Monday, February 16, 2015

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhere as The Great American Novel.

Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years.

Published & Release Date: Original published in 1936

Time and setting: Civil War, Georgia

Genre: Historical Fiction/Epic/Romantic Elements

Heat Level: 1

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s musings

The first time I read Gone With the Wind, I was around sixteen years old. It made a lasting impression on me. I have probably read this book at least ten times during my youth and my young adult years and watched the movie as many times. I realized that it must have been thirty years since I last read it and decided it was time to read it again with new eyes. I downloaded it and also purchased the audio book to go along with it. I must say this has been a different experience listening to the audio along with the book.

Linda Stephens is the narrator and truly brings this huge cast of characters to life. I could easily distinguish the different voices. She does an outstanding job with all the varying accents from Scarlett, to Rhett, to Mammy. Now at times, I did cringe when I listened to all the racist dialogue, but I tried to remember this is written when this was the normal attitude of that time, not how we feel today. Obviously Gone With the Wind is NOT politically correct to say the least!

I think that it also important to understand that Margaret Mitchell was a gentile southern woman and her upbringing was vastly different from how my generation was raised. My mother was also raised during the same time period and even though she grew up in the north, her attitude was a bit prejudged as well. I thank God I became an adult in the seventies and have a much more enlightened attitude.

With that being said, I also listened/read with knowledge of books written in my time. While Margaret Mitchell’s writing style is vastly different from the norm today, I am sure it was brilliant in 1936. I kept that in mind and focused on this epic story that swept me up in the midst of a war torn world and the aftermath of that war. I can understand why Ms. Mitchell took ten years to write this story. I cannot even imagine the amount of research she must have done to get the historical details accurate.

I am not going to do a synopsis of the book other than to say that it covers the years of the Civil War and the reconstruction period that the south endured. Most individuals today have either read the book or watched the movie, at least my generation. Our children are aware of it as well, even if they have never read the book or watched the movie.

When I read Gone With the Wind as a young girl, I think I concentrated on all the history and pageantry and not the character’s defects. While Scarlett is an incredibly narcissistic character, she does have an indomitable spirit and personality. I am not sure I could have grown up in those times where a woman’s only purpose in life was to be ornamental and where men believed them hen-witted and should not be concerned by any issues beyond beauty and refinement and the need to be a lady at all times, and not have been just like her. I would hope I would have been more like Melanie, but I doubt it. I am as strong-willed and as stubborn as Scarlett. I just do not like to admit it.

Scarlett is a complex character with many layers to her personality and while I do not like her character, I do admire her tenacity and determination to survive and flourish in a changed world, so different than what she could have imagined as a young girl. Margaret Mitchell has written a character with such depth that it takes my breath away. If I could write a heroine with a tenth of her depth, I am sure it would be an immediate best seller.

Rhett Butler is a rogue that as a reader I always love. For some reason, while it is not acceptable for a woman to be scandalous, it is desired in heroes as long as there is a tender, caring side to them. Rhett’s character has a huge arch that satisfied my need for ‘a bad boy gone good’. While I wish that their love story could have had a ‘Happily Ever After’, it is much more realistic for Rhett to give up on ever having Scarlett return his love and to grow so cynical that he finally does not “give a damn”.  It would have been out of character if he had been able to forgive and forget.

Well my musings are getting a bit deep so I will close. If you have not read this amazing book, I highly recommend it, but do read with an open mind to fully appreciate the artistry of the writing and the pageantry of a time long dead. Happy reading!

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