Brina's Reviews > Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
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it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, southern-lit, long-reads, historical-fiction, pulitzer-winner, 500-great-books-women

One of my reading themes for 2016 is reading at least ten classic books. It seems only fitting that on the Fourth of July I completed Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, an epic masterpiece that many view as the definitive great American novel.

I feel that the two halves of the book mirror the southern United States before and after the Civil War. The first half of the book occurs primarily at Tara Plantation. We meet our main protagonist Scarlett O'Hara, the belle of the south, who epitomizes what life was like in the antebellum era: young, carefree, never having to lift a finger and having an entire plantation at her beck and call. She never gave a thought to slavery, the confederate cause, or political matters because in the south that she knew, this was her way of life.

Next, there is the fated barbecue at neighboring Twelve Oaks plantation. We meet mainstays Ashley and Melanie Wilkes who are to be married. Scarlett grew up with Ashley and desires him yet this is a teenage fantasy, unfortunately one that will plague her for the rest of her life. Witnessing her declaration of love for Ashley is the mysterious Rhett Butler, an unreceived gentleman with a past. Instantly smitten with Scarlett's looks and personality, he begins a lifelong quest to have her as his own. And then the Great War hits and shatters all these dreams.

Scarlett reduced to nothing rebuilds. She is a modern woman who goes into business despite an entire city of Atlanta giving her nasty looks. She does this at the cost of her children's upbringing so she can rebuild Tara and her Atlanta life from the rubble of the war. Although many people in their reviews state that they dislike Scarlett and her selfish motives, I view her character with determination as she tried to better her place in society in order to leave her children with more than she started with. Mitchell is writing from a 20th century perspective and had witnessed the modern woman and inserts some of these modern traits into Scarlett. Combine that with her Irish blood, and we have one of the most determined protagonists of all time.

Of course as in any epic, we have a sketch of the time period. I learned much about the reconstruction south because growing up in the north, we only had what was in the history books. I knew the basics but not the intimate look at how southerners rebuilt following the war. There were two views to the new south- there was Ashley Wilkes who pined for Twelve Oaks and the way of life before the war and Rhett Butler who symbolizes the modern south and how Atlanta and the south rose again. The second half of the book focuses on these two men and how they coped and succeeded in reconstruction, yet it all came back to Scarlett and which of the two paths she would choose, which man's dreams she would decide to follow.

Behind Scarlett, Rhett, and Ashley and their dreams, we have Melanie Wilkes. She was the only character who knew all the principal players for who they were, and held them together through good times and bad. Whereas Scarlett was the new south, the new woman, Melanie was the south and the picture of the south I have always had- a strong woman, rallying soldiers, rallying for every cause after reconstruction, holding together an entire city, selfless. Even Scarlett with all her selfishness turned to Melanie in times of greatest need, even though Melanie is the one who viewed Scarlett as the pillar of strength. And yet, both women were strength, Melanie in her antiquated ways and Scarlett as the new woman who would bring this country forward while still remembering Tara, where she came from.

As I finish this epic on America's birthday I feel a sadness as I leave behind Mitchell's well drawn characters that earned her a Pulitzer Prize 80 years ago. Scarlett's determination, Rhett's swarthy brashness, Ashley's love of time gone by, Melanie's heart. I look forward to seeing the epic film for the first time and witnessing Scarlett and Rhett and Tara on screen. I am glad I let myself be drawn into this slice of Americana from bygone eras, and believe that every American should attempt to read Mitchell's masterpiece at least once in their lives.
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Reading Progress

March 23, 2016 – Shelved
March 23, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 23, 2016 – Shelved as: classics
May 12, 2016 – Shelved as: southern-lit
May 24, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
May 25, 2016 – Shelved as: long-reads
June 19, 2016 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
June 21, 2016 – Started Reading
June 21, 2016 – Shelved as: pulitzer-winner
June 21, 2016 –
page 41
4.28% "Finished chapter 1, captivating."
June 22, 2016 –
page 78
June 22, 2016 –
page 78
June 24, 2016 –
page 149
15.54% "Finished part one, Scarlett to Atlanta."
June 25, 2016 –
page 331
June 26, 2016 –
page 376
39.21% "Headed back to Tara as Atlanta falls to the Yankees."
June 28, 2016 –
page 415
43.27% "War fought, Scarlett attempting to build Tara to prominence again."
July 1, 2016 –
page 436
45.46% "Happy 80th birthday to Gone With the Wind."
July 2, 2016 –
page 710
July 3, 2016 –
page 800
83.42% "Part V"
July 4, 2016 – Finished Reading
May 5, 2017 – Shelved as: 500-great-books-women

Comments Showing 1-50 of 120 (120 new)

Katarzyna F my favourite classic, loved it!

Brina Starting a buddy read for classics book club tomorrow.

Shelley Schanfield Read years ago and loved it. Watching the movie with my 97 year old aunt. We're both cringing at the white-washing of history (pun intended) but you just can't deny Rhett and Scarlett are riveting.

message 4: by Laurene (new) - added it

Laurene Gone With The Wind has been in my TBR pile for so long. I will be following your comments. Maybe this will be the year!

Brina Laurene once I got through the first few chapters and got used to how people spoke in the 1860s south this book is moving quickly. Think of it as 3 320 page books and it's not so bad.

LeAnne: GeezerMom Brina! It was published on todays date in 1936! Great tidbits from Smithsonian here

Brina Leanne, thanks. I am getting back on track after a week of going to ballgames. I'd love to finish in time for July 4.

message 8: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Masterson Great choice! I loved the movie, Brina!

Brina Jennifer, 100 pages to go, Iooking for to a big finish!

message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim you gotta read Scarlett and Rhett Butler's People

message 11: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes A true milestone in your reading career! Whatever your opinion, it is a true piece of Americana.

Brina Diane how did you know I was going to write that ;). I'm already reminiscing now that I've finished and am looking forward to the movie. Now what to read next.

Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺ I'm not reading your full review now just in case there are spoilers, but I'm in the middle of reading it myself. So good!

message 14: by Holly (new)

Holly I love the movie and have always wanted to read this but I feel so intimidated by it.

Brina Allison I try not to add spoilers. The second half is amazing. Holly the last 500 pages read so fast you should try to attempt it at least once.

message 16: by Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺ (last edited Jul 04, 2016 05:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺ I am listening to the audiobook on my drive to work. I'm about 15 hours in and it's 49 hours long! It's a real pleasure to listen to though. I'm loving it.

Brina That sounds like a perfect way to spend your summer. Enjoy the rest.

Angela M Brina , just wonderful ! Read it many years ago and have seen the movie several times . Definitely a classic.

Brina I'm getting DVD later today. Can't wait v

message 20: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Great review, Brina. GWTW is one of my all-time favorite novels. The movie is epic too. Vivian Leigh is Scarlett to me. I hope you enjoy it!

Doreen Petersen I just watched the movie last Saturday. Loved it.

Brina I am looking very forward to the movie. I doubt anyone in my family will want to see it so most likely I will be watching early in the morning or late at night. I can't wait to see Rhett.

message 23: by Bluegrass Pam (new)

Bluegrass Pam Great review! I generally don't read books if I've already seen the movie but this sounds like it could be the exception!

Brina Pam I've never seen the film but what others are telling me is that Scarlett and Rhett are even deeper in the book. You should try!

Jeannie Excellent review, my favorite book!

Wendy Sorry to butt in, I don't know you, but it is extremely disturbing and alarming to me that you feel like you learned about Reconstruction from this book. Trust me, you did NOT. Most of this book and especially that part of the book is lies and propaganda. Not a word of this book is to be trusted as history.

Neither does Scarlett "epitomize what life was like in the antebellum era"--very few, if any, lived like that.

You can see that I love this book, I rated it five stars and have read it multiple times; I love the writing and the story. But everyone who reads it should know how incredibly racist and revisionist it is.

message 27: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Jones So is the famous "Frankly my dear..." line in the book, or did they just have it in the movie?

Suanne Laqueur In the book it's, "My dear, I don't give a damn."

Brina I loved that line :)

message 30: by Carie (new) - added it

Carie Great review! You have inspired me to read this book in 2016!

message 31: by Katie (new)

Katie Great review, Brina. Ashamed to say I've never read this or even seen the film. Probably something I should rectify at some point.

Brina Wendy I don't know you either and I was looking for your review to read but couldn't find it. I will take your word as to your opinion. I did learn about the south and reconstruction in school but all we usually learned was: the south had slaves and the north did not. The southern economy was driven by cotton. After the war because there was no longer slavery, cotton crumbled and so did the south. Move on to the next unit.
I actually enjoy reading about the 1870s through 1900 time period as an age of expansion and innovation yet I notice the south is usually not included. While I realize that more people probably lived like the Wilkes' than the Butlers, what I did learn about was the scallawags, carpet naggers, and Yankees who poured into Atlanta and used their influence to get a pro-northern government controlling Georgia. This is found fascinating. Racist for me the jury is still out because slavery did exist and the Ku klux did exist as well. I would be happy to read a book that does not "gloss over" history and then discuss afterward.

Brina I meant carpet baggers not naggers

Brina Carie, go for it. It is fast reading at least for me so even though it is long it doesn't feel it.

Wendy While it's my opinion, it's also the accepted scholarly opinion and a great deal has been written about GWTW as propaganda. You will find it easily when you look. The jury isn't out on this book--of course slavery existed, but the enslaved people in this book are portrayed as stupid and stupidly loyal; the ones who get a patronizingly positive portrayal are those who benefit their white owners! And those white owners are portrayed as being kind and benevolent to their slaves! The Ku Klux Klan did and does exist, but the origin story as presented in GWTW, that it was a necessary thing to protect white southern women from black rapists, is an incredibly damaging lie, the kind of thing that led to a young black man being lynched for (supposedly) whistling at a white woman in the 1950s. And of course Georgia needed an anti-slavery government; the southerners weren't about to do that on their own. That wasn't a "pro-northern" government, it was an anti-slavery, anti-secession government. (I won't pretend that the Union government was not racist and problematic itself; many of our prominent leaders would have preferred all the freed people move to South America or Africa.) I won't write anymore because so many people have already written it better and with better qualifications than mine; that this book is racist is not controversial. I'll leave you with one irrefutable example--that even the most beloved and kind character in the book, Melanie, says unironically and unapologetically that they can't move to the North when Ashley is offered a job there, because then their son would have to go to school with black children. (Though she doesn't say "black children".) This is assumed to be the worst possible fate. When a bald statement like that is put in the mouth of a character like Melanie, the book's ideology is very clear.

message 36: by Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺ (last edited Jul 04, 2016 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺ I'm not American and know very little about the American civil war (except what I've seen in movies, or maybe read in the occasional book), but there is something to learn from all historical fiction. Even if it's just the author's opinion. There is no one, singular history for any event. Each and every person will tell a somewhat different story at the end of the day. This is especially true in times of war.

Brina When I was around page 100 someone in a group I am noted that perhaps Scarlett was perhaps Theodore Roosevelt's mother Mittie Bulloch and Tara was Bulloch hall. Even Mittie was torn during the Civil War as to support her birth family or her husband's. The point is even if this book is viewed as racist and revisionist, perhaps there are some kernels of truth in them as to how some southerners thought. Regardless I loved it and I am trying to disregard the racism and focus on the positive aspects of the book like the well drawn characters and descriptions.

message 38: by Kelley (last edited Jul 04, 2016 09:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelley "I am trying to disregard the racism and focus on the positive aspects of the book like the well drawn characters and descriptions."

With any historical novel, we must remember the time in which it was written (or set) and the cultural "norms" at that time, right or wrong. It sounds like you did that, seeing this novel for its literary merits where others might focus on the "flaws". Good review!

Sylvia Very fine review. It's been a long time since I read this all time classic.

Brina Thanks Sylvia. I still can't believe that this is the first time I read this.

Laurie Brina, this a lovely review. I read GWTW last year for the first time and thought it was wonderful. I hope you enjoy the movie, and I think you will. The characters were wonderfully cast except Ashley, I think. Not that Leslie Howard did a bad job with the part, but somehow he just isn't right. The others are great. Anyway, happy viewing.

message 42: by Mike (new)

Mike Outstanding review, Brina.

Brina Thanks Mike. Laurie I can't wait to find out. Getting the DVD tomorrow. Would be today if the library was open.

Katarzyna F I am really glad you loved the book just like I did! :)

message 45: by Brina (last edited Jul 04, 2016 10:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brina Thank you Kasia. I read the last 500 pages in a little more than 2 days and I was absolutely in love with the book :)

message 46: by Carolina (new)

Carolina Morales What an inspiring review.

Brina Thank you, Carolina. Appreciate it.

message 48: by Lena (new)

Lena I love this movie so much but I have yet to read this book. Great review. So Scarlett had children before Bonnie?

Brina Yes. That's all I'm letting in on. I can see why a movie version would only include her though.

Jackballoon Incredible review Brina, if I hadn't read the book already 3 times, you review would prompt me to reread!

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