Annalisa's Reviews > Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
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it was amazing
bookshelves: book-club, classics, historical-fiction, movies, favorites, setting, character

It takes guts to make your main character spoiled, selfish, and stupid, someone without any redeeming qualities, and write an epic novel about her. But it works for two reasons. First of all you wait for justice to fall its merciless blow with one of the most recognized lines in cinema ("frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"), but you end with a broken and somewhat repentant character and you can't be pitiless. Secondly, if you were going to parallel the beautiful, affluent, lazy, spirited South being conquered by the intellectual, industrious North, what better way to do that than with characters who embody those characteristics? You come to feel a level of sadness that the South and Scarlett lost their war and hope that they will rebuild.

I enjoyed the picture of pre-war South outside of what you learn in history class approved by the nation that won the war. If the South had won, we would have an entirely different picture painted. A story of lush lands and prosperity abounding with chivalry and gentility by a (too) passionate people. If you visit the South today, you can see that all these generations later the wounds of the war and the regret at losing the way of life are still fresh. But if it had not been the civil war, it would have been by other means that the lazy sprawled out way of life would have been conquered by our efficient, compact, modern lives.

I enjoyed the picture of plantations that did not abuse slaves to the extent that you read about in many memoirs. There was still a disrespect in that they viewed "darkies" as ignorant and childish and worthy of being owned, but there were those who cared for those in their trust. And the North who came down riling up the lowest of the slaves to flip the oppression did not want any contact with a race they feared. Prejudice takes many faces. Slavery is such an important part of American history, but I don't know that I agree with the format in which it is taught (at least the way it was taught to me). We take young, tolerant children and feed them stories of racism and abuse and then tell them the world is naturally prejudice (that they are prejudice) so don't be. White children start feeling awkward and aware and black children start feeling mistreated and aware. We manage to teach children about Indian and Holocaust history without the same enthusiasm to end racism by breeding racism. There has to be a better way. But I digress.

I also enjoyed Mitchell showing the volatile formula in which the KKK was aroused, that it wasn't just a disdain for free darkies but a need to protect their women and children from the rash anger now imposed on them through this new regime. Not that there are any redeeming qualities in the KKK, or even the Southern rash justice by pistol shot to curb wounded pride, but it was interesting to learn the wider circumstances in which it arose. The entire picture of the Southern perspective from the hierarchy of slaves to the disdain of the reconstruction was enlightening. The post-war difficulties, that sometimes it's harder to survive than die, were some of my favorite epiphanies of the story. What everyone in the South went through, both white and black, after everything was deconstructed and they didn't know how to rebuild. It wasn't just about freeing slaves but about rebuilding an entire way of life and sometimes change, even good change, can be this scary and destructive.

My one complaint about the book was at times the description was lengthy. I'd get a grasp for the emotions of Scarlett that are supposed to describe the emotions of all Southerners or the description of the land at Tara as a representation of the rich red soil all Southerners love and then Mitchell would go on for paragraphs or pages rehashing that feeling to pull the most emotion out of you. It worked, but sometimes I think she could have done so in fewer words.

I view Scarlett as a representation of the South in which she loved. She did not care from whence the wealth came or believed that it would ever end. Because she was rich and important, she would conquer. As the Yankees attempted to rebuild the South, fresh in their embitterment at a war they did not want to fight, you can both see their reasoning and feel for the Southerners who were licked and then stomped on in their attempts to gain back of their life. You see that in Scarlett. On one hand you don't pity her and think she needs a lesson in poverty and on the other hand you want her to survive. Either she can lie down and cling to her old ways or she can debase herself and rebuild. Survival, not morality, is her strongest drive.

Oh Scarlett. We all know people like her. People who unscrupulously use their womanly charms to get ahead and carry a deep disdain for those bound by concepts of kindness, morals, or intelligence and most especially for those who see them for what they are instead of being manipulated. People who care for nobody but themselves and who find enjoyment in life not in what they have, but in conquering the unattainable that is only desirable because it is out of reach. I loved how Mitchell showed Scarlett's decline from a religious albeit not believing girl who allowed her rationalization and avoidance to carry her from one sin to the next of intensifying degree. An excellent portrait of the degradation of character.

Initially I thought she was the only character who wasn't growing, actually digressing. But by the end she does grow up. In no regard is this greater than in her eventual desire to be a mother. Turning from her ravenous post-war desire to survive to her acceptance of life and the people around her as the way they are, eventually Scarlett grows into the person she was meant to be. As did the South. Prideful and resentful, eventually they had to accept that they lost the war and take what was given them and try to make it work.

Scarlett realizes that Melanie is not the weak, cowardly girl she always assumed but the most courageous character in the book and one who gets her means by influence and persuasion instead of Scarlett's uncivil ways. It is Melly, not Scarlett, who could get anything she desires and her heart is not her weakness but her greatest strength. Finally Scarlett values the importance of love and sees that it does not make one weak but deep to possess it. OK, I won't go that far. She's not intelligent enough to analyze love, but she grows up enough to fall for it anyway, to realize she needs people.

She sees Ashley not as the strong, honorable character she had always esteemed but the weakest and least honorable character in the book. Anyone who would tease another woman with confessions of love just so he could keep her heart and devotion at arm's length is not truly honoring his marriage vows. The greatest gift he could give his wife was the knowledge that he loved her. And we all know that like any pretty toy, once Scarlett had taken him, she would have discarded him. The debasing knowledge that he is not fit for a rougher way of life doesn't endear him. For all his intelligence, he could have picked himself up by the bootstraps and made something of himself if he wanted to survive. He is a representation of the Old South that had to die but many couldn't let go of, even today. That's the sadness of the loss of the Southern way, still longing for the past instead of moving forward.

Then we come to Rhett, the only character with the ability to conquer Scarlett, who was quite the devil. Just like the ladies in old Atlanta I found myself at times entranced by his charms, but often I did not like or trust him. I was often torn about the way he constantly encouraged Scarlett to fall another wrung on her morality ladder and mocked her emotions, mocked all of Southern civility. What annoyed me most about him was that he showed love by coddling his wife and child until they were spoiled, dependent, but not grateful, and this was his idea of being a good father and husband. And yet I sympathized with him and was often amused by him. More than anything I enjoyed his intelligence as a way for Mitchell to introduce the Yankee viewpoint, using his sarcasm as satire. I loved the whole discussion of his not being a gentleman and her no lady.

More than anything I saw his slow conquering of Scarlett's heart as a parallel to the slow enveloping of the South by the North until they realized they were dependent on their conquerors but could still maintain their fierce spirit, a marriage of North and South. The fact that she could never fully understand him shows the divide between to two philosophies. But does the South lose in this blending? Can't they adopt the intellectual ways of the North and still maintain their civility? Just like Ashley, they would rather have dreamt and remembered than changed.

The characters in the book are so vivid that like or dislike you cannot get them out of your head. There are no more vibrant characters in the history of literature that Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. There is a reason this book is a classic. Everyone should read it at least once in their life to appreciate the civil war and understand the sadness and loss that enveloped the country.
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Reading Progress

December 31, 2008 – Shelved
January 1, 2009 – Started Reading
January 5, 2009 –
page 149
15.54% "Slowly but surely, I'm trudging along."
January 12, 2009 – Finished Reading
January 14, 2009 – Shelved as: book-club
January 14, 2009 – Shelved as: classics
January 14, 2009 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
March 3, 2009 – Shelved as: movies
January 23, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites
February 20, 2019 – Shelved as: setting
February 20, 2019 – Shelved as: character

Comments Showing 1-50 of 78 (78 new)

Jeana No review?

Annalisa I'm working on it! It takes me hours to write a review. I'm almost done :).

Jeana Oh, sorry. I'm just anxious to hear what you thought. =)

Rachel Oh my gosh Annalisa. Seriously, you should get top reviewer for this one. How do you do it???

Jeana Did you use up all the space, Annalisa?

message 6: by Annalisa (last edited Jan 14, 2009 03:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Actually, it looks like goodreads took off their 10,000 character limit. Woohoo! But I was still shy of the limit anyway. I have reviews that are longer :).

Cami I'm Rachel's friend, but I just wanted to tell you that I thought this was an incredible review that fits the epic novel it describes.
I really loved what you wrote here. You are completely right about how civil war history/racism is taught and you are also right about these characters.
Thanks for taking the time to write this!

Michelle Wonderful review, Annalisa. I especially liked the first sentence!

You're right about the longevity of these characters -- I read this book when I was 12 years old and they are still with me, even with my abysmal memory!

message 9: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy I've never read this, but definitely need to.

Traci Okay, I finally read it! And, wow, any lit professor would be proud ... First of all, I love your Scarlett/South analogy, and the disclaimer that the conflict was about the lifestyle, not slavery. I have such a love/hate relationship with the South, as with Scarlett! I love your take on the modern views of prejudice taught to our children - interesting perspectives people have when they've moved around a lot in their life! :) I just think I liked Rhett a little more than you did, and I feel his flaws came through more out of reacting to Scarlett, than would have if the two of them could have had better timing and less damage ... And though I hate Ashley, I feel he represents the lifestyle they all watched burn to the ground around them ... because he represents the weaknesses of the South, too flawed and outdated to survive ... have you watched the movie yet?! If not, come over one night and we'll have a movie night!

Annalisa Traci, I have actually watched the movie--many times growing up and twice since reading it. I actually do like Rhett, but I don't love him and so going on about what I don't like about it sounds like I don't like him. And I agree a lot of what I don't like about him is Scarlett bringing out the worst of him. I definitely like him more than Scarlett (but have to dislike him a little if he's perfect for her). Know what I mean?

Traci Maybe I really just like Clark Gable instead! :) someone at book club mentioned wanting to watch the movie, I can't remember who .... Anyway, I love your review! And I'm getting more invested in the poisonwood bible - it will be a good discussion!

Annalisa I love Poisonwood Bible. It makes a great discussion, once more about the South, eh? You know if you like my review, you could always vote for it...

message 14: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill My son has just moved, with his family to Georgia, and so I have been reading some books about Georgia to understand what his environment is like. Donette, a GR friend who lives in Georgia suggested I read some Ferrol Sams and I have read "Run with the horsemen" and got the second in the series. Then a pupil's mother lent me this to read, and back another 60 or so years I go. The juxtaposition is neat, my sense of the history of the area building up. Although I'm only a quarter way through GWTW I started reading reviews and was struck by the depth and thought in yours, Annalisa. Thank you!

message 15: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill The depth of your summary at the end of your review is remarkable.
I would only pick one hole in your review and that is that you say Rhett despised people with morals. That is so evidently incorrect: he most admires Melanie and Mammy who are truly moral and live by those morals. The people he despises are those who claim moral superiority, whilst openly or behind the scenes, practising hypocrisy.
Apart from this one point, your review shows deep thought about the implications and strands of the book.

message 16: by Annalisa (last edited Aug 11, 2009 10:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa M & G,
Thank you for your kind words. You are so right. I'll have to make an amendment. I actually like Rhett, which may not show in my review because there is also so much I dislike about him. He makes a fascinating character and the perfect match for Scarlett. I couldn't absolutely adore him and think him a good match for her.

message 17: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill Annalisa wrote: " I actually like Rhett, which may not show in my review because there is also so much I dislike about him. "

I do wish Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had been asked to do a remake of the film- the relationship between them was a perfect replica of Rhett and Scarlett's- can't live with you, can't live without you, and all the mutual destruction.

message 18: by Nisha (new)

Nisha wonderful review.

message 19: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana This is another all-time fave of mine. An excellent, very thoughtful review. Too many people these days tend to discount this novel because of the "racism" and "glamorizing" of the south...

message 20: by Annalisa (last edited Mar 24, 2010 03:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Tatiana,
The South (as you know) is a part of our history, but we want to gloss over it or only tell one side. This book would never get published today when it is so powerful.

Laurel This is an amazing review, Annalisa. You gave me a lot to think about. Thanks for taking the time to share your insightful thoughts!

Valerie Actually, in the book, Rhett only says, "My dear, I don't give a damn." When Clarke Gable did the movie, he added in the "Frankly."

message 23: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen Burke Annalisa, I just finished reading your review. I can tell you put a lot of effort into it. Nonetheless, I do want to make a couple of points. You mention that you like the way the book describes plantations that didn't abuse slaves and how the KKK came into existence as a means to protect women and children from a new regime in the South. First, the fact that people were owned like property is a form of abuse even if no additional abuses were visited upon them. Why? Because slavery is inherently abusive. To the extent the book tries to tell us that it wasn't and that black folks were better off being "cared for" by owners than being free, the book is racist. Second, the KKK was not, despite what the book tells us, started to protect women and children from dangerous out of control blacks. Rather, the KKK was started to prevent newly freed blacks from exercising the right to vote. In fact, the book tells us that white Northerners used the railroads to ship blacks around the state so they could vote over and over again. But that too is inaccurate. Historians agree that the problem was not that blacks voted too often, but that the KKK and other vigilante groups would terrorize blacks and prevent them from voting. Moreover, many Northerners were opposed to black voting rights because if the 4 million freed blacks were "counted" as part of the voting populations in the Southern states, the Southern states would have to have been given more seats in the Federal House of Representatives. Therefore, despite being freed, all types of voting restrictions were eventually imposed on blacks, including literacy requirements. These voting restrictions lasted until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Despite all this, I like this book because it is a character study about a tragically flawed seventeen year old girl who happens to be born on the losing side of a war she never cared about or chose. Thus, I like the book DESPITE its racism. What I'm ultimately getting at is that you state that people should "read it at least once in their life to appreciate the Civil War." I could not disagree with you more. The book is filled with historical inaccuracies about slavery and its effects. People should refer to historical works to learn about the Civil War. But, people should read this work of fiction at least once in their lives to learn about one of the great tragic figures in American literature.

message 24: by Annalisa (last edited Jun 23, 2010 04:52PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Jen,
Thanks for disagreeing with me in such polite fashion :). While, I agree that slavery is wrong, I think my reaction was more based on every other book I've read about or pre-Civil War where slavery owners are always cruel and beat their slaves. They are always two sides (usually more) to very event in history and sometimes I feel like we want to sweep this particular history under the rug and only talk about it through the spectacles of the winning side. Even if Mitchell had provided an accurate presentation of the struggle blacks faced in voting (thanks for all the information), this book would still not be publishable today because she didn't show the slave owners in the light we want to remember them by. No doubt the voting restrictions were the main target of the KKK, but I'm sure some of it was out of fear for the slaves rising up against their previous task masters. I didn't mean to imply that it was the only cause, only that I hadn't thought about it before as one of the reasons. I think the book shows a lot of the racism that used to prevail in the country, and not just in the South, but in the North who praised themselves as liberators (akin to how we like to see ourselves as the saviors of the Jews in WWII when we were just as guilty as anyone else in rejecting them into our borders) and shows a broader scoop of the Southern way of life they were trying to preserve that often gets lost in the discussion on slavery. I don't think it shows a complete picture of slavery, but it does show this narrow window of slaves who had been cared for and lived in these big, fancy houses and then left deserted when they should have been aided in the liberation. They got screwed on both ends. I wouldn't recommend this as the only book on slavery someone read, but included with the other ones we're all required to read in school at least. But I agree that the best thing about this book are the great tragic figures.

Michael Annalisa, this is a terrific review, and I applaud you for taking some controversial positions and not just saying things everyone will be comfortable with. That said, I don't quite get a couple of your points, possibly because I've never lived in the south.

"There are Southerners who still fly the Confederate flag proudly and it is disheartening to know that many relate the symbol with white supremacy because just like the war that was not what it was about. It's more about the lifestyle than the issue of slavery."

I am unable to think of anything but slavery when I see the confederate flag. What do you see it as representing? Is it the idea of relaxed gentlemen and ladies immersed in plantation life? It strikes me that it's easy to glorify a time that has passed, regardless of what it was really like. People also glorify the knights and ladies of the middle ages, and forget about the peasants that were covered in lice and rags in the background. And, with the mental associations the confederate flag has for many people, including black people who see it as an endorsement of slavery, I really don't get why people want to fly it.

Also, I'm confused about how you think we should approach the topic in the classroom. I know that, when I learned about slavery, we focused mostly on the lives of real slaves who fought against oppression like Harriet Tubman. I was in a mostly black class, but I thought Tubman was a pretty awesome role-model for anyone. Nothing was especially sugar-coated, but I remember getting the sense that slavery was bad. I didn't get the sense that, as a white male, I had done anything bad. And, I know that before I had any black friends, I DID have a little bit of prejudice from who-knows-where that immediately went away once I met some real live ones. So, to students who don't have the fortune to be in diverse classrooms, I think a frank discussion of what can happen when racism permeates a society is a very good thing. How do you think it should be approached?

message 26: by Annalisa (last edited Jul 09, 2010 10:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Michael,
Yes, it's the idolization of Southern gentility, against the viewpoint that because there was slavery all of it was bad. I've never lived in the South either (or flown a Confederate flag) but have had a few eye-opening lectures from Southern friends tired of people who only see that in their history explaining what the flag represent to them. I think they fly it in an effort to take back the image, to redefine what the rest of us see in it, because all we think about when we see the flag is slavery.

When I was taught slavery, I remember walking away with the sense that "Because you are white, you are racist, so be extra aware of the way you treat people," which doesn't make it better. True story: after my lesson on racism (I was 12), I went into the bathroom in the Miami airport and there were two black women standing against the wall. In my effort to show that I was not racist, I stood between them until one turned to be and told me it was a line. I was mortified. Before that, I would have walked in the bathroom, stood behind them, and not even noticed that they were black (of course I would have noticed, but I wouldn't have paid attention). I think that innocence in children of being color-blind is kind of sweet and it's a shame to destroy it. I honestly don't know what the answer is, but is there a way to teach children about racism as a history without making them feel part of it and responsible for it and all of a sudden self conscious of the way they treat people who are different from them?

I usually try to be diplomatic and stay out of controversial topics, but I pulled out on the stops on this one, didn't I?

message 27: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen Burke Annalisa,
No matter what your Southern friends say, it is the case that all of a way of life with slavery at its core is bad. That's because slavery is so wrong. Even if slave owners didn't "beat the slaves," TREATING PEOPLE LIKE PROPERTY IS BAD. It's dehumanizing. People cannot and should not be owned. To the extent people disagree, it simply tells me that they do not value freedom the way that I do. I can imagine no greater misery than being unfree. Even if I got to live in a big fancy house and people were nice to me, if I'm not free, I'm not going to be happy.

As for the lessons you learned about racism, I'm sorry your take away was that you needed to be "self conscious" with others. I think what people are hoping for instead is empathy. When you look at someone, you register things about them, including their race and gender. It cannot be ignored. But it's how that information influences your behavior towards someone else that matters. In your case, at 12, you wanted to prove you weren't racist so you stood between the two women. I think it was a noble sentiment. But we don't always figure out when and how to best put our ideas into action at that age. So you made a mistake at that moment. What people were hoping for was not that you would feel it necessary to prove you weren't racist, but that you wouldn't walk into the bathroom and feel threatened by the presence of people who were racially different than you simply because they were different. To the extent you believe you were already color-blind, perhaps you didn't need that particular lesson (although it's hard for me to believe that anyone is truly color-blind, I think we see our differences, just like we automatically see when someone is a man or a woman, it's just whether and how those differences matter). But the fact that you felt compelled to show your non-racism may have been a lesson that could have been used in a different situation. Like if a friend made a racist joke and you felt like you needed to say or do something to show you didn't approve. That would have been when deliberate anti-racist action was required. But again, we don't always figure out when and how to best put ideas into action at that age. But that doesn't mean the lessons you got were wrong. Maybe the lessons were right, and you were just a young girl struggling to figure out how to use them in the real world.

Lastly, I don't know if you "pulled out the stops" or not. It seems to me that people really enjoy this book. Heck, I enjoy this book. And when we like something, we sometimes make excuses for it. People don't want to think they like a racist book. So they try to justify and explain away the racism. I think that's silly. It is racist. But it's a work of art that tells us something about racism. At the very least, it tells us about some of the excuses people have made for racism. And that has value.

Annalisa Of course slavery is wrong. I think it's frustration that people's train of thought is: South=slavery=bad. Not everything about the South is bad. The whole plantation set up needed to die; if it wasn't the Civil War it would have died out another way, but Southerns can still hold onto some of the other ideals that the South represents without me automatically shrinking away from it because it ties into slavery.

My favorite Holocaust memoir is The Pianist, partly because it shows that not every Jew in the ghetto was kind and generous and not every Nazi soldier was cruel and racist. And it bothered me that Roman Polanski couldn't make a movie that gave a Nazi soldier any credit. The Germans are in the same boat: Germany=Nazi=Bad. But there's more to their history (even during those years) than that.

I like what you said about the book telling us something about racism. That I like the book doesn't mean I'm a proponent of slavery or want to defend racism. I just like that it shows a broader picture of history. Every other book I've read shows slaver owners who beat and rape their slaves, but that doesn't show the whole story. I still think the book shows how flawed the system is, but it added to the complexity of the story. I felt for the slaves. They had stability with the system and the unknown of freedom maybe scared them a little. They wanted freedom but were afraid of the price they had to pay for it. And maybe some of them loved the children they cared for and were confused by their emotions. Maybe there were Yankee soldiers who were just as racist and in some ways made the situation worse. It's a complex history and I like that the book shows the complexity, both good and bad in the Southern life and isn't PC in a South=Slavery=Bad way .In some ways, I sympathized with the plight of slaves and how there was no easy way out of it than I have from any other story from that time period I've read.

And about my racism lesson, I think I would have rather had the lesson a year or two later when I could have processed it better. And I wish it had been targeted more on an acceptance level than a be aware of race level. I'd say it was solely my experience (I was rather naive and shocked by the subject), but it seems this generation has moved from blatant racism to a self-consciousness about not being racist. I hope this next generation can move past it and figure out a way to teach our children to be accepting without being self conscious about it.

Michael Annalisa,
I understand where your southern friends were coming from, but as a symbol, I still think the confederate battle flag is probably not the best symbol to remind people of the south before the war. The flag was adopted during the civil war, and is a symbol that will thus forever be associated with the war, and the issues the war was fought over. Since it is a symbol specifically from the war years, this argument strikes me as similar to a German flying a Nazi flag as an expression of their German roots. There's of course nothing wrong with being proud of your background, but I think it is a flawed choice of symbols for anyone that doesn't want to make people think of slavery.

I can understand how someone very young could've come out of a discussion on the Civil War with some white guilt, and I can imagine many teachers approach the subject with too heavy-handed and/or preachy of a teaching method. I learned about slavery when I was 10, and in fourth grade, and had a much different experience, so I have to believe that we were taught in very different ways. That said, perhaps it's about HOW the subject is taught much more than how old the child is. I never felt guilty about my whiteness at the time.

During one of my few trips to the south, my younger cousins took me into some stores in rural Virginia with confederate flag shirts, many of which had racist messages on them. I still remember the one that made me the most angry: "If I'd known this was going to happen, I would've picked my own cotton." These cousins were all, at that time, very racist against black people, and dropped the N bomb casually without feeling like it was offensive. I don't think that children are without prejudice automatically; I firmly believe that your environment can make you prejudiced or prejudice-free.

Clearly, your environment wasn't one that encouraged prejudice, but I wonder who those cousins of mine would be now if they hadn't been taught about the Civil War at a young enough age for their views to still be malleable.

message 30: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen Burke First, lt me say that I've enjoyed this exchange and your willingness to share some personal feelings and experiences. The whole point of reading literature (I think) is to help us think about our place in the world.
But I will make one last (promise) point. I don't think you are pro-slavery or racist. But I worry when I read a comment like "[slaves:] had stability in the system and the unknown freedom maybe scared them a litle They wanted freedom but were afraid of the price they had to pay for it." And I worry because the idea that blacks may have preferred the "stability" of slavery flows right out of GWTW, a book written by a white nvelist about 60 years after the war ended. I believe that if you consult work compiled by historians about what freed blacks felt, you'll find that it wasn't unknown freedom that they feared, but that they feared what might happen to them if they exercised their freedom because racists and terrorists like the KKK would hurt and kill them. There was longhistory of lynch mob justice in the south after the war that was designed to keep blacks "in their place." I'm also not worried that our generation is "self conscious" about racism. Instead, I'm worried that our generation has so bought into the idea that there's "always another side to a story," such that we have lost our moral compass and the ability to say that something is just plain wrong. Smetimes there's a right side and a wrong side. And the "story" told by the wrong side is just an excuse for being in the wrong. Slavery is wrong. Nazisim is wrong. Even if your'e not a "nice" jew, you shouldn't get shipped to a concentration camp. That's not to say that there aren't individual acts of heroism, like a German who helped jews escape. Or a white person who helped blacks get to the underground railroad. But when faced with real wrongs, people have to take a stand and be part of the solution, or they're part of the problem. Margaret Mitchell is an artist. But to the extent she made excuses for slavery, and people buy into them, she may be part of the problem.

message 31: by Annalisa (last edited Aug 24, 2010 09:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annalisa Heather,
What I meant by that comment was just how difficult the process was. It's like when the Jews were liberated from concentration camps. Every day they hoped it would come, but once they're released they must have felt some apprehension about going back to no homes or family or money (and in many cases, neighbors who turned them in and were still prejudice again them). Yeah the price of freedom is always worth it, but the path to get there isn't easy and it saddens me that they're the ones that have to pay the price for it. And the fear of the KKK is included in what I meant (maybe fear isn't the right word for what I mean). To say that all slaves only feared one thing simplifies their emotions when I'm sure they encompassed many conflicting emotions. Even though the slaves stories weren't the focus of the book, I sympathized with them, getting hit on both sides from the South and the North, not sure how much to fight or when they were allowed to cut their loyalties, or what to do (about housing and work, etc) once they were liberated. There weren't any easy answers, which is part of the reason why slavery is so devastating.

I've been trying to think how I would feel about a book told from the perspective of a Nazi officer who bought into Hitler's propaganda and I can't imagine the story anything other than Mein Kempf. There are differences. The Nazis were out to kill all the Jews and conquer the world in a military state devoid of freedom, which is worse on both counts. I just can't see any redeeming qualities in the Nazi party where there are things about the South (and I say that in general, not specific to pre-Civil War) that are redeeming and they shouldn't all be thrown out because part of their past encompasses slavery (all our past encompassed slavery). I didn't get the impression that Mitchell was trying to sell us on slavery, just show us some of the type of people who had been slave owners and slaves and how the war devastated their society and the difficulties of rebuilding from a war of that magnitude. I don't know. Maybe I'm coming from the assumption that of course slavery is wrong and of course the South had to fall and of course Mitchell didn't believe in slavery. Since she is a good artist who showed us the story and never told us what to see or believe or what to take from the story, it's up to the reader to decipher the messages.

I'm glad you had a good experience with your study of racism and slavery. I've seen a few shows and things about black people feeling that race is always an undercurrent of the way white people treat them and had this discussion with a few other people abut the way they were taught. Thus my comment about it.
I don't even know what to say about your cousin's comments. It's like when I hear people that deny the Holocaust. What do you say to that? It's maddening.

message 32: by Susan (last edited Mar 09, 2011 08:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Susan Hi Annalisa, I found your review while I was part way through Gone with the Wind and decided that I wouldn't read it until I was finished. I am finished now and have just read your review.

It's a very good review and on most points I would agree, in fact I probably would agree with everything in here.

However I find that I want to see this book as an epic love story and not an epic about civil war as such (though of course it documents the civil war) but I wanted to see the story of Scarlett and Rhett and Ashley as a love story only. I wanted to see these characters and I have to say, I'm inclined only to see them as humans. People trying to survive in extreme circumstances. Perhaps each character is a reflection of the country/ area they grew up in, however I think that ultimately they are human and I feel like Mitchell describes them in human ways, I feel that she is honest to their circumstances, and how they react. Yes of course Scarlett is selfish but like Melanie says "she did what she thought she had to do" Whether what she thought was right or wrong in the grander scheme of things, she did what she felt was necessary for survival.

In terms of the love of Ashley, well she's scarred by the fact women aren't really taught and that she has been sheltered all her life and she's never been able to realize the cruelty of life in an environment that allows her to learn the "right" way of dealing with various circumstances. So she is unintelligent and slow to work things out. I think also she truly believed she loved Ashley, and I think she wanted him not for bitchy reasons but instead because she honestly thought he would make her happy, though it took her (too) long to work out that he wasn't what she needed, that she got swept up in his dream world. (I know how this feels personally, you make up who someone is and love them based only on this, and it takes something extreme to realize that what they are is a dream, not a reality.)

I also do not believe Rhett that only wanted Scarlett because she was unobtainable (maybe originally, possibly, possibly...) but because he really loved her, Unfortunately fate always meant that he was away in the moments he could have had her earlier, he had to keep going with life, he can't sit around and let life walk all over him for the chance of love.

I also think that there are some key moments in this book which make suggestions to the humility of these characters, and the truth of the life Mitchell chose to give them; Rhett tells Scarlett that it looks like "we've been at cross purposes, doesn't it?" and I think that a lot of what happens in this book is Mitchell sneering at how unfortunate life actually is, dreams are great and in your dreams and in your plans things work out perfectly, but in reality nothing falls at the right time, something stops you from acting how you would like to, other people have thoughts and feelings and they affect your life. Ultimately your own life is not up to you or in your control. I think this is where Mitchell was going more than to just document and reflect the civil war. She talks about life, she talks about love and she's true to both, for ALL generations, not just for ones wanting to know about the civil war, though people wanting that will certainly get something out of it too. This is the reason this book has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. Because it is written in a way which documents a phenomenon and facts that are universal, although written through an event which is very specific.

Hmmm.... That's just how I feel. I feel very much for Scarlett and for Rhett, I truly understand what Mitchell was getting at with her gorgeous gorgeous characters. And I'm so thankful for her writing this book. Truly truly the greatest book of all time.

Annalisa Susan,
I completely agree with your assessment of Scarlett. I too think she truly believed she loved Ashley and twisted things in her mind to be what she wanted. I think every girl does that :). I know Rhett loved Scarlett. If he didn't, it wouldn't have hurt him so much to lose her. There's so much complexity to him and his relationship with Scarlett. I've had friends tell me my review sounds like I don't like him, but I do, the scoundrel :). And really, there is nobody else out there for Scarlett but Rhett. They are both such fantastically developed, larger-than-life characters.

I didn't mean to imply in my review that the story is only about the civil war and not a love story. More like, it's not only a love story but a story about the civil war too. It's so multi-faceted and so real and powerful and that's what makes it such an epic story.

Susan Annalisa wrote: "Susan,
I completely agree with your assessment of Scarlett. I too think she truly believed she loved Ashley and twisted things in her mind to be what she wanted. I think every girl does that :). I ..."

I agree!

In terms of the ending of this book "tomorrow is another day" I think Scarlett gets Rhett back. Or at least I think that Mitchell leaves this open, but Scarlett really hasn't ever failed before, not even with Ashley, she Always gets her way in the end. What do you reckon...?

Annalisa That ending kind of wants to make you throw the book across the room, doesn't it? :). I haven't read the sequel, mostly since it wasn't written by Mitchell anyway, but I like to think that at least Scarlett tried. She still had some spirit and fight in her left (which I can go on and relate to the South again). I just don't think those two belong anywhere but with each other.

Susan Annalisa wrote: "That ending kind of wants to make you throw the book across the room, doesn't it? :). I haven't read the sequel, mostly since it wasn't written by Mitchell anyway, but I like to think that at least..."

Me Neither. They're so good together. I liked the ending, though I thought that was such a corny line to finish with, maybe it wasn't when she wrote the book though.

Annalisa I can't remember the last line right now. It probably was corny. I mean about Rhett leaving Scarlett and you getting no resolution from them. It's why the sequels were written. I personally like open-ended stories and not happy endings so I don't need to hear that they patched everything up for me to believe there was hope. But I did have my moment of exasperation with them for being so stubborn. I really love this story. I watched it all the time growing up, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I read the book. It did not disappoint in sucking me in.

Susan The movie was beautiful! I watched it the day after I finished the book.

message 39: by M (new) - added it

M A Hmmm...I'm not sure you caught the substance of what the Old South (or even the New South) actually is. The South was/is neither "lazy" nor lacking in intellect. I would advise a bit more research beyond a period romance novel so you might have better understanding. The country's first girls' school (for whites, minorities, and slaves) and the country's first opera house opened in the Deep South. Accepting Scarlett O'Hara as an allegory of the Old South proves you missed the novel's point. Scarlett is NOT "Old South." She knew it and so did most of her peers.

Susan M wrote: "Hmmm...I'm not sure you caught the substance of what the Old South (or even the New South) actually is. The South was/is neither "lazy" nor lacking in intellect. I would advise a bit more researc..."

But then I guess how can you know what a fictional character "knew"....

message 41: by M (last edited Mar 20, 2011 02:48PM) (new) - added it

M A Susan wrote: "But then I guess how can you know what a fictional character "knew"....

I found out by reading the novel:

1) Scarlett is dismayed by her realization during a war effort social function that she doesn't share the patriotism and devotion to the Confederate cause as her family, friends, and neighbors do.

2) Scarlett constantly desires to emulate her mother, an elegant, aristocratic Creole lady who fits to a T the stereotype of the Southern "belle ideal." It frustrates her NOT that she is unlike Ellen O'Hara, but that she cannot be perceived as being like Ellen. This may also indicate feelings of inferiority based upon her father's lower social status in terms of "family connection" (Gerald is of Irish peasant stock and has relatives in trade/merchant profession.)

3) India Wilkes coldly reminds Scarlett: "I do hate you, but it's not hypocrisy that's kept me quiet. It's something you can't understand not possessing any -- common courtesy, common good breeding ... Yankees don't know you aren't one of us and never have been. Yankees haven't enough sense to know you haven't any gentility ... " (Chapter 45)

4) Note that the Wilkeses and their cousins, Ellen O'Hara's family, and other Southern characters in the book tend to be well-read, educated, and value intellectual enrichment. It is only Gerald O'Hara and Scarlett (not "real members of the club") who turn their noses up at reading, study, and intellectual enrichment. Scarlett even refuses to send her son to Harvard, the university from which his father (Charles Hamilton, Scarlett's first husband) graduated. Even Rhett, the "black sheep" of a fine, Southern family, is clearly educated and intellectually astute.

5) Mammy, angry, disappointed, and outraged at Scarlett's unconventional conduct and amoral behavior, reproaches her, calling her "nothing more than a mule in a horse's harness."

For better understanding of the culture to which a young, Southern woman of the plantation class would have born, a great primary source is Sarah Morgan Dawson's diary. Other good sources are "The Confederate Belle" by Giselle Roberts and "Scarlett's Sisters: Young Women in the Old South" by Anya Jabour

Susan Yes I got all of these points of the book, and personally I found Scarlett to be let down several times by her lack of intellect she only ever managed to grasp at the last moments what was meant by comments from the people she claimed to love and originally thought she understood.
I know Scarlett saw herself as different than the old south and I personally see her as a prelude to feminism of some description (though I'm sure I know nothing about feminism either, just that it produce women with strong minds and strong wills) she certainly was before her time. I know Scarlett is disappointed she can not be like her mother, because it says that so many times throughout the book (yes you're right), but through the book she goes on a journey of "I wish I was like Ellen", to "screw all that I was taught by ellen", who needs it now?", to "That's all I wanted and I let it slip away so easily" (perhaps not ALL she wanted, but that she tried so hard to be like her, I think it says something like this towards the end of the book).
Is Scarlett really dismayed she doesn't feel the same patriotism? I thought she was bored by the whole thing. I didn't know she actually WANTED to care about the war but somehow just didn't. I think she acknowledges she doesn't care about war efforts, but doesn't feel hugely perplexed by it.
India Wilkes is a bitch..... Hahahaha.... No but really I think she just speaks what everyone thinks and perhaps Scarlett refuses to admit. But like I say Scarlett has done what she believes to be required of her for survival, and as such has let down her breeding, although you're right in the start she just tried so so hard to Pretend to be old south in her breeding. Maybe if things hadn't gone the way they had with the war etc then she would have magically turned into an old south kinda gal.
In terms of the "old south" being stupid or lacking in anyway, I very much think that they have an intellect about them for sure! But I think what Annalisa was getting at (and perhaps didn't state it very well) is that the old south had a way that everyone knew and was accustomed to which because it wasn't difficult to understand, or that everyone did just understand, seemed more backwards less forwards than new south in that they were actively seeking change everyday in almost everything they did..... (possibly... I'm not so sure exactly because I do not think Scarlett represents either old or new south. I see her as a character dealing with a situation that Marshall put her in.)
At some point I think books need to be seen as books, even non-fiction history books are not necessarily true or factual, it's what someone has found to be true and believes to be true at that moment.
I think Gone with the wind is a wonderful wonderful story and one to be held as a story. I don't really understand, nor have I ever understood why people feel the need to understand a book as more than the story it is. Sure you can go 'look, that character's motives were this or that or whatever' but I think that often it is wrong to layer something onto a story which quite potentially isn't there. Did Margaret Mitchell intend for Scarlett to be seen as somewhere between old world and new world but neither residing in either... possibly. Or maybe she just wrote a story that she felt gave some insight into the stories of war that she was told..... I dunno, go ask Margaret Mitchell.

message 43: by M (new) - added it

M A Susan wrote: "Yes I got all of these points of the book, and personally I found Scarlett to be let down several times by her lack of intellect she only ever managed to grasp at the last moments what was meant by..."

You are certainly free to question the validity of non-fiction books, including primary resources such as diaries, letters, official documents, photographs, and other evidence, if you wish. It's always a good idea to question what one thinks one knows or doesn't know.

I'm not going to address your comment further because I feel it's gotten a bit too involved and drifted off-topic. I maintain Annalisa's viewpoint of the South as "lazy" and somehow lacking intellectual consciousness is an ignorant, generalized opinion not particularly respectful to Southerners or supported by historical facts.

By no means is it my intent to offend Annalisa. I don't know her, but I can tell she passionately loved "Gone With the Wind" and really cares about the book and the subject. She does appear to lack actual knowledge of the region and the culture she dismisses as lazy and intellectually inferior, however.

Anyway, have a nice day. : )

Annalisa M,
I didn't mean to imply that Southern people are lazy. I meant it to describe the old lifestyle, which even then may not be the ideal word choice but it is the first word that came to mind when thinking of wraparound porches and hot afternoons. I meant it to differentiate between fast-paced city life and the more social-oriented life of the country, not the level of work people do. I find Southern gentility quite charming and wish more people would adhere to its propriety.

I also didn't mean to imply that Southern people aren't intellectual. I lived in Texas and always hated when sitcoms used a strong Texas accent on a dimwitted character there for laughs. I'm not sure if you're getting that from my comment about the intellectual North or the fact that Scarlett isn't the most intelligent of characters. I think the Northeast as a culture values intellectualism more than any other region in the US, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are intellectually inferior. The North's fear of Robert E. Lee brilliant strategies is proof of the South's intelligence.

No analogy is perfect. While Scarlett isn't intelligent, I don't think that was part of what makes her the embodiment of the South. As you pointed out, many of the other characters in the book showed the value of intelligence to their way of life. What I was paralleling between Scarlett and the South is her fierce spirit, her pride, her ability to grow out of destruction without losing herself.

message 45: by Hela_79 (new) - added it

Hela_79 “If you visit the South today, you can see that all these generations later the wounds of the war and the regret at losing the way of life are still fresh.”


Let me start off by saying that your review is very well written, thorough, and thought provoking. Your passion for the novel is evident.

However, being a born and raised Alabama girl, I find your statement above to be blatantly offensive and, I’m sorry to say, ignorant. If I read correctly in the comments above, you stated you have never lived in or visited the South. I would like to hear what evidence you have to support such an outlandish statement.

Also, I think it’s important to remember that being Southern at that point in history did not equate to being a plantation owner. Apart from the Rhett and Scarlett romance, this novel is a telling of the effects of the war on white individuals who lived the “lazy” plantation life by enslaving others, not on those individuals and poor families who worked their own land, on whom the immediate effects of the war were no doubt the most devastating. As a conjecture, I think the current generation of those non-plantation dwelling individuals who survived the war do not “regret losing the way of life.”

Britney While you wrote a lovely review, I must point out that the word frankly is not used in the book. It was only said in the movie.

Jamie This is a great review! Would you mind me copying the first paragraph with all credit to you in my groups discussion of Gone with the Wind. The group is The 1700-1939 book club!. This review gave me a lot of discussion questions to ask!

Jamie Also, wasn't slavery used as the emotional reason for the war (Ending slavery would be a good enough reason for me) when it really was about states being able to make their own laws?

Paris Jamie, think about it this way--Which laws were the Southern states concerned about? Which laws did they want to make sure they had control over? Right, the laws that allowed them to retain slaves. So in actuality, slavery was one-hundred percent the reason for the war. Claims that slavery was an "emotional" reason for war are a means of attempting to disguise the truth and trying to attribute more noble-sounding explanations to racism and greed.

Jamie True, I would say slavery was the main reason for the war. But the south did feel that the government was more pro-north and they may have felt like they had no say in other types of laws, excluding slavery. In no way would slavery being the emotional reason be a disguise explaining racism and greed. Most wars have political undertones and are emotional. I was truly just asking because other than what I have learned in school I was unsure.

This book shows how ignorant Southerners were to think their slaves were below them and needed to be treated like children. But it also shows the Northerners as somewhat ignorant by not trusting the newly free blacks with their children when Southerners raised by them felt them to be family. (Although there were many different treatments slaves encountered; decent and horrific) I do wish the book would have acknowledge the bad in slavery.

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