Secondly, if you were going to parallel the beautiful, affluent, lazy, spirited South being conquered by the intellectual, industrious North, what better way to do that than with characters who embody those characteristics? You come to feel a level of sadness that the South and Scarlett lost their war and hope that they will rebuild. I enjoyed the picture of pre-war South outside of what you learn in history class approved by the nation that won the war. If you visit the South today, you can see that all these generations later the wounds of the war and the regret at losing the way of life are still fresh. But if it had not been the civil war, it would have been by other means that the lazy sprawled out way of life would have been conquered by our efficient, compact, modern lives. It wasn't just about freeing slaves but about rebuilding an entire way of life and sometimes change, even good change, can be this scary and destructive. I'd get a grasp for the emotions of Scarlett that are supposed to describe the emotions of all Southerners or the description of the land at Tara as a representation of the rich red soil all Southerners love and then Mitchell would go on for paragraphs or pages rehashing that feeling to pull the most emotion out of you. I view Scarlett as a representation of the South in which she loved. As the Yankees attempted to rebuild the South, fresh in their embitterment at a war they did not want to fight, you can both see their reasoning and feel for the Southerners who were licked and then stomped on in their attempts to gain back of their life. Turning from her ravenous post-war desire to survive to her acceptance of life and the people around her as the way they are, eventually Scarlett grows into the person she was meant to be. Scarlett realizes that Melanie is not the weak, cowardly girl she always assumed but the most courageous character in the book and one who gets her means by influence and persuasion instead of Scarlett's uncivil ways. She's not intelligent enough to analyze love, but she grows up enough to fall for it anyway, to realize she needs people. Then we come to Rhett, the only character with the ability to conquer Scarlett, who was quite the devil. I was often torn about the way he constantly encouraged Scarlett to fall another wrung on her morality ladder and mocked her emotions, mocked all of Southern civility. More than anything I saw his slow conquering of Scarlett's heart as a parallel to the slow enveloping of the South by the North until they realized they were dependent on their conquerors but could still maintain their fierce spirit, a marriage of North and South.
Throughout the book, I frantically kept reading, often until 2am or later, just to see when it would turn around and start getting happy, but there was never any redemption - it NEVER got happy or uplifting. Besides, I've found that, no matter how tragic and sometimes unlikeable the chartacters were, I am still thinking about them days after I finished reading.
At times I felt like maybe I shouldn't be enjoying a book featuring a sympathetic view of the South or feeling bad for those who struggled in their losses to the North. However, the story was really interesting and I have seen a lot of people from a wide variety of races give this book 5 stars, so I believe it is generally acceptable to enjoy it for what it is with an understanding of the time period it was written. To write such a large book with a great story, symbolism, character development, etc. The story: I had seen the movie but was not sure if I should expect it to be the same (seems like Hollywood used to stick closer to the source material than they do now.) From what I remember of the move, it is a pretty fair adaptation of the book. Seeing how each character handles the struggles of drastic life changes is the heart and soul of this book.
All the memorable scenes are there, & the spotlit romance is considerably widened in scope, as is the sturdy social studies lesson on the almighty American Civil War. I mean, everyone has the basic idea correct: the South took a tremendous thrashing. (Priceless is the mentioning of several ostentatious Atlanta parties with only the Yankee army 22 miles away! Priceless is the POV of the woman that stayed behind while all men are off to war! If there ever existed a valentine for a city in the elusive form of an epic historical romance, then it is this, for Atlanta! Everyone, it seems, has fallen in love, which adds the hues of Romanticism to the epic Southern Myth. The characters of Wade and Ella, Scarletts first- and second-borns. And Will Benteen, the overseer at Tara would be one too many males within Scarletts (Vivien Leighs) periphery on film. Also: Scarlett almost getting attacked and raped; GWTWs racy social commentary, all of the men partaking in early KKK activities. The British have Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice; We got Gone With the Wind, an epic so incredible, so full of wuthering heights and perplexing downfalls, so jam packed with southern pride and arrogance, of prejudice and passion, that it is simply sad that its sole detriment is (not its length, nor its melodrama, but) its racist edge.
Although many people in their reviews state that they dislike Scarlett and her selfish motives, I view her character with determination as she tried to better her place in society in order to leave her children with more than she started with. There were two views to the new south- there was Ashley Wilkes who pined for Twelve Oaks and the way of life before the war and Rhett Butler who symbolizes the modern south and how Atlanta and the south rose again. Behind Scarlett, Rhett, and Ashley and their dreams, we have Melanie Wilkes. And yet, both women were strength, Melanie in her antiquated ways and Scarlett as the new woman who would bring this country forward while still remembering Tara, where she came from. Scarlett's determination, Rhett's swarthy brashness, Ashley's love of time gone by, Melanie's heart. I look forward to seeing the epic film for the first time and witnessing Scarlett and Rhett and Tara on screen.
In terms of the slave-holding society, the film actually toned-down the pro-South view of Reconstruction (Scarlett's second husband joined the KKK in the book) and Mammy remains probably one of the most fully-developed and likeable African-American characters from 1930 you'll read. If you can accept the times for what they were, you will see how well this book was written. Not to mention, the time period is the Civil War era! This book mirrors the opinions held by the people alive and working at the time, no more and certainly no less.
Margaret Mitchell was a racist and in 1936, 70 years after the Civil War, she whined for a thousand pages about how much she missed slavery. If you'd like to hear why slavery was terrific and black people are inferior to whites and they liked being slaves, here is your epic. Yes. It has an omniscient narrator, and many long, racist passages that are clearly not from any character's perspective; they feel like the nonfiction interludes in War & Peace. They were proud of the good names of their owners and, for the most part, proud to belong to people who were quality." We meet some of them, Scarlett's "small white hand disappearing into their huge black paws and the four capered with delight at the meeting and with pride at displaying before their comrades what a pretty Young Miss they had." Faithful slave Mammy is introduced, with her "kind face, sad with the uncomprehending sadness of a monkey's face" - "the mottled wise old eyes saw deeply, saw clearly, with the directness of the savage and the child, undeterred by conscience when danger threatened her pet." Mammy is one of the few morally pure characters in the book, but it's always that noble savage quality. He had the gall - the - ' Tony sputtered helplessly, 'to say niggers had a right to - to - white women.'" "The negroes were on top and behind them were the Yankee bayonets," thinks Scarlett: "She could be killed, she could be raped and, very probably, nothing would ever be done about it." And here's the omniscient narrator summing it up: It was the large number of outrages on women and the ever-present fear for the safety of their wives and daughters that drove Southern men to cold and trembling fury and caused the Ku Klux Klan to spring up overnight. (view spoiler)Her foolish habit of driving alone through the worst parts of town almost gets her raped by a freed slave, forcing the Klan to take action and lynch him, and they all almost get caught.
There was a reason I never before read past the first 50 or 100 pages - Scarlet is a raging evil snarky miserable bitch and I hate her. None of these characters really expressed the complexities or debated the moral dilemmas involved in surviving the Civil War. Scarlet was a whiny, conniving miserable human being and I don't give a crap if she "only did what she had to do as a woman." She didn't have to treat Ashley or Rhett or ANYONE the way she did, or she could have at least felt bad about it or something.
I had seen the movie and Scarlett was beautiful, if a bitch. In the book you just knew that her sister would only use Hamiltons money for herself where Scarlett wanted it to save Tara because Tara means 'dirt/land/earth' in Ireland. I also had another who lived in the North and went to fight for the South. If Scarlett represented a segment of the South the way it was when the Civil War started, it was as a progressive segment that knew where it was headed: strong, determined, attractive, young, rich, bored (complacent), spoiled, unable to love those who truly understood her and loved her anyway (i.e. the North not wanting the South to leave, the South not loving the Union), doing anything to get her way or survive (even enslave a people or take advantage of chained-gang prison-workers)ever so slowly changing, showing bravery, but learning too late how to change in timeWell then, the first sentence takes on a whole new meaning.
6/29/16 UPDATE: I have since watched the movie and although I really liked the movie, it doesn't hold a candle to the book. I can not believe it took me so long to read this book! I thought this was just a love story around the war, but it's so much more. I live 20 minutes from the Chickamauga Battlefield in Ga and used to hike it for many years with my dog and my father until things in my life went wrong. I had this love/hate relationship with Scarlett. One of her slaves named Pork (who I loved) told her if she was as nice to white people as she was to black folk that the world might like her. She hated Melanie because she was married to Ashley, the man she always wanted. But Scarlet stayed with Melanie when she had her baby and got her to safety at Scarlett's home Tara. If I have to steal or kill--as God is my witness, I'm never going to be hungry again." Scarlett hated every moment of taking care of her family. I loved Scarlett's dad a lot - Gerald O'Hara. there are so many I can't even name them all and like I said before some were only in the book a few times. I think if he really loved Scarlett for that long he should have told her and wooed her and then maybe things would have turned out differently. I know most people have probably read the book or watched the movie a million times and already know but still.
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell, popularly known as Margaret Mitchell, was an American author, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her novel, Gone with the Wind, published in 1936.