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Gone with the Wind
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ARCHIVE 2016 > Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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message 1: by ZaraS (new)

ZaraS  *book reviewer | 2365 comments This thread is to discuss Margaret Mitchell's book, Gone with the Wind.


***Please remember to mark spoilers.***

Participants:
Winter, Sinead, Alison, Ariel, Lindsay


message 2: by ZaraS (new)

ZaraS  *book reviewer | 2365 comments Suggested break down of reading so that you can check in and let us know how you're going. The following breakdown is purely a suggestion and is therefore not set in stone.

Rather than putting dates for each section I've done it so that it takes into account that not everybody will necessarily have the book at the same time.


Week 1: 86.42 pages
Week 2: 86.42 pages
Week 3: 86.42 pages
Week 4: 86.42 pages
Week 5: 86.42 pages
Week 6: 86.42 pages
Week 7: 86.42 pages
Week 8: 86.42 pages
Week 9: 86.42 pages
Week 10: 86.42 pages
Week 11: 86.42 pages
Week 12: 86.42 pages



message 3: by Alison (new) - added it

Alison G. (agriff22) | 1083 comments Hey giys I'm still really backed up with War and Peace. I'll start reading this when I get closer to being done with it.


message 4: by Cassandra (new) - added it

Cassandra | 5832 comments I moved this into August for you. Happy reading!


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments Glad this was moved to August because it completely slipped my mind. Can't wait to read/discuss!


Lindsay | 1327 comments I'm only 10% through this. I think it's going to be quite a long haul.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I started last night. Definitely agree with that sentiment, Lindsay. It has me interested though.


Lindsay | 1327 comments I've got to the end of part one. That takes me to 14% and apparently I have 15 hours and 47 minutes to go. That doesn't sound horrendous. I'm not disliking it so far but it hasn't got me hooked in yet. If I read a chapter a day I will finish on the 3rd of October!


message 9: by Ariel (last edited Aug 31, 2016 09:00PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments So, I fail at spreading longer books out. I knew this but figured I'd give it a go. Whoops.

I read GWtW from the 8th to the 16th but I'm certainly happy to discuss it still. I've been postponing writing a review even though I ended up talking about the book in the comments with a GR friend. I just wanted to sit with the book because there's a lot to it.

It did eventually pull me in, action-wise. Though I stepped away from it several times. I also picked up the sequel because I spotted it at a library bag sale but I doubt I'll read it any time soon; I would just end up comparing every little bit to the original and I'd rather be able to enjoy a different author's take on the future of Tara and Scarlet.

For Part I (view spoiler)


Tytti | 58 comments Well Mitchell wrote GWTW at a time when USA was a very much a racially segregated country by law, so it's hardly surprising that it may not appeal to modern "sensibilities". Also it isn't a book about slavery, it's a book mainly about Scarlett and "the Old South" from her perspective and that of the white people in general.


message 11: by Ariel (last edited Sep 01, 2016 04:47PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments True, the US was still segregated in the 1930's and improvements were excruciatingly few. I come from a town (in Georgia) that didn't allow black students in its favored high school until the 70's so I get where the southern mindset was, often still is, and it is always disturbing to realize the staying power of all that hate and ignorance. But, to me, a book about the south during the Civil War (during and post) is a book about slavery. GWtW is billed as a sweeping southern epic; in this first part, as in others, I feel Mitchell narrowed that sweep drastically by having the narrating voice (since it is largely omnipotent rather than first person specific throughout) participate in romanticizing slavery and sexism.

Sure, a lot of this is Scarlett's perspective but we still get plenty of material from various characters. Mitchell had no problem giving us a larger view of sexism as the book progresses - both firsthand through Scarlett and Melanie and secondhand through many female supporting characters. Yet every slave is a caricature/ stereotype.

I like Mitchell's often tongue-in-cheek treatment of sexism, it made the book more interesting for me eventually. I just wish she had cast a similar eye on racism & slavery. The south (the nation, really) was rife with contradiction in every area - things were imploding during the CW. If she could include that contradiction in some areas, it would have been wonderful to see how she could have included it in all.

Scarlett, and many characters like her, might have held the predominant view of Mitchell's narration, but I don't believe that white people in general were ignorant of what slavery really was. Later in the book (at the end) (view spoiler) Seeing the development of this instead of it being shunted aside would have been very interesting and added a missing dynamic to the narration. And, even if the time period portrayed doesn't mean the book is about slavery, conversations like this and comments made about the nature of slaves make the book about slavery. Just like a book that was centered around WWII, in Germany, and that made similar comments about Jewish people (and/or other groups that were put in camps & otherwise killed) would be about the Holocaust.

That might just be my perspective and simply what I responded to though. I couldn't get wrapped up in the romance of the book even though I liked how unflinching Mitchell was with Scarlett and Rhett. The era and area was what really stuck for me/kept me going and, since it's so easy to see that Mitchell had talent, I just would love to have seen what she might have done with a broader voice.


Tytti | 58 comments But Mitchell herself didn't write it to be about the slavery, that was just the background. And that kind of attitude felt real from that point of view because they had just lost their world. If it had been too judgmental it probably wouldn't have felt realistic, or like she wanted to make a point. And not even in WWII was all about the Holocaust, at our front German and Jewish soldiers fought side-by-side against the common enemy and Germans even had to salute the Jewish officers who outranked them.


message 13: by April (last edited Sep 01, 2016 06:13PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

April Rowland | 32 comments While reading GWTW, I keep in mind that times were different back then. What we, today, see as sexiest and morally wrong, was viewed as normal. It does not mean that we, as the reader, condone how things were, just that we are willing to be educated and change what was.
I will admit that I didn't think I would like the book much. Scarlett is completely opposite of how I am and I have very low tolerance for anyone with her attitude, but as the book progresses, I find that I have a harder time stepping away from it or putting it down to go to sleep.
I am intrigued to see how Scarlett moves forward and how she handles what life throws at her.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I'm of a different opinion; I do think that the romance between Scarlett and Rhett, the lives of those that connect with Tara/Scarlett are the forerunners of the novel. Mitchell says as much in the the interviews and letters I've read. But she does also say that she wanted to write about the war and its causes and effects on these people as well as on Georgia and Georgians.

I'm not saying I wanted Mitchell to condemn slavery in GWtW, I think that is what you think I meant. Sorry for not communicating this better. I understand the views she puts forth, I understand they were historically accurate. I think she could have done more in this one area than she did, especially considering her handling of sexism. She manages to present a full picture of sexism without judgement. She does not present a full picture of slavery, with or without judgement. That's fine, of course. I, personally, would have been more involved in the book had a fuller picture been there. It's just a preference.

She includes the statement of Ashley's that I quoted above; if she had included some backstory to Ashley feeling that way, it would certainly not have made the book unrealistic. I would say it would have done the opposite - as that fits in with what was happening. A whole cast of characters, including only stereotypical slaves without much nuance, that all believe in one particular thing didn't feel realistic to me.

True, WWII was not just about the Holocaust. I said that a book about WWII that was set in Germany (as well as other settings of course, this was just an example) and that made similar comments about Jewish people and others as Mitchell's omnipotent narration from character to character makes about slaves - that would be a book about the Holocaust. Mitchell stated that her book was about Georgians, particularly North Georgians, and the south during & after the CW. A part of the south, of the life of all that lived there during this time, and a huge part of the CW was slavery - this book includes a lot on the perspective of these characters on slaves and slavery. Slavery definitely is a topic, it's not just about a chaotic romance or just about Atlanta, etc.

I do get your point about WWII but I think we're just talking about different things. Those soldiers were fighting a war because of many things, including the Holocaust. Sure, the Holocaust would be background information in a novel about two of those soldiers but it would still be a topic. Maybe the Holocaust is never mentioned but it's still a presence, a cause and effect. However, in GWtW, slavery is mentioned, repeatedly. So that's a little different.

So it's not so much that I wish she had changed everything and not represented the attitudes she chose to portray - that's not it at all actually. I just would have been more interested if things like Ashley's statement had been worked with more and we had a fuller picture of some characters and the south (at least Georgia) as a whole. For example, we hear both the public voice and inner monologue of everyone from Scarlett to Rhett to Melanie, etc. but we only hear the public voice of Mammy, Pork, Prissy, Uncle Peter, etc. Including more from these latter characters wouldn't have jeopardized the realness of the book in my opinion. I understand Mammy (for example) wasn't a main character from Mitchell's perspective - I just would have been more interested had she been. And GWtW would have been a better portrayal of the south in this era had we heard that perspective.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I agree, it's good to keep the difference in eras in mind when reading GWtW and learn from the past.

I may have wanted more from the book or more from Mitchell but I had the same experience, I didn't like Scarlett or identify with her but I wanted to know what would happen next and how she'd deal with it. I felt the same with Rhett.


Tytti | 58 comments She was a white woman writing in the 1930's. She could write white characters convincingly but I wouldn't be so sure if she could have written black characters. Actually I prefer that she didn't even try because it is annoying when someone tries to do and gets it wrong, and that happens often.

What I am trying to say that slavery wasn't an issue for them, that it was just a fact of life for them until it was gone. I didn't really need any reasons for Ashley to think so, I could figure out his stance myself. Also the book was quite long enough without anything extra.

For me the novel was a survival story, and I could relate to Scarlett very well, probably because she reminded me of our women who first had hold up the homefront in a total war against a massive enemy, and after the lost war helped to rebuild the country with men many of whom had been traumatised by the war. (And I am not sure if the Holocaust is a good or a bad example but it wasn't a cause or really even a presence here, either. Stalin was big enough a threat to deal with already, after all he had been sending people to forced labour camps a lot longer than Hitler.)


April Rowland | 32 comments I have to agree with you, Tytti, on relating to Scarlett in the fact that she had to assert her independence and do what needed to be done for her family and herself. I couldn't imagine living during that time and facing what she had to face.
When I mentioned that I couldn't relate to her was more of her personality. She comes off to me as a shrill, "stamp my foot when I don't get my way" type of person and that is the part that I have a hard time with.
I would have to agree, as well, that I do not feel that Ashley's reasons needed to be explored. I made an impression of him quite early in the book and he has not changed those impressions, at least not to the point I am at at this time.


message 18: by Tytti (last edited Sep 01, 2016 08:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tytti | 58 comments April wrote: "When I mentioned that I couldn't relate to her was more of her personality. She comes off to me as a shrill, "stamp my foot when I don't get my way" type of person"

But that's the kind of people that survive, people who are stubborn, you need that kind of a spirit. (And we really didn't have much more than that "stamping my foot" stubborness in a way. ) And it's not like Scarlett actually treated people that badly, most of the time, (view spoiler). She may have thought badly of them but had to behave like a lady, more or less. She was (view spoiler) but sometimes you have to be, and for men it's accepted.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I certainly agree that an author should not presume to capture an experience that they are unable of capturing. Whether through a lack of experience, maturity, or ability. But Mitchell already does this by writing her black characters as slave stereotypes. We have enough modern writers who only write other races and experiences as stereotypes, so obviously what time the author is writing in has relatively nothing to do with talent. My frustration was that Mitchell employed a talent that was quite enjoyable and had a lot of depth in many areas of GWtW but she did so for only certain characters and only certain issues.

Yes, Mitchell was a white woman in the 1930's. She was also a white woman who refused to sit in the same college class as a black woman at Smith. Later on in her life she was a white woman that got pissed off that the actors in GWtW would be segregated during the initial viewing of the movie. I'm not really touching on her contradictions or beliefs as a person so all of this is moot. My focus is on what I see as her talent in characterization and how that lacks in some areas and, because of this, makes the book less enjoyable for me because it limits the narration.

I'll have to disagree with you about slavery not being an issue for southerners pre CW and pre Reconstruction. Sure, it was a way of life and a girl as pompous and self-centered as Scarlett would not have cared either way about anyone's struggle, much less a slave's, but there were always debates about slaves and new legislation being passed. The CW was in the making for ages. The Abolitionist Movement, the Missouri Compromise, the Dred Scott case (in the 50's I believe), secession propaganda, etc. all of it was daily fodder. Plus, Uncle Tom's Cabin had come out and is mentioned in GWtW. Even Scarlett is aware of it. So slavery was a huge issue for a long time before the CW.

I could figure Ashley's stance out, he states it as plain as possible. I just wanted to see more of it. Part of what makes GWtW decent is Mitchell's use of contradiction, I would have been very interested in seeing this arc developed. Haha, well, I'm not sure a couple lines from Ashley or another scene would have made much difference in the length. I'd always thought book was much longer actually until I checked it out.

I agree that it was a survival story. I don't think people need to be like Scarlett to survive. I think most of her personality was pretty atrocious and petty. It's not like I was scandalized by her actions like one of the fainting society ladies, I did like that she was stubborn & could often realize how idiotic some social nicety was. But it's not like she realized this idiocy and sought to change it - she just got bratty when something stood in her way and, once she got the approval of a man, she was willing to start going after things she wanted more publicly. She was so emotionally dense and immature, it grated. But she is a well written character at least.

I think there's a difference between being ruthless in business and letting workers (view spoiler)so you can keep moving forward. Sure, ruthlessness is often accepted, even respected, in men. Doesn't mean it should be. If Ashley had decided (view spoiler) Sometimes the decision to be ruthless is the same thing as deciding to be weak. And I like that, again it's that pull of contradictions - it made things interesting.


message 20: by Tytti (last edited Sep 01, 2016 11:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tytti | 58 comments But I don't actually expect the characters to be perfect or "do the right thing", they are so boring. I much prefer characters who have faults. My point is that there are always different ways of surviving and Scarlett, for all her faults, (view spoiler).

Also when it comes to slavery, the reason why I don't think it's much of an issue is because the book starts in April 1861 and the slavery lasts only about two years after that and all that time there is a war on and the sons of the plantation owners are fighting and dying there, they had already chosen their side. That's what everyone is concentrated on, they can talk about slavery after they have first won the war. It's a minor issue at the moment especially if people are starting to suffer from shortages.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I get that; it's just not what I'm talking about really. I didn't want perfect characters or even a massive change to the book. I just wanted the author to grant more depth to certain characters, regardless of what that depth would have uncovered. They might have been atrocious characters or flawed by anger or whatever else, at least they wouldn't have been stereotypes. That's what annoys me and feels weak throughout the book. It probably wouldn't feel as noticeable if so much depth wasn't delved into with other characters/the talent wasn't there in other places.

Slavery didn't legally end until 1865 when the amendment was ratified. Debt peonage for a vast majority of southern states was still a viable practice until the 1940s however. Reconstruction definitely provided new opportunities for slaves but they were largely still considered, if not owned slaves, less than human. Many people switched sides pre, during, and post CW. People like Rhett, people like Ashley and every other kind of person in between. For most it was about personal interest but the reasons that slavery was so pervasive were prevalent for generations, even post CW. So regardless of the Proclamation and the 'idea' of freeing slaves, it was a much more convoluted and lasting issue and all that contradiction/convolution made it a massive issue for years before and after the CW. I do think Mitchell covers bits and pieces of this in small asides or with Scarlett's business practices. When people started to suffer from shortages, they were also dealing with a myriad of other things. Such as what the punishment should be for runaway slaves that went to fight for the north or just wanted to escape the south when they saw an opportunity and hundreds of other things. As things get worse and worse, Scarlett still (view spoiler)But the war didn't stop that propaganda or the underlying reasons for slavery past self interest, neither did reconstruction.


Tytti | 58 comments Ariel wrote: "Debt peonage for a vast majority of southern states was still a viable practice until the 1940s however. Reconstruction definitely provided new opportunities for slaves but they were largely still considered, if not owned slaves, less than human."

But that's kind of my point that she was living that era and wrote to people who also knew this, after all she was born only 35 years after the war. It seems that her grandparents were inspirations to the character of Scarlett. She probably knew the people she wrote about, she had heard the stories. But I wouldn't be so sure she knew (former) slaves or even their descendents that well. There's also often a difference between reading a story set in another culture than your own when the author is also from that culture and an author who doesn't share the culture and/or is writing to a "foreign" audience. Authors tend to skip the stuff that is already known.

I just don't really see why she would have written about the slaves or slavery when even the government and the president of USA were more or less racist. Her mother was a suffragist so obviously she cared about women's rights. But Jesse Owens wasn't snubbed by Hitler, he was snubbed by Roosevelt. I also remember reading one black male athlete saying that the first time they were treated as people was in the 1952 Olympics and how surprised they were to see a white woman cleaning their rooms. So I can understand why she didn't concentrate on slavery or slaves that much because they were only important if they had any effect on Scarlett and her life.


message 23: by Ariel (last edited Sep 02, 2016 04:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I don't think you need to know a specific person to write a character. I haven't seen an interview or letter where she mentions about her grandparents being an inspiration for Scarlett in particular but that's interesting. I've just read interviews/letters where she talks about being a child and listening to stories about the war to the extent where she wasn't aware the south had lost the war et. al. I haven't come across many authors that I've enjoyed that skip things on the basis that their audience probably knows them already. Not in relation to character study anyways. Sure, I don't need a whole history of the CW to enjoy a book about the CW - I do want realistic characters though, not stereotypes. If Mitchell could characterize Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, Ashley, et. al. she could do the same for Mammy, Prissy, Pork, Uncle Peter, etc.

She does write about slaves. She does write about slavery. It's a huge part of the book. Each white character makes statements or has a thought, however small, about slaves in general or a slave in particular, about the war, & about their personal circumstances. The only characters (who are consistently present throughout the book) who do not have similar inner monologues, who Mitchell does not grant the same depth to, are her black characters. I don't really care about 'well that's just how things were' racism-wise in the US, I think Mitchell had talent but failed to use it in certain areas. Areas that would have made the book more realistic and interesting to me.

That's how things were for a lot of classic authors, even some of my favorite authors. But if I read a book (by a favorite author or someone new to me) and dislike how stereotypical a character was (or, in the case of GWtW a whole group of characters), that's a problem with their writing - not a problem with their era or the era they are writing about.

Yes, her mother was a suffragist - that doesn't mean Mitchell automatically cared about women's rights or that a view of the era's sexism would be included in GWtW. Whether Mitchell was a feminist or not, whether she was racist or not, that's another issue entirely from the particular issue of whether GWtW was interesting to me, had faults that I didn't enjoy, could have offered up more complex characters if she hadn't limited her narrative scope.

The majority of the world is rife with prejudice right now; talented writers all over the place still manage to write complex characters that don't hinge on stereotypes. Plus, I don't think the flatness of Ashley's character arc/philosophy is a result of the US or Mitchell being racist. He's a white character who makes a quick statement that would have been more interesting if there was more to it. But that's just my perspective, he might be a grand character (in this moment and in the rest of the book) to others and that's cool by me.


Tytti | 58 comments Ariel wrote: "I haven't seen an interview or letter where she mentions about her grandparents being an inspiration for Scarlett in particular but that's interesting."

I don't think the similarities between them and Scarlett and her family are coincidences but who knows. (I can also relate to her about not knowing that the South had lost. Though we like to say that we came second, it could have been a lot worse.)

And when it comes to authors "skipping" things, it's probably not a conscious decision but if you are writing about your own culture to your own people, you and the people you are writing to do take things for granted. Sometimes this makes novels difficult to translate because a native can understand from one word what the author is talking about but it would require a lot of information and historical background to explain the same to a foreigner.

(If we go back to WWII, I can give Unknown Soldiers as an example. It's almost untranslatable because of the dialects and references which mean nothing to a foreign reader. It also won't explain what is going on in the war elsewhere or all the political stuff that happens at the same time or had happened before the war. It's simply not needed because everyone knows the background already, they had lived it, and also the cultural stereotypes associated to the dialects.)

The problem is that she wrote this 80 years ago, not today. You may think of it as a fault but I can understand why she wrote it like that and don't really think it's that surprising. And yes, some people can write complex characters but at least as many just think they can, and even their readers might think they have succeeded, but the people they have written about won't think so.


message 25: by Ariel (last edited Sep 02, 2016 05:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments Oh, I thought you meant that you'd read her saying that Scarlett was based on her grandparents in a particular interview. I didn't read that right. I do wish there were more interviews available, I think it would be very interesting to read more about her process and stories from when she was younger.

Hm, I get that, yeah. I'm just of the opinion that writing for a particular audience limits narrative power. While Mitchell may not have ever called GWtW a southern epic, it's been perceived and published as such. She could never have controlled this so I don't have a problem with that; I just wanted more from it. I like your comparison of translation but my point is more about talent vs. content. An expression may not translate as easily to a foreign or future audience but the depth (or lack of) of a character is an important part of a book that isn't contingent on its readership. It's fully in the hands of the author and the author's skill.

I haven't read Unknown Soldiers so I can't attest to the author's skill or portrayal of characters. I understand your point, you're just coming from a slightly different place than I am.

I don't find her lack of exploration in areas surprising - it just made the book dull at points for me and I wished for more. I think it's fine to like parts of a book and not enjoy others. Age of the work doesn't quite matter. I understand her use of stereotypes, I just didn't enjoy it and felt she could have done better based on other parts of the novel.


message 26: by Tytti (last edited Sep 02, 2016 06:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tytti | 58 comments Ariel wrote: " I'm just of the opinion that writing for a particular audience limits narrative power."

Actually that would be the opposite. If the author explains everything about the background then that's when they are writing for a particular audience, those who don't necessarily know it. If they just write the story without thinking about the audience, then nothing will limit their narrative. Even the name of the war my example is set, "the Continuation War", would require an explanation, the rest of the world calls that time (1941-44) WWII. (Our wars have names because we were busy and fought three separate ones during the six years of WWII.) The characters in the book have become archetypes, every Finn will understand if someone talks about Lammio or Rokka, they might even be mentioned in a contemporary novel and that would be difficult to translate. An author writing for "the whole world" wouldn't use them at all.

Also it's not always about the skill, either, a foreign audience will interpret things from their own perspective and not always get it right. I think Mitchell wrote about the people she knew, she just probably didn't know many African Americans and portrayed them like she had heard them being portrayed.


message 27: by Ariel (last edited Sep 02, 2016 11:22PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments That contradicts what you mentioned earlier a bit in my opinion but I may have simply misunderstood what you meant. Earlier you said that an author writing for a particular audience would not need to explain everything because their audience would already have that knowledge - but, an author that explains everything is also only writing for a particular audience?

It may have been just misunderstanding but it brings up an interesting point: I think it can be either, really. The scope of a narrative depends on how the material is presented - and often the author's skill. It might be the opposite for you but it's just an opinion and a preference of mine; which I like, thinking about GWtW from a different perspective. I do agree with you that a lot falls into the realm of interpretation - I don't believe that's an issue here in the literal sense. Mitchell has skill, by bringing that skill into the fore with some characters and not with others, in some areas and not in others, her narrative's presence and scope feels limited to me. Limited in comparison to what I imagine it could have been, not limited in that I believe it should entirely be defined and categorized by its limitation. If it were a matter of things being lost in translation then why would one character merit an emotional depth that another doesn't? If an audience can understand human emotions, I presume they can understand them regardless of the human displaying them.

Sure, I understand the difficulty in translating a cultural archetype for a foreign audience. Archetypes are a shade different than stereotypes however. Your examples Lammio and Rokka might be mentioned in a contemporary novel because they are that original pattern, their presence is indicative of context. It's not the same deal with a stereotype. Mitchell doesn't present us with archetypal slaves, of which a nuanced personality is a well known disposition. She relegates her slave characters to stereotypes and, to me, flattens them by doing so.

You might be right about Mitchell not knowing someone to base her characterization of black people on. I haven't come across an interview or letter that says one way or the other - that's not to say something more definite than what I have come across isn't out there. But if all writers simply wrote characters as they had heard/read them being portrayed... reading those characters would be excruciatingly dull. She was able to write nuance with her white characters, she had enough of a grasp on human nature, the human nature she wanted to present at least, to do this and do it skillfully enough. Her slave characters are also humans, also could have possessed nuanced natures. She could also have layered in Ashley's character arc more successfully. I think GWtW would have been better for it, at least to me.

Also @April - I kinda skipped over what I meant with Ashley. I didn't mean that his character/depth was lacking in the beginning, I just meant a specific stance he takes in the end. It's a stance that's easy to understand and it matches with the time period, I just think it would have been cool to see more of it and more of his growth into it because we see a lot of contradiction and upheaval with him throughout and I think Mitchell did a pretty good job of that. It's like you said, he makes an impression. All that contradiction goes into that impression - I'm just selfish and wanted more because it was interesting lol.


Tytti | 58 comments Ariel wrote: " an author writing for a particular audience would not need to explain everything because their audience would already have that knowledge - but, an author that explains everything is also only writing for a particular audience?"

The question is whether they are thinking about their audience or not. If they don't think about who they are writing to and just write the story they want to write, they probably write to people more or less like themselves who know the same things they do. They wouldn't feel the need to explain things because it's up to the reader to know them and the author trusts that they will.

And what I am trying to say is that Mitchell probably was able "write nuance with her white characters" because she had known or heard about people like them, just like the characters in my example are nuanced (even though there are so many of them that most don't get much space) because the author had served with men like them. Those characters didn't come just from her/their imagination and that's why they felt so real.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I think that's certainly true for some authors, regardless of skill level. I don't think it is a blanket truth for all writers, even all writers of Mitchell's time period. Some writers get veritably lost in minutia while others have more sparing styles - they might be writing for the same audience; it's just stylistic rather than a pure judgment of potential reception.

I understand; in your perspective an author can write nuance successfully when they have an original source. I think that can be true but I don't discount imagination or empathy. I also think that human emotion and its nuances can be written believably by a writer that has enough skill and passion to do so - regardless of whether someone is black or white or what their backstory is. Sure, Mitchell may not have known any black people - or none that she chose to recognize as peers anyway - to clip out of her life and paste into her story. But there is a difference between Scarlett being inspired by her grandparents (if this is the case, or whomever was an inspiration for these characters) and being able to write a believable exchange between Scarlett and Rhett, Scarlett and Melanie, et. al. Inspiration might give you a lead, and interesting background (emotional or physical) - it doesn't automatically give you the layers to build an autonomous, well developed character. Had Scarlett been a real person in Mitchell's life, for example, it still would take a measure of skill for her to capture that inner monologue. The fact that she does employ a believable and interesting inner monologue for a slew of characters makes me believe it would have been very interesting to see the same done to other characters.

The characters in your example are nuanced because, sure, the author served with similar people, but also because the author was able to capture and layer in that nuance. And, in your example, these characters felt so real that they became archetypes. They weren't already archetypal. A different writer could have had the same experiences, served with the same people, and written a completely different book. That doesn't mean it would have been a worse book or that the characters wouldn't have been any more or less real.

That's the difference between Mitchell's slave characters being stereotypes rather than archetypes. Scarlett is an extremely recognizable archetype - but she also has an individual nature; just as Melanie, Ashley, Gerald, Ellen, etc. have individual natures while being archetypes to varied degrees. Archetypes come from prior knowledge of a person or social concept/construction, I totally agree with that. But that isn't absolute when talking about nuanced characters.


Tytti | 58 comments Ariel wrote: "in your perspective an author can write nuance successfully when they have an original source."

I don't mean that this is always the case but I am saying that it's much easier. And because Mitchell didn't write another novel, we can't really judge her writing ability when writing about something she didn't know so well.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments It may be easier for some, for others it's just as easy to start from a blank slate.

Hm, I disagree. She knew how to write nuance - that's just a fact of GWtW. So yeah, it's very easy to judge/see the lack of that nuance in other parts. If it was a matter of her ability, the majority, rather than the few, would lack nuance. This isn't the case.

It's not like I wish Mitchell had written in a foreign language that she had no knowledge of because that would have made the book so much better to me, that would be ridiculous. But when an author has a skill and then that skill is absent in areas, it's perfectly fine, in my opinion, to wish that it wasn't lacking/to be interested in the material that might have been there had it not been lacking. Slaves/black people weren't some foreign concept to Mitchell - they were characters in her book just like her white characters. If she could do nuance for one, she could have done nuance for others.

Not to mention, not knowing black people or not perceiving them as peers with nuanced emotions and beliefs does not address the lack of Ashley's character arc. From your perspective, she knew white people so she was able to provide nuance for them specifically. Ashley is white, his statement/belief was a very common place one. It could have added something to the story, however, if there was more build. I don't think his race or Mitchell's potential lack of understanding of his race is an issue in this lack and Ashley has plenty of depth and build throughout the story up until this point.

We may not be able to judge what Mitchell's skill would have/could have become - we don't have anything to compare her writing with, sure. Minus letters and some short stories she wrote when she was younger. But you can judge the skill/merit/as well as your personal interest in a standalone book. Preferably with the understanding that these judgements are a matter of opinion of course, as with any other type of expression.


message 32: by Mary Pat (new)

Mary Pat | 2186 comments It is great to see such interesting and challenging conversations going on here!


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments GWtW definitely gives you a lot to discuss! It's been really fun - though we kind of bogarted the thread more than a bit lol.


message 34: by Mingaile (new)

Mingaile | 1 comments an interesting discussion you are having here. I would like to join it. I agree with you that it would have been nice to to see slaves as more developed characters. But I have read somewhere that Mitchell avoided anything that did not develop a charaacter or plot so maybe it was not her intention to give a voice to these characters. I have read another book where the author does the same with Chinese charracters and this annoyed me a lot. They were portrayed as people whose only desire was to serve their masters. Besides, don't you think Ellen was a bit stereotypical character? She seems to me as a representation of an ideal southern lady-sweet, kind, never tired, always caring about others


Tytti | 58 comments Mingaile wrote: "I have read somewhere that Mitchell avoided anything that did not develop a charaacter or plot so maybe it was not her intention to give a voice to these characters."

Exactly, that's what I think, too. It was Scarlett's story and other characters were only important in regards to her. Most good novels can't tell everything about everyone.


Ariel  (lamot_amant) | 728 comments I agree, Mingaile. I haven't read that about Mitchell but it makes sense in the context of GWtW.

True, Ellen is a very stereotypical southern woman of the era - I did think there was a bit more personality/person there with her in comparison to the slave characters but not much. And that makes sense too, we see Ellen through Scarlett's perception of her being such a saint. I do think that Mitchell made an effort to give slight alterations between her white female characters' voices (though they do all fit that southern lady stereotype) that she didn't give to her black female characters, primarily post-CW. I think the inclusion would have made for a better balanced/more interesting book but it's not like it completely eclipses the merit of the character development Mitchell did choose to include.


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