect. Cynara slowly recognizes that her life has
always been in the hands of someone else, someone more powerful than
her: “Someone else has written the play. I wish I could think I
was God” (164). As soon as she gains this awareness, she realizes
that R. is not the man for her and she decides to follow her own
path. This will eventually lead her to another lover with whom she
can develop as a black and as a woman, and also break free from the
constrictions of society. She will not live according to the rules
of society, but she will rather be “on her own” (198).
In this personal
path of self-development, Cynara gives voice to the slaves’
culture and expressiveness. The twoness
of African American culture is reflected at several points in the
book. Slaves are forced to develop a coded language in order to be
able to communicate without the master’s interference, escape his
control, and give a revolutionary meaning to familiar objects and
like a code. A code I’ve got to break before I know anything.
First deciphering the letters, then puzzling out how the words,
contorted by spelling, read, then trying to decide what these words,
put together as they are, mean. (96)
The black tradition
thereby becomes double-voiced and signifies
upon the white one. The result of slavery is that African Americans
had to develop their own aesthetics and language, deeply connected
with their collective history. Their need for a coded language is
reflected in the shift of meanings, which white words undergo when
they enter the domain of black expressiveness. In TWDG,
reality and appearance are always overlapping and confused, and it
is difficult to establish a definitive truth. The motif of the
impossibility to distinguish emeralds from peridots and glass
constantly recurs in the novel as a symbol of the difficulty of
interpreting events and people and attaching a fixed meaning to
them. Blacks create “a language that permits the nation its only
glimpse of reality, a language without which the nation would be
even more whipped than it
In this language appearance and reality overlap, and events and
objects seem always on the point of becoming something different as
they acquire a double meaning and reveal a hidden reality.
develop a double consciousness, and even their soul is split in two.
They are Americans, but at the same time they carry the peculiar
burden of their people’s history and past. In addition, racist
discrimination always reminds them of their “otherness”.
Cynara’s boat trip to London is a good example of this twoness,
because it both represents and reverses the Middle Passage. Her self
is divided, she is at the same time “one of these new people who
sail for pleasure” (156) and an ex-slave who must bear the
collective memory of her people: “the me in the other we, I am,
fears. We are a sailed people. We sailed to America” (156).
rituals bear a double meaning and are celebrated twice in the book,
once in the official ceremony and once among slaves. This is the
case with Mammy’s funeral, as it is with her tomb, which, unknown
to the white masters, is positioned near that of Planter. The secret
funeral takes place in the early hours of the morning and becomes
the occasion for revealing the hidden history of Cotton Farm and
Tata. While whites are blind and see Mammy as “the last of a
vanished species and culture – the loyal old servant” (53),
Randall undermines this partial vision by putting the slaves at the
centre of the unofficial and true story of the plantation and the
Every column fluted was a
monument to the slaves and the whips our bodies had received. Every
slave being beat looked at the column and knew his beating would be
remembered. […] We, Mammy and me, kept this place together because
it was ours […] Right this morning we are burying the mistress of
the house. (52)
The novel undoes
the stereotypical image of the black slave as “a loving beast of
burden” (53). Blacks at times become silently treacherous and are
transformed into agents of deception. This representation subverts
the over-simplifications of GWTW
and reveals its partiality and blindness. At one point Cynara
observes: “How the white people live surrounded by spies, I
don’t know. I can’t do it. The slime of hatred on every sliver
of soap, every sheet smoothed across every bed” (26). In brief,
slaves in her diary are fully-developed characters, the real
protagonists of their own history, although ignored and unheard by
The cakewalk is
probably the most striking example of black expressiveness in the
novel and can be read as a metaphor of the book, which is at once a
rewriting and a rebuttal of the hypotext. Cynara’s diary always
underlines the duplicity of meanings, and at every moment we are
reminded of the gap between “words and events” (164). The Yule
log, which was traditionally burnt for Christmas at Tata, for
instance, is not just a simple log as the whites believed. For while
the log was burning, slaves were not whipped, and so it was changed
a couple of times so as to make it last longer, without the Master
ever realizing that the slaves “kept Christmas longer” (170).
The inability of the masters to see beyond their own appeasing
racial stereotypes is highlighted throughout the text. As James
Baldwin rightly argued, the white man “cannot afford to understand
it [the slave’s language and culture]. This understanding would
reveal too much about himself, and smash that mirror before which he
has been frozen for so long”.
In other words, America has developed two conflicting images of
itself, which are impossible to reconcile: the political power of
the land of freedom and equality “is solemnly pledged to support
and perpetuate the enslavements of three millions of [its]
This conflict is kept at bay thanks to the myth of white supremacy,
which provides a comfortable filter through which it is possible for
whites to read and simplify the “other”, the black. Randall
undermines GWTW’s powerful and reassuring stereotypes and shows how partial
and racist the picture of the hypotext really was. The black
characters in her novel are neither Christ-like nor black rapists.
Instead, they are profoundly human.
The centrality of
the oral tradition in African American culture is repeatedly pointed
out in the book. An important element that enlivens Cynara’s voice
is her familiarity with songs and rhymes. As a matter of fact, since
she was a child, Cynara has invented “little rhymes to sing to [her]self”
(3). As she grows, she reads widely and becomes cultivated. Her
writing is embedded with learned references, but her assimilation of
the master’s culture is far from being a passive process. Indeed,
she learns to “break rhythms” and “make rhythms”, becoming a
linguistically active and creative subject. Significantly, this goes
along with Cynara’s acceptance of herself as a black and a woman.
Her creative power parallels her acceptance of blackness, of the
“Negressness” in her mind:
It is not in the pigment of my
skin that my Negressness lies. It is not the color of my skin. It is
the color of my mind, and my mind is dark, dusky, like a beautiful
night. And Other, my part-sister, had the dusky blood but not the
mind, not the memory. […] Maybe if the memories are not teased
forth, they are lost; maybe if the dance is not danced, you forget
the patterns. I cannot go to London and forget my color. I don’t
want to. Not anymore. (162)
Race here seems
to become a matter of mind and choice rather than being linked to
biological issues. What is more, blackness lies in memory, the
memory of blacks’ collective and individual past: “[P]art of the
blood memory must be provoked and inspired and repaired, time and
again, to become the memory” (163). This memory is preserved
through the oral tradition, through the stories and the slave songs
Cynara has learnt as a child and which stick with her. Black English
is the creation of the collective experience of the black diaspora
and Cynara’s blackness depends upon her will and ability to
song Cynara names in her diary is Amazing
Grace. She recalls the historical occasion in which the song
originated and in her account of the story she has God speak Black
English in a very effective passage. GWTW’s
readers may at first be upset upon reading God’s words as follows:
I ain’t saving you ifn’ I
don’t save the ship. And I ain’t saving the ship lessen I save
the Daddys, and I ain’t saving the Daddys without the Mammas and I
don’t need the Mammas less I save the babies. You is less to me
than spit. But if I save the babies, I’ll save the Mammas. (165)
By making God
speak Black English to the white slave-trader, Randall reveals the
power relationships involved in the use of language and debunks the
racist hierarchies that find expression in it. God’s words are
improvisational and inventive, in line with black expressive
What is more, by having God speak the language of the black
minority, Randall is affirming its literary dignity in a powerful
and original way.
language parallels the progress of her self-emancipation. Her
narrative voice is both highly sophisticated and coloured, becoming
increasingly so as the novel proceeds and as she gains independence.
If at the beginning the presence of Black English is largely
confined to the reported speech of blacks, as her story and her
writing proceed she seems consciously to develop an increasingly
Her words are marked by Black English from the very first pages of
her diary; but when she gains in awareness and independence, what
changes is also her consciousness of the value of her mother tongue.
In other words, her language increasingly incorporates influences
and inflections, collective memory and individual experience, and
references to the hypotext’s language and original creativity.
Differences melt in her “mongrel tongue”. The result of this
process may at first feel awkward to Cynara and to the reader alike,
but in the end it is where the novel’s voice is most original and
acquires its own music:
All these bits and pieces of
“edjumacation” I have sewn together in my mind to make me a
crazy quilt. I wrap it ‘round me and I am not cold, but I’m
shamed into shivering by the awkward ways of my own construction.
All the different ways of talking English I throw together like a
salad and dine greedily in my mongrel tongue. (90)
the narrator enjoys the exploration of the sensuous and sensual
possibilities of language. Sacred and profane intermingle in her
diction, and language and sexuality seem to be part of the same
liberating, communicative process:
The mystery of making love to
myself, for he is me, and I am he, and I know all that he and she
want. In the church of this sex I am the preacher and the
congregation. He is the preacher and I am the congregation. I am the
preacher and he is the congregation. The call becomes the response
and the response the call, and I am shouting and falling out.
The depiction of
sexual intercourse is overtly informed by a typically black
communicative pattern, modelled on the black sermon and its call and
response mode. This mode – deriving from African oral patterns –
becomes African American and is at the basis of black rhetorical
style both in secular and in sacred discourse.
How far this is
from Mitchell’s ideology and aesthetics is all but too evident. In
misrecognition and political misrecognition go hand in hand”
and Scarlett finally seems to welcome her own subordination as she
enjoys sex only when Rhett rapes her. She resolutely “clings to
her status as a sexual object, never claiming agency or
responsibility for her own decisions”.
On the opposite side, Cynara strives to obtain her independence as a
woman. She fully enjoys her sexual life and freely breaks taboos,
repeatedly crossing traditional gender roles. Cynara’s depiction
of Dreamy Gentlemen – Scarlett’s Ashley – as a gay, of Beauty
as a lesbian and of her own relationship with the latter, manages to
expose the homophobic biases of the society that the hypotext
described. While in GWTW
there was no room for homosexuality, and the hierarchical
relationship between genders was substantially reaffirmed in bed
(where Scarlett remains a “sexual object”), Cynara reveals and
accepts a shifting, emancipated sexuality. As Beauty observes:
“Girls will be girls. The men would leave and we’d crawl into
bed together like kittens, scratching, pawing, tumbling into
sleep” (33-34). Finally, Cynara comes to embody not only racial,
but also sexual hybridity. What is more, race and gender are
inextricably linked and her emancipation as a woman goes hand in
hand with her emancipation as a black. Womanhood and blackness are
two sides of the same coin: “One way of looking at it, all women
are niggers. For sure, every woman I ever knew was a nigger ―
whether she knew it or not” (177).
In the end,
writing her diary becomes for Cynara a sort of performative speech,
an act whose power counterbalances the weight of the words that
proclaimed her a sold slave. She sews together the “bits and
pieces” (31) of her mother’s past and her mother tongue, and
manages to give birth to something new. Thus, she refuses to “live
white” (158). Even if
her skin is quite light, and she could easily pass for a white, as
R. demands her to, for Cynara the real problem is “a question of
how colored I feel, and I feel plenty colored […] I am colored,
colored black, the way I talk, the way I cook, the way I do most
everything” (158). Finally, this awareness makes her understand
what she aspires to and what she really wants. She does not refuse
her blackness but rather embraces it fully and creatively affirms
its dignity. As a result, the language in which this blackness finds
expression has the right to be a linguistic standard, and manages to
subvert the power relations and the racism implied in the label of
Black English as a subliterary minority language: “What I want now
is what I always wanted and never knew―I want not to be
exotic. I want to be the rule itself, not the exception that proves
This essay would never have been
completed without the precious support of the following persons:
Prof. Anna Scacchi, who first encouraged me to read the book and
then write about it; Professors Annalisa Oboe and Chris Gair for
their timely criticism and for pushing me to do my best during the
M.A. program in Atlantic Studies, both in Padua and Birmingham. To
each of them a heartfelt thank-you.
Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth and Tiffin, Helen,
The Empire Writes back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. London, Routledge, 1989.
Baldwin, James, “If Black English isn’t a
language, then tell me, what is?” The New York Times, July 29, 1979.
Bartley, Numan V., ed, The Evolution of Southern
Culture, Athens, University of
Georgia Press, 1988.
Belnap, Jeffrey and Fernandez, Raul, eds., José Marti’s “Our
America”: From National to Hemispheric Cultural Studies, Durham, N.C., Duke University Press, 1998.
Homi, The Location of Culture, London, Routledge,
Boatwright, James, “ ‘Totin’ de Weery Load’:
A reconsideration of Gone With the Wind” New Republic, September 1, 1973, pp. 29-32.
Cleaver, Eldridge, Soul On Ice, New York, Laurel Dell Publishing, 1968.
Dentith, Simon, Parody,
London & New York, Routledge, 2000.
Dillard, J.L., Perspectives On Black English, (Contributions to the Sociology of Language, 4),
The Hague & Paris, Mouton, 1975.
Du Bois, W.E.B., The Souls of Black Folk. Essays
and Sketches, Chicago, A.C. McClurg &
Faust, Drew Gilpin, “Clutching the Chains that
Bind: Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind”, Southern Cultures (Center for the Study of the South, Univ. of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill), 5:1, Spring 1999, pp. 6-20.
Charles, and Shirley Brice Heath, eds., Language in the USA,
Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Henry Louis Jr., The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro American Literary
Criticism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Zora Neale, Tre
Quarti di Dollaro Dorati, (tr. it. a cura di) Chiara Spallino. Venezia, Marsilio, 1992.
Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms, New York, Methuen,
Johnson, Fern, Speaking Culturally. Language Diversity in the
United States, Thousand Oaks, Sage
Kavanagh, James H., “To the Same Defect: Toward a
Critique of the Ideology of the Aesthetic”, The Bucknell Review, 27, n.1, Fall 1982, pp. 102-123.
Lakoff, Robin, The Language War, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000.
Lippi-Green, Rosina, English with an Accent: Language,
Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States, London & New York, Routledge, 1997.
McDowell, Deborah E., The Changing Same, Black
Women’s Literature, Criticism, and Theory,
Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1995.
Michaels, Walter Benn, Our America: Nativism,
Modernism and Pluralism, Durham, Duke University
Pyron, Darden Ashbury, Recasting: Gone With the Wind in American Culture, Miami, University Presses of Florida, 1983.
Randall, Alice, The Wind Done Gone, Boston & New York, A Mariner Book, Houghton
Mifflin Company, 2001.
Rose, Margaret A., Parody: Ancient, Modern, and
Post-modern, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press, 1993.
José David, The Dialectics of Our America,
Durham and London, Duke University Press, 1991.
Anna, “The Southern Belle as Depression Hero: Re-reading Gone With the Wind”, in Brave New Words: Strategies of Language and
Communication in the United States of the 1930s, ed. by Biancamaria Bosco
Tedeschini Lalli and Maurizio Vaudagna, Amsterdam, VU University
Press, 1999, pp. 151-164.
Smitherman, Geneva, Talkin’ and Testifyin’: The Language of
Black America. Detroit, MI: Wayne University Press, 1977.
“White English in Blackface, or Who Do I Be?”, The Black Scholar,
May-June 1973, pp. 158-168.
Gayatri Chakravorty, A
Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing
Present. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1999.
Jane, Sensational Designs: The
Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1890, New York: Oxford
University Press, 1985.
Patricia, “Race and the Cloud of Unknowing in Gone With the Wind”, Southern Cultures, 5:1, Spring 1999, pp.
Robert J.C., Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory,
Culture and Race,
London, Routledge, 1995.
on the Web
http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com Publisher Houghton
Mifflin’s page devoted to the legal battle over TWDG, with
useful links to Court Papers, Press Statement, Letter of Support,
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m1589/2001_Sept_11/78265990/p1/article.jhtml article by Fred Gloss on The Advocate, Sept. 11, 2001.
Janelle Collett, “Romanticizing
the Old South: A Feminist, Historical Analysis of Gone With the Wind”.
 Michel de Certeau, Heterologies. Discourses on
the Other, as
quoted in Deborah E. McDowell, The Changing Same. Black Women’s
Literature, Criticism, and Theory, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1995, p.140.
 See SunBank v. Houghton Mifflin
Company Court Papers,
available at Houghton Mifflin’s website: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/features/randall_url/.
All the references to court papers in the text are taken from
 Toni Morrison, Declaration to the Court, to be found at Houghton
Mifflin’s website: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/features/randall_url/.
 “Mrs. Mitchell is on record as regarding her own
work as a radical revision of the
‘lavender-and-lace-moonlight-on-the-magnolias people’ of
earlier novels, and blasted ‘the sweet, sentimental novel of
the Thomas Nelson Page type”. In Toni Morrison, Declaration to the Court.
 Toni Morrison, Declaration to the Court.
 See the Letter
available at: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/features/randall_url/letter.shtml#authors
 Janelle Collett, “Romanticizing the Old South: A
Feminist, Historical Analysis of Gone With the Wind”, available on line at
 See Drew Gilpin Faust, “Clutching the Chains that
Bind: Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind”, Southern Cultures (Center
for the Study of the South, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel
Hill), 5:1, Spring 1999, p. 5.
 Mitchell’s novel managed to spread its own
mythology despite its being at odds with both the prevailing
national and the southern mythology of the war. See Drew Gilpin
Faust, “Clutching the Chains that Bind: Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind”, Southern Cultures (Center
for the Study of the South, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel
Hill), 5:1, Spring 1999, pp. 6-20.
Darden Ashbury Pyron, ed., Recasting: Gone With the Wind in
American Culture, Miami,
University Presses of Florida, 1983, p. 9.
 For an analysis of the book’s
reception, see Darden Ashbury Pyron, ed., Recasting,pp. 5-31.
 “Commager’s review marked the
zenith of academic or highbrow celebration of Gone With the Wind.” In Darden Ashbury Pyron, ed.
 Malcolm Cowley’s famous
dismissal of GWTW was first published in The New Republic, Sept. 16, 1936 and subsequently
reprinted in Darden Ashbury Pyron, ed. Recasting, pp. 17-20.
 Anna Scacchi, “The Southern
Belle as Depression Hero: Re-Reading Gone With the Wind”, Brave New Words: Strategies
of Language and Communication in the United States of the 1930s, ed. by Biancamaria Bosco Tedeschini Lalli and
Maurizio Vaudagna, Amsterdam, VU University Press, 1999, p. 152.
 See James Boatwright,
“‘Totin’ de Weery Load’: A Reconsideration of Gone With the Wind”, New Republic, September 1, 1973, pp. 29-32.
 On this sort of attitude, see
Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American
New York, Oxford University Press, 1985.
 Elizabeth I. Hanson, Margaret
Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1991, p. 4.
 “Ideology” is here intended
as a lived relation to the real, linked to the subject position
within the social. Thus, ideology structures the subject’s
“seeing” and “feeling” before structuring her/his
“thinking” and it constitutes the terrain of social practice
where collective imaginations are shaped. See James H. Kavanagh,.,
“To the Same Defect: Toward a Critique of the Ideology of the
Bucknell Review, 27,
n.1, Fall 1982, pp. 102-123.
 See Anna Scacchi, “The Southern
Belle as Depression Hero: Re-Reading Gone With the Wind”, in
Biancamaria Bosco Tedeschini Lalli and Maurizio Vaudagna, eds.,
 Joel Williamson, “How Black Was
Rhett Butler?”, in The Evolution of Southern Culture, ed. by Numan Bartley, Athens,
University of Georgia Press, 1988, p.105.
 Drew Gilpin Faust, “Clutching
the Chains that Bind”, p. 14.
 Toni Morrison, Declaration
to the Court.
 See, for instance, Drew Gilpin
Faust, “Clutching the Chains that Bind” and the debate that
followed in Southern
Cultures, where GWTW’s
racism was criticized and read in relation to gender oppression:
“Thus, for all her ability to see through and to challenge
certain basic assumptions of southern life, Scarlett, like
Mitchell, remains blind to the most fundamental reality of all:
that southern civilization rested on the oppression of four
million African Americans whose labour made southern wealth,
gentility, and even ladyhood possible”. In Drew Gilpin Faust,
“Clutching the Chains that Bind”, pp. 12-13.
The word parody, deriving from the Ancient Greek
παρωδία, has acquired a range
of different meanings in its long history. If in Greek and then
Latin parody signified a specific form of mock poetry or ode,
diction and applying it to trivial topics, parodia
was also used to denote a more neutral practice of quotation and
allusion. Nowadays, parody is predominantly defined as any type
of mocking imitation, although this usage is contested by
critics, such as Linda Hutcheon, who bring the word back to a
more neutral or neoclassical usage in which the element of
mockery is absent. Another, opposite tendency, articulated by
Margaret Rose in Parody:
Ancient, Modern and Post-modern,
Cambridge, Cambridge Uni. Press, 1993, establishes parody as a
comic practice, whose antecedents are to be found in Rabelais
and Sterne. See Simon Dentith, Parody,
London & New York, Routledge, 2000; Linda Hutcheon, A
Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms,
New York, Methuen, 1985.
 See note 1 of this paper.
 Toni Morrison, Declaration
to the Court.
 See Geneva Smitherman, “White
English in Blackface, or Who Do I Be?”, The Black Scholar, May-June 1973, pp. 158-168.
 One particularly striking case is
that of the Oakland School Board Resolution on Ebonics in 1996.
Media treatment of the case was informed by strong racial biases
and expressed in harshly sarcastic tones, without taking into
serious consideration the position of linguists on the subject.
The debate, as Lakoff evidenced, served as a pretext to raise a
political issue having to do with racial prejudices directed
against minority speakers. See Robin Lakoff, The Language War, Berkeley, University of
California Press, 2000.
 From Houghton Mifflin’s web
 “A Conversation with Alice
Randall”, from Houghton Mifflin’s web site.
 Anna Scacchi, “The Southern Belle as Depression
Gone With the Wind”, in Biancamaria Bosco
Tedeschini Lalli and Maurizio Vaudagna, eds., p. 164.
 Randall’s answer as to whether
she was assuming the role of a revisionist historian in writing
her book is significant in that it provides an interpretive key
to the novel’s overall aim:
“When I was growing up in Detroit, what I like to call Detroit,
Alabama, the two phrases my father spoke to me most often were
‘Speak up, son, you're not down South,’ and ‘I want you to
speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.’ I think I
prefer to think of myself as a dutiful daughter than as a
revisionist historian.” From Houghton Mifflin’s web site.
 “Lady” in Randall’s novel
corresponds to Mitchell’s Ellen O’Hara.
 Implicitly quoting Billie
Holiday’s famous song, Cynara writes: “They are hanging
black men all through the trees. Strange fruits grow in the
Southern night. It’s the boil on the body of Reconstruction,
whites killing blacks. They didn’t kill us as often, leastways
not directly, when they owned us” (83).
 Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) was a
runaway slave from Maryland who became known as the “Moses of
her people”. Over the course of ten years, at great personal
risk, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the
Underground Railroad. This was a secret network of safe houses
where runaway slaves could stay on their journey north to
freedom. She later became a leader in the abolitionist movement,
and during the Civil War she was a spy
and a nurse for the federal forces in South Carolina.
 One of the most striking examples
of didacticism in the novel is the following: “Othello is just
a creation. Maybe just like me. But Robert B. Elliott be real.
He be born in Massachusetts (…) James Rapier studied in Canada
and now he’s in Congress. He’s another “historical
figure”. (…) John Roy Lynch (…) He merits a line in
anybody’s history of these United States” (115).
 “A Conversation with Alice Randall”, from Houghton Mifflin’s web
 Hybridity is one of the key terms in postcolonial theory, and most usually refers to “the creation of new transcultural forms from within the contact zone produced by colonization”. In Griffiths and Tiffin Ashcroft, The Empire Writes back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures, London, Routledge, 1989, p.118. For Homi Bhabha, cultural hybridity provides a viable alternative to the “exoticism of multiculturalism”, and opens the way toward “conceptualizing a [genuinely] international culture”. In Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, London, Routledge, 1994, p. 38. The term, however, remains contested. Robert Young has pointed out hybridity’s racist legacy, while Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has warned against the kinds of hybridist triumphalism that don’t engage sufficiently with specific cultural differences. See Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race, London, Routledge, 1995; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1999.
 “A Conversation with Alice
Randall” in Houghton Mifflin’s web site.
 See Jeffrey Belnap and Raul
Fernandez, eds., José Marti’s “Our America”: From national to
Hemispheric Cultural Studies, Durham, N.C., Duke University Press, 1998. In a climatic passage of TWDG, which concentrates in few lines
the main points of Afro American history and almost sounds like
a black pride manifesto ante litteram, Cynara writes: “I am drunk of the power that is
flowing out of his body back to our country, our America. I look
around me at these new Negroes, this talented tenth, this first
harvest, the brightest minds, the sustained souls, (…) Folks
whose fathers were named Fearless and were freed because their
master was afraid to own them. The ones who could intimidate
from shackles. These beautiful ones. They are as close to gods
as we have seen walk the earth. I dance and I see them dance in
the darkening night as clouds roll in, covering the stars that
shine upon the ones who survived the culling out of the
middle-passage, and the mental shackles of slavery; the group
that rose with the first imperfect freedoms to this city, to the
Capital, this group of negroes shining brightly as their – as
our – flame burns down as our time passes” (201). See also
Walter Benn Michaels, Our
Modernism and Pluralism,
Durham, Duke University Press, 1995.
 “Reader’s Guide” at Houghton Mifflin’s web
 W.E.B. Du Bois was the first to
theorise the characteristic dualism of black American culture:
“One ever feels his twoness – an American, a Negro; two
souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring
ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it
from being torn asunder…” in The Souls of Black Folk,
Essays and Sketches,
Chicago, A.C. McClurg & Co., 1903, p. 18.
 The need to communicate without
being understood by the white master is nicely summarized by
James Baldwin: “There was a moment, in time, and in this
place, when my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my
sister, had to convey to me, for example, the danger in which I
was standing from the white man standing just behind me, and to
convey this with a speed, and in a language, that the white man
could not possibly understand, and that, indeed, he cannot
understand, until today.” In James Baldwin, “If Black
English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” The
New York Times, July
 “The black tradition is
double-voiced. […] Signifyin(g) is the figure of the
double-voiced, epitomized by Esu’s [divine trickster figure]
depictions in sculpture as possessing two mouths. [Signification
is a process in] how to employ tropes that have been memorized
in an act of communication and its interpretation. […] The
language of Signifyin(g), in other words, is a strategy of black
figurative language use […].” In Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of
Afro-American Literary Criticism, New York, Oxford University Press, 1988, p. xxv and p. 84.
 James Baldwin, “If Black
English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” The New York Times, July 29, 1979.
 James Baldwin, “If Black
English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is? The New York Times, July 29, 1979.
Frederick Douglass, “Fourth of July Oration in Rochester, 1852”.
Quoted in Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice, New York, Laurel Dell Publishing, 1991, p. 78.
 The main characteristics of Black
expression are summarized in Fern Johnson, Speaking Culturally,
Language Diversity in the United States, Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 2000. Johnson,
in the chapter devoted to “African American Discourse in
Cultural and Historical Context” (pp. 113-159) comprehensively
isolates the main African American cultural themes, including
the connections to the African heritage, black cultural
abstractions and cultural artefacts, as well as highlighting
black discourse patterns and modes of discourse.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr, The
Theory of Afro American Literary Criticism, New
York, Oxford University Press, 1988. The
speakerly text is defined as dealing with the play of voices
used in free-indirect discourse. The direct discourse of the
black speech used by characters belonging to the black
community, and the initial Standard English of the narrator come
together to form a third term, a double-voiced narrative. It is
a way to represent an oral literary tradition in the written
form. Its first example, according to Gates, is to be found in
Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men and Their Eyes Were
 See Fern Johnson, Speaking
 Patricia Yaeger, “Race and the
Cloud of Unknowing in Gone With the Wind”, Southern Cultures, 5:1, Spring 1999, p. 22.
 Drew Gilpin Faust, “Clutching
the Chains that Bind: Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind”, Southern Cultures (Center
for the Study of the South, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel
Hill), 5:1, Spring 1999,