In Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind, Twelve Oaks is the plantation of the Wilkes family in Clayton County, Georgia. John Wilkes is the elderly widowed patriarch of the family which includes his son, Ashley, and two unwed daughters, India and Honey. The Wilkeses are among the early white settlers of the state of Georgia with roots in Savannah (but not of the penal stock brought by Oglethorpe) and they are among the wealthiest families in the county with land, slaves and money second only to those of the large and hardy Tarleton family of Fairhill Plantation. Twelve Oaks plantation is named for the grove of trees that lines the drive to the family mansion, a "beautiful white-columned house that crowned the hill like a Greek Temple".

The Wilkes are revered by the county folk for their generosity, good nature, sophistication and elegance. When the novel begins, Gerald O'Hara is returning from Twelve Oaks (having purchased a slave to be wife to his devoted valet Pork) with the news that Ashley Wilkes, with whom 16 year old Scarlett O'Hara is convinced she is in love, has just formally become engaged to his second cousin, Melanie Hamilton of Atlanta. In spite for what she perceives as Ashley spurning her, Scarlett accepts the impromptu proposal of Melanie's brother Charles, who was expected by all to marry Honey Wilkes (though changed to India in the film, which omits the character of Honey) and as such becomes a relative by marriage to both Melanie and Ashley.

Twelve Oaks suffers terribly in the war from the same shortages and privations as its neighbors. The family is also decimated as first Charles Hamilton dies of pneumonia, then John Wilkes is killed in combat (though elderly, he joined the Home Guard in defense of Atlanta). The mansion is looted and burned by Union troops in 1864; Scarlett finds a straggling cow in the ruins of the home and enough beans and turnips for a meal from its slave quarters gardens but otherwise it is a total loss. Presumably the lands are lost to the same taxes that necessitates Scarlett's marriage to Frank Kennedy to save Tara.

The portrayal of the mansion at Tara in the film Gone with the Wind is roughly akin to the description of the mansion at Twelve Oaks in the book. The portrayal of the mansion at Twelve Oaks in the film is extremely exaggerated and far more similar to a European palace than a rural planter's mansion and as such raised mild disapproval from author Margaret Mitchell. Mitchell had envisioned a more ordinary and historically accurate house.[1] Nevertheless it is the embellished magnificent mansion from the film with its imperial staircase and improbably high ceilinged corridors (the product of early paint-on-glass style special effect rather than an actual set) that is far more popular a depiction of the mansion than the Greek revival home from the novel.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Vertrees, David Allen, 1997, Selznick's Vision: Gone With the Wind and Hollywood Filmmaking, University of Texas Press, ISBN 0292787294.
  2. Myrick, Susan, 1982, White Columns in Hollywood: Reports from the Gone with the Wind Sets, Mercer University Press, ISBN 0865542457.
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