Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Title: Gone with the Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Copyright: 2007 (1937)
I just don’t even know where to begin. I read this book almost two months ago, and I’ve been hitting a mental block with the review. I’ve just decided to put my thoughts out there, jumbled as they are.
Scarlett O’Hara is the belle of the county. Her father has a gigantic, well-run plantation that he created from nothing. They have hundreds of slaves to take care of every aspect of their lives. Everything is lovely and serene. Scarlett has decided that she is to have Ashley for a husband. Then it’s announced that Ashley is to marry Melanie. At the barbeque where the announcement is made, Scarlett confronts Ashley, who acknowledges that he loves her but that he doesn’t think they would be happy married. Scarlett throws a tantrum witnessed by the nefarious Rhett Butler. She then goes and gets the first man she sees to propose – Melanie’s brother Charles. And then the Civil War breaks out. And lots of stuff happens. Scarlett has to take control of her own future – often at the expense of others.
Okay, so I could go on and on about the plot, because this story is epic. I mean huge. It’s sweeping and important. It’s enthralling and irritating. And so layered. I made a few notes as I read on the themes I saw. Tread lightly if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie. No major spoilers but there are some spoil-ish references.
There’s the obvious commentary on the north and south. Mitchell portrays the north as well-meaning but unable to comprehend the nature of the slave and the south as the caregivers of the unintelligent slave that can’t take care of himself.
Religion is also a major theme. Scarlett is raised to be religious, but she quickly turns from it. In fact, she often thinks of her mother as the only religious figure in her life. But, Scarlett is conflicted about her turning from her faith.
Southern gentility is essentially distilled into uselessness. The southern gentlemen, most of them, could not adapt to war or the post-war, slave-free south. Also, Mitchell deftly uses the issue of breeding to create character. Scarlett is essentially a half-breed – rich and old breeding from her mother’s side and Irish, new money breeding from her father’s side. Along with this, Mitchell contrasts taste with money.
Motherhood is primarily explored through contrast. Scarlett is able to bare children but sees it as a burden and unwelcome intrusion. Melanie, however, is not really able to bear children and is kind and motherly.
Finally, there’s Rhett and Scarlett, Melanie and Ashley. Who knew what when? Was Scarlett really just after what she could not have? Did she really have a change of heart?
I’ll just conclude by saying that I ruminated on this book for days after I finished. While I was reading it, I was immersed. I had Gone with the Wind dreams. I wanted to discuss each new development with my husband. This deserved the Pulitzer Prize, and it certainly deserves its status as a classic.
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell [rating:5]