Ebookwormy's Reviews > Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
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Oct 04, 08

bookshelves: carp-500, history, fiction
Read in October, 2008

It's obvious to me why this book is a classic. It was a fabulous read, though (for reasons listed below) I'm not sure I'd want to read it again soon.

The story is told through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara, a selfish, aristocratic, young Southern woman, with a scant number of scenes (mostly at the end) where she is not present. Realizing Scarlett and her class have the most to lose from the fall of the South, their perspective on the times is negative. The racism is appalling. The opinion of Scarlett and her class (inherent in the narration of the text) is that blacks were better off in slavery where they were 'well taken care of', abuses of slavery were very few, house black slaves who stayed with their masters were the cream of the African crop, and free blacks who left their owners were lazy, unintelligent and often criminal. These views are repugnant, and certainly not accurate, but the matter has become so politicized it is hard to know whether or not such thoughts are typical of aristocrats of the time. As one would imagine, immersed in the Confederate perspective, the Union and it's actions, particularly as relates to Reconstruction in Georgia are also not presented favorably. Carpetbaggers and Scallawags, familiar, formless, terms from somewhere way back are now clear to me, at least the Old South perception of them! Reading this book has led me to put some non-fiction books about the social ideas and ideals of the Confederacy on my 'to-read' list.

The most intriguing theme of this work to me was the cross-cultural conflict inherent in the fall of the South. The author successfully illustrates the incredible difficulty faced by those captured in tumultuous times. Old, familiar ideas about life and living (class stratification, roles of men and women, economy, standards of living, etc.) are dying and completely new ones are rising. The same thing occurs throughout history, but there are certain times in which this change is so swift that a single generation has to absorb the shock. Such is the experience of these characters. As in real life, some adjust quickly (almost seeing it before it comes - though those who do are usually initially rejected because it is too frightening for the masses to consider), some adjust eventually, and some cannot make the change. While Southern racism has always perplexed me, I felt I could understand the aristocratic longing for the old familiar days, and I could comprehend how the preparation young people received in the old days was completely inadequate for the war and post-war realities. It also vividly captured why Southerners were so willing to die for their great Cause (the Cause being the way of life of which slavery was the foundation), as death, while still being able to hold the old ways dear was so much less taxing than trying to adapt to the changing realities. I can imagine that many people, trapped in aggressive revolutionary times, would feel the same way.

Two things hit me personally. 1) "Your sins are as scarlet will be washed white as snow." (Isaiah 1:18) Scarlett took the sin level to significant heights, and yet God would also forgive her through Jesus. For some reason this really struck me. 2) Scarlett was torn between her admiration for her mother, whom she is nothing like, and her personality which is more like her father. This struck me as theme in my life. When I became a mother, I thought I would be a lot like my mother, but I don't possess her strengths. Scarlett's struggle illuminated mine and helped me take another step to embracing who God made me to be.

As for Scarlett and Rhett themselves, along with Melanie and Ashley, there was a considerable amount of character development. However, I cannot help but note that while most chose to see Scarlett and Rhett as heroes worthy of imitation, both their characters unravel to the destruction of themselves and those around them (especially Scarlett's poor children). The consequences of their selfish actions are horrifying. While Melanie and Ashley behave more admirably, they are less successful in the world, and Ashley fails to achieve the happiness and peace that Melanie seems to possess in herself and bestow on those around her. In the end, Melanie, great lady she was, appears to me the heroine, even if she was flawed (her commitment to the glory of the Confederacy for example), and the story naturally closes with her death as her counterbalance to Scarlett is removed. One can only imagine what happens to Scarlet absent her influence. The character of Scarlett, while softened by the late revelations of the book is still incredibly distasteful. Ending with Scarlett's dawn of understanding implied to me the wisdom she gained (as with so many previous...) was rather momentary and Scarlett would return to her destructive quest for materialistic survival. Generally, I don't like to be left hanging with relationships unresolved, but after reading over 1000 pages, I found I agreed with Rhett in that "I don't give a damn" what Scarlett does now!
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Andrea Jackson Your review explains my own feelings more eloquently than I could do myself.


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