Rating: 4 / 5
What is your favorite classic movie? GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell was the May/June book pick for the #classicsbuddyread hosted by @freefallinreader I was excited to join in (and to check off another book on my #2020classics list)! I was actually surprised to realize I had never actually even seen Gone With the Wind, much less read it. I’ve seen it referenced and quoted often enough, that I never realized that I didn’t actually know the story.
Random GWTW association for me… I got a new computer when I went away to college and it had a text to speech function… the really bad computer speech that existed back in the early 90s. One of my early memories in my dorm freshman year was bonding with new friends over putting random movie lines into the program. Prissy’s. “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies” from the GWTW movie was for some reason a crowd favorite! So yeah, my education on GWTW was very limited at best!
GONE WITH THE WIND follows the life of Scarlett O’Hara, beginning as the spoiled young girl who thinks the world is hers. She lives in a world of all day bar-b-que parties and dances, fancy dresses and corsets to carve out a 17-inch waist (ouch!). The coming Civil War is nothing but a nuisance to her (and almost a game of strategy to the young men) as its talk interferes with her ability to enact her plans to set up her perfect life.
The scope of the book is epic, beginning before the war and continuing on through the war itself and for years afterwards. Scarlett and those closest to her were not bred for strength, but she faces up to a lot in order to survive. There is a lot to her story that would no doubt have been shocking to readers in 1936 when this was first published as Scarlett was not known for taming her tongue when it came to standing up for herself.
Scarlett isn’t a likable character in the beginning (she epitomizes the description of a spoiled brat) and that doesn’t change much as the novel progresses. Sometimes having a protagonist that one doesn’t like can be a major downfall in my opinion of a novel, but in this case I think Scarlett fell into the category of someone I love to hate. She is impulsive and she isn’t bothered by stepping on a few toes and hearts to give herself an advantage.
Scarlett is obsessed with setting up a perfect life, the ‘perfect’ man she has loved since she was a kid and the wealth she feels she needs to be secure. She is very narrow minded in her focus on what she wants, often missing opportunities and dangers right in front of her.
Much has been written about Margaret Mitchell’s portrayal of the slaves (and later freed slaves) in the book and this book definitely gives a pretty flat portrayal. None of the slaves seem to be bothered by slavery and they are portrayed as feeling much better than the poor white trash. Mitchell also assigns them a very broken English dialect that is at times difficult to interpret (a definite advantage to listening to the audio book in portions).
GONE WITH THE WIND is described as a “monumental epic of the South” in the Goodreads blurb and it is definitely that. It is interesting that the entire blurb doesn’t actually address the plot of the book at all, just the awards it won, the movie it spawned, etc. which may be part of the reason I had no clue going in what the story really was! I do feel I got a depiction of the South before and after the Civil war that I haven’t read much about, while recognizing that the depictions were likely heavily slanted.
I am definitely glad that I got a chance to read GONE WITH THE WIND and I will definitely be tracking down a copy of the film adaptation very soon!