Helynne's Reviews > Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
by Margaret Mitchell
Aug 10, 09
Read in March, 1967
Gone with the Wind has had such phenomenal world popularity over the decades and has been reviewed so many times, that I am sure the world is not waiting for my comments. However, as this is one of my all-time favorite books, I really feel the need to put in some of the reasons for my five-start rating. Gone with the Wind has never been included in the realm of great literature, probably because of its sheer readability and compelling narration that kept most of us as teen-agers turning pages furiously through the wee-small hours of the night. But, then again, Les Miserables, which takes place in approximately the same time period, is not considered great literature, either (certainly not anything in the realm of its contemporaries Madame Bovary or Le Rouge et le Noir), for basically the same reasons. But Victor Hugo is deservedly recognized as a great man of letters for his other works, especially his poetry. One can only wonder why Margaret Mitchell, who lived several years after the publication of her great tour de force, did not bless the rest of us with more literary works, some of which may well have leapt into a higher level of literary luminescence. Great literature standards aside, Gone with the Wind is a marvelous book because of its wonderful characters, so realistic and well developed, and the sheer breadth of its scope. We all studied in school about slavery, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the resoration period, the carpet-baggers, etc., but this story really makes that period of history come alive through the involvement of its vivid characters in these monumental events as well as their everyday activities in the 19th-century American South--cuisine, fashion, manners, taboos, etc.. From the very first line of the book, "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom noticed it when caught in her charms as the Tarlton boys were" to the very last line, "I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day!" the story crackles with intensity, deep meaning, and superior reader appeal, and makes us care about these people and how they will fare through all the tragedy and difficulty that war, depression, and readjustment to an entirely different post-war world thurst upon them. Ashley Wilkes may not be the strongest or most admirable character in the novel, but one really feels for the type of person he is--raised in a world that had a certain kind of dreaminess and symetry--like Greek art--where he could "quietly watch life go by, never really being a part of it." Ashley realizes after his brave service in the Confederate Army that such rich, plantation life is over forever (hence, the title, which is never really explained in the book, only hinted at). Now, Ashley and many like him have been catapulted into world in which they will never really fit. Splitting rails in the windswept orchard of Tara--work for which he will never be suited--Ashley tells Scarlett that their former world of plantations and slavery is facing a kind of Gotterdammerung--a twilight of the gods--an aftermath of war wherein only the strong will survive and the weak will be winnowed out. Ashley is perceptive enough to recognize how close he is to personal destruction because his world is now gone. How Scarlett and others keep from being winnowed out is not always a admirable story, but certainly an inspirational tale of determination and survival. One always remembers Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, Melanie, Mammy, and the hysterical Prissy, but other characters push the action along as well--Gerald O'Hara, faithful Pork, silly Aunt Pittypat, haughty Dolly Merriweather, Frank Kennedy, and Belle Watling, the good-hearted madam and as good a Confederate patriot as there ever was. I also like Archie, who was left out of the four-hour film, but is still an interesting example of survival and unyielding loyalty to a cause. Great book, great read, great entertainment. The film is wonderful, but not enough. Grab the long, printed saga, and enjoy!
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