Gone with the Wind By Margaret Mitchell
About the Author
Margaret Mitchell was an American novelist and journalist who wrote under the pseudonym Peggy Mitchell. One novel by Mitchell was published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel, Gone with the Wind, for which she won the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. In more recent years, a collection of Mitchell’s girlhood writings and a novella she wrote as a teenager, Lost Laysen, have been published. A collection of articles written by Mitchell for The Atlanta Journal was republished in book form.
Gone with the Wind cannot be described and if it could, that would be another book in itself. I’ve practically read this book once every 2 years. It’s my comfort read and there is something refreshing about finishing a book that is over 800 pages. I used to think it was a romance novel (some would still say it is), then I thought it was a war novel, a feminist novel too but today – I think its a coming of age survival novel. Not that it was none of the previous things but as I age, this books keeps giving me new perspectives. Very few books do that.
In my repeated readings of it, I’ve figured out some things –
I oscillate between admiration and exasperation towards Scarlett O Hara. She is the front and centre of this novel – the belle of the county with dimples and green eyes that flash like a cat. She knows all the tricks her mother and mammy have taught her to gain a wonderful husband but her Irish father’s genes don’t give her the necessary tact to keep him. She has her heart set on Ashley Wilkes, the epitome of a Southern gentleman – a man who likes to read, dream and admire art.
Through all my readings of this book, I always despise Ashley Wilkes for his lack of gumption and his idea of loyalty. I try to understand his perspective but till date, I have been unable to. The Wilkes marry cousins, as is family tradition, and he is betrothed to Melanie Hamilton, a woman I have grown to love despite me thinking she was a ninny in the first reading (In my first reading, I always though Scarlett was faultless so you see, perspectives change)
If you grow up with this book and read it at different phases in your life, you find certain things will pop while other parts dim. This time I realised that the war is frightening for women and the men try their hardest to shield them but after the war is over and done with and the men return home, there are very few men who are able to look at this new life and make the best of it. I find the strength of the women shine through in the second half – when they start businesses of their own and become enterprising.
What Margaret Mitchell has created with these 3 characters – Scarlett, Rhett and Melanie is amazing. You see, I find Scarlett to be so bullheaded about what she wants. She’s never one to think too deep or overanalyse but her survival instincts and business sense are brilliant. The way she manages Tara, the lengths she is willing to go to save her land, feed her family and grow her business. She has strength, she is generous and she admires people who are practical and have common sense – qualities that are reflective of her.
Rhett Butler can do no wrong in my eyes. This swarthy man will always be the stuff of fantasies – refined, a feminist and a devotion (without showing it) to Scarlett and his daughter that is almost unbecoming in society but he doesn’t care. His indifference to what society says is so unlike all the other classic romance novels that we read in which ‘propriety’ is paramount. He marries Scarlett with full knowledge that she doesn’t love him, he lets her spend his money and mollycoddles her making sure she never knows how much he loves her but ensuring that she can never bully him. There’s a line where he says – ‘Scarlett, you’re so brutal to those who love you. You take their love and hold it over their heads like a whip’. He loved Scarlett knowing full well that she was hard, greedy and sometimes unscrupulous. Just like him.
Melanie Wilkes is everything Scarlett is not. She is the other extreme – she is kind, honest and has a quiet strength that is underestimated when you start reading about her. She has moments where she stands up for herself and for the ones she loves with fierce loyalty almost severing family ties to protect Scarlett. She seems to really understand the concept of letting people be. She doesn’t seem to have a single ugly thought in her head, a ‘true lady’ in Rhett’s eyes.
All their character arcs are wonderful and the movie is a dream as well. I have never written such a long winded review of any book till date which goes to show exactly how beloved it is. It has everything that a good romance novel should have – a happy backdrop with impending gloom, a heroine that is very sure of the world and what she wants and a man that makes her realise the world is as ugly as she makes it out to be. 🙂