Title: Gone With the Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Genre: Literary Fiction / Classic
Published Date: 1936
Why I wanted to read it: This novel has been recommended to me by so many fabulous book bloggers and friends, and I had put it off for far too long. It’s also on my list for The Classics Club.
Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years.
This is a beast of a book, but the 1,000+ pages are well worth the effort. I know a lot of people look at this novel as a romantic one, but considering everything that happens I’d consider it more of a wartime novel. Nearly everything that occurs is a result of the Civil War and its aftermath, from the many deaths to fleeing various homes to the end of slavery to various Yankee invasions leading to the uprooting of Atlanta, and the list goes on and on. The war may not last the entire novel, but I would consider it the most important aspect overall since it shapes the lives of every character from the calling for men to fight to the very last line.
Another important topic in the novel is that of slavery and racism. I found the contrast between the O’Hara family and some Yankee characters to be interesting in this regard. It reminds me of the idea of being free but not equal when the Yankee women talk about not trusting a black person to look after their children. Both ends are rather hypocritical with the ideas that (for the O’Hara’s) “They’re our family, but we own them” and (for some the Yankees) “Let them be free, but I don’t want them around me.” There’s also Ashley who claims he would have let his slaves go after the war regardless, but owning them was OK because “they weren’t miserable.” Characters like Ashley and the O’Hara’s airbrush slavery in the way people airbrush racism today, like it’s not really a problem because they don’t see it as a problem. I’m sure there are many brilliant articles on this exact subject and why it was written this way, but I leave that to people who know much more about Mitchell than I do. For now, just know that I don’t condone romanticizing slavery or racism.
Thoughts on Main Characters
Scarlett O’Hara truly didn’t care about anything going on outside of her own life. If it wouldn’t benefit or impact her she wasn’t wasting her breath, and she was constantly bored when listening to other people talk about their lives, even Ashley whom she claimed to love. Even when she helped Melanie over the years, it’s still being done for Ashley which she assumed will in turn benefit her. Pride, selfishness, and a sharp tongue made her many enemies over the years, but I can’t help but respect her for her strength and determination. If she wanted something she would fight until she got it. Oftentimes her actions were rather foolish, but you have to give a girl credit for not giving up. Overall, I’m not a huge Scarlett fan, at least not today. I couldn’t stand how neglectful of a mother she was to her children, how horrible of a friend she was to Melanie and others, and how horrible of a wife she was to all of her husbands in some way or another. She tried so hard to have everything her way that she missed out on true happiness, love, and friendship. I don’t see her having a happily ever after, not even with all that money that she wanted and finally got.
And then there’s Rhett Butler. He’s just as stubborn as Scarlett and determined to come out on top. These kids could have been happy together had they just been more honest instead of constantly trying to one-up the other and make the other into the weakest link. It’s amazing how keeping emotions bottled up will ruin a perfectly good match, because they truly were perfect for each other. Part of me feels sorry for him, but also not. He did a lot to make Scarlett happy, but he also had opportunities to come clean with his feelings and didn’t. That being said, I can’t help but adore him a little. It’s impossible not to admire him for how good of a father he was to Bonnie. (Sigh… Bonnie!) He was also everything Scarlett needed; it was just too bad that they didn’t both admit it until it was too late.
Now, on to Melanie. She’s a complete contrast to Scarlett and the only character I fully liked. She was everything Scarlett needed in a friend, even if Scarlett never truly appreciated her. It was also nice to know that those poor children had a motherly figure to turn to when Scarlett was so preoccupied with herself and money. And while Ashley was busy living in the past and comparing everything to the past, Melanie made a point to move on. She may have been physically weak due to baby-related situations, but she was much stronger overall than people gave her credit for.
1. A lot of the stuff that frustrated me was simply “the times” and only made sense to be written that way, like women being treated like silly children who couldn’t be expected to do much of anything. Oh, the times!
2. Miss Pitty needs to get her shit together. I can only handle so many fainting fits.
3. Did anyone else think it was complete BS to blame the KKK deaths on Scarlett? Well, it was complete BS. That was one time I felt sorry for her.
4. In the end, I think this book is about survival. All people surviving the war. Confederates surviving the Yankees after the war. Black people surviving slavery and post-slavery with the KKK. Women surviving childbirth and men. Men surviving Scarlett (couldn’t help myself). The weak tend to fall behind with people like Ashley (mentally) and Melanie (physically), but people like Scarlett and Rhett survive due to their inability to give up.
“Burdens are for shoulders strong enough to carry them.”
“I’d cut up my heart for you to wear if you wanted it.”
“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”
“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is.”
“Now you are beginning to think for yourself instead of letting others think for you. That’s the beginning of wisdom.”
Yes! This novel is a keeper.