I went out on a high note when I finished my last book of 2010 last night and so I now write my last book review of 2010.
The timeless novel Gone with the Wind was written by Margret Mitchell in 1936 and won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel in 1937. In 1939 the epic romantic was made into a film, one of the first in color if I recall.
GWTW maintains its appeal even in today’s society, at my ‘day job’ one of the history teachers shows this film to her class when they are done studying the period and the kids are all TOTALLY into and don’t talk through it at all!
The novel it self can be intimidating because of it’s length. My sister bought me the book last year for Christmas and the pocket paperback copy was 1200 pages and HUGE! I promised I would read it at some point during the year but ultimately decided to buy it on my iPad since I didn’t want to struggle with the bulky book.
I am so glad I decided to stat this book and even though it took me about 2 weeks to read, it was SO WORTH IT! Everyone should read this book at least one time in their life! The book follows the life of protagonist Scarlett O’Hara from just before the CW (1861-1865) to just after Reconstruction (1867-1877). Being from Georgia herself, Margret Mitchell was born in 1900 and was part of that first post CW generation who wrote about the country she loved and gave extensive background and insight into the war from a Southern perspective. It is truly a beautifully written book and Mitchell’s excellent historic knowledge of the period guides readers through a turbulent and often confusing period in history.
Scarlett O’Hara is the quintessential bitch but you can’t help but admire her and even like her at times. From the beginning of the novel you just want so badly to hate Scarlett and can think of her only as a material, spoiled, brat but yet you still love her.
Scarlett is the one literary character that I think I am most like, I have felt that way since watching the film as a young girl. Reading her was like reading myself we had so much in common. I loved Scarlet. She is strong, ruthless, and isn’t afraid of anything. She does what she has to and makes no apologies for it, she is not going to wait for someone to come help her and secure her future, she is going to go out and do it herself and be independent. It is hard to NOT like someone like that.
Mitchell broke the mould when she made Scarlett—the things Scarlett did for the era (even by today’s standards) were considered scandalous! She married three times, didn’t care if people talked about how she tricked men into marrying her, and even considered selling her body just to pay the taxes on her beloved Tara. She hated her children (more or less) except when she was pregnant the last time with Rhett’s child was she even close to being a nurturing mother. Her children were completely afraid of her and she often said she never wanted to have children in the first place and loathed being pregnant.
She fought for everything she wanted and then when she got it she rubbed it in everyones face that she was rich and they were poor. But what made her even more iconic was that she always tried to pass herself off as a ‘lady’, she always tried to act proper and ‘uppity’ even when she was dirt poor working in the fields and worse yet, she just didn’t care one lick what people said or thought of her. She held her head high and when her conscious started to get the better of her she would just say ‘I’ll not think about it today, I’ll think about it tomorrow. It’s too hard to think about it today’. It is hard to ignore her strength and even if you think Scarlett is a bitch who deserved what she got, it is difficult to deny she is strong and there is something appealing and attractive about a strong, confident woman that you can’t just dismiss her all together and hate her.
Scarlett longed to be like her mother Ellen and even though she doesn’t know it or want to admit it—she wants to be like her friend Melly. She wants everyone to think she is kind and think highly of her, she want’s to be the ‘doting wife’ and mother. She likes the idea of marriage and children (but only with Ashley of course) but really it seems like she just likes the idea of it all as it is not really in her nature to be anything else beside a cutthroat ‘scalawag’. She fights her strength all her life and tries to convince herself she is only acting like this ‘for now’ and fails to recognize that is just who she is. She will never be Ellen or Melly and it takes her a long time to accept that. Her father recognizes it right away and when she tells her father how she loves Ashley, he knows she will never be happy with Ashley:
I want my girl to be happy and you won’t be happy with him…Only when like marries like can there be happiness(73).
She is stubborn and immature at the beginning of the novel (she is 15 or 16 when the novel begins) and as the novel goes on she doesn’t ever really grow up or change until it is too late (at the end of the novel she is only 28 but for the time that was OLD AS DIRT apparently). When she meets Rhett she is 15 and has a terrible school girl crush on Ashley who just announced he was going to marry Melly instead of her. She throws a tantrum (which amuses Rhett) and then marries Ashley’s friend Charles (Melly’s brother) to make Ashley jealous.
The war then breaks out and two weeks after Scarlett and Charles marry he goes to war (with Ashley and all the other men except Rhett) and dies immediately leaving Scarlet a pregnant widow at 16. She moves to Atlanta and must remain in mourning for over a year but she hates it because she so loves dancing and pretty dresses. She runs into Rhett at a ball and even though she’s in mourning they dance the night away and he starts to call on her frequently. Since he’s the only man with money in Atlanta naturally she doesn’t mind hanging out with him. It is clear he loves her (or is at least very taken with her) but she is not yet aware of how much a like they are or that she loves him–Scarlett is still too preoccupied with Ashley. In Atlanta Scarlett lives with her aunt in-law (Aunt Pitty) and her dead husband’s sister (and Ashley’s wife) Melly.
Melly is pregnant and relies so heavily on Scarlett to be strong and take care of her. Melly admires her so much—almost idolizes her but Scarlett acts like she hates her but really deep down she wants so badly to be like Melly. Melly is everything a well brought up Southern girl should be….she’s good hearted, kind, lives for the ’cause’ and devoted to her husband and having babies—so very opposite of Scarlett who is the typical plantation Southern Belle but mean as a rattlesnake and as fire-y as the red earth of Tara, it must be the Irish in her I guess.
The war eventually catches up with them and they flee to Tara thanks to Rhett though he leaves them stranded on some random road with no one but Scarlett to protect them as the Yankess march through looting and burning everything they see. Scarlett and Melly (with her new baby) make it to Tara and Scarlett must again be the ‘man in the house’ and she helps the family survive by working the fields and sending her ‘slaves’ to steal food for them—she even kills a Yankee who comes to loot and rape her. Scarlett isn’t going down without a fight!
Eventually the war is over and she realizes how poor she is and can’t afford the taxes on Tara. She finds Rhett back in Atlanta and offers to become his mistress if he would only loan her the money for the taxes. He refuses her because he knows if he gives her the money the Yankees will take all the money he has stashed so he can’t risk giving it to her right then but he elludes to the face that when he gets out of jail he will give her the money. When he refuses she has a temper tantrum and literally runs out and marries the first guy she sees who has money.
Too impatient to wait folr Rhett, the first man with money just so happens to be engaged to her sister Suellen (who she HATES). But in two weeks she’s convinced him not to marry her sister (though she told a ‘white lie’ about her sister to do it) and just as soon as the ink dies on the marriage certificate, Rhett walks back into her life and offers her the money which she hardily refuses now that she’s remarried. Rhett and Scarlett remain close those and work together in the mill he helps her to buy (right out from under her husband no less) and rumors fly that they are having an affair. Finally, during a KKK meeting Scarlett’s husband is killed and she is again a widow. On the day she is burying her husband Rhett comes to see her and asks her to marry him:
I’m going away tomorrow for a long time and I fear that if I wait till my return you’ll have married someone else with a little money. So I thought why not me and my money? Really Scarlett I can’t go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands
They marry of course but eventually she drives him crazy! When he asks her to marry him Rhett more or less knows how it will turn out but doesn’t care, I guess that’s what love does to some people:
No my dear I’m not in love with you, no more than you are with me, and if I were you would be the last person I’d ever tell. God help the man who ever really loves you. You’d break his heart, my darling, cruel, destructive cat who is so careless and confident she doesn’t even trouble to sheathe her claws”
So more or less she drives Rhett crazy from envy at her love for Ashley Wilkes and her refusal to admit she does really love Rhett and it was Rhett all along—she will never be happy until like marries like just like her father said. But she doesn’t realize it until she loses Rhett at the end of the novel. Rhett has been beaten, belittled, abused, tormented, and ripped to shreds by his love for Scarlett and though she doesn’t know it yet, she too has been tormented by her unacknowledged love for Rhett and when the story ends it is implied that Scarlett will doubtlessly regroup and rally to win him back because she loves him and when she wants something bad enough she will not story and go to any length she must to get him.
So that’s the basis of the story, one of the greatest love stories in my opinion. The story is written so well, the romance goes hand in hand with the story and literary descriptions. Everything in the novel mirrors the passion in Scarlett, in the ’cause’, and the love between Rhett and Scarlett. Mitchell often describes Tara and Georgia as hot, with reds and oranges, rich and elegant—it is truly a beautiful and musical book to read. One thing I was most taken in by and surprised with was the historic info carefully scattered throughout the book.
If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book do yourself a favor and pick up both. The film is a beautifully costumed and iconically casted (Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable are the perfect Scarlett and Rhett). The novel will add not only a historic understanding of a very important piece of American history but it will be a love story you will never forget—it is truly a classic and now one of my fav books of all time.
Though it is long—it is well worth the thousand pages. Plus there are so many great quotes/passages from this book, the dialogue and prose are funning, witty, and beautiful.
Scarlett O’Hara made bitches sexy and lovable—she made it fashionable to be a strong women in a time when women were suppose to be taken care of, she showed it was ok to be independent and take care of yourself—ever if people hated you and talked about it—she show’s you can survive and hold her your high, you won’t die of shame though we would all like to from time to time!
Everything I know about being a bitch I learned from Scarlett O’Hara—-Fiddle-de-dee, everyone can go to hell in God’s nightgown for all I care, and I’ll just think about it tomorrow!
- ebook, 960 pages
- Published July 10th 2007 by Scribner (first published January 1st 1936)
- ISBN 1416573461 (ISBN13: 9781416573463)
This book counts toward: NA
- Hosted by: NA
- Books for Challenge Completed: NA
Recommendation: 5 out of 5
Genre: Historic fiction, romance, classic, literature
God help the man who ever really loves you.