Monday, June 7, 2010

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - Book Review #30

Monday, June 7, 2010
Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

Novel by Margaret Mitchell, published in 1936. Gone With the Wind is a sweeping, romantic story about the American Civil War from the point of view of the Confederacy. In particular it is the story of Scarlett O'Hara, a headstrong Southern belle who survives the hardships of the war and afterwards manages to establish a successful business by capitalizing on the struggle to rebuild the South. Throughout the book she is motivated by her unfulfilled love for Ashley Wilkes, an honorable man who is happily married. After a series of marriages and failed relationships with other men, notably the dashing Rhett Butler, she has a change of heart and determines to win Rhett back.

Since I was a child, if Gone with the Wind was playing on TV, I was running towards it like there is no tomorrow. So by the time I actually dared to pick up the book, I knew the skeleton of the story by my heart. That’s why actually, it took me so long to start reading it – it is a very long book (over 1000 pages) and since I knew the main points of the plot, I was afraid it would get boring for me. Surprisingly, I was wrong.

After I finished reading the book, I understood that the movie was just a very compressed plot summary. Only after finishing the book, I understood how wrong I was that the movie is giving that unforgettable feeling of lost South. And I finally understood that this book could not be shorter, it would be almost illegal to make this book shorter, it would reap the reader out of unbelievable experience, out of seeing, sensing and feeling the South, no one can ever see or feel again.

I think what makes this book so great is that the story was directly integrated in the history, in the Civil War, into Southern civilization. I wasn’t just coexisting next to all of that, it was living and driven and shaped by these events. This story is packed with tiny historical facts that you would never find in your text book, the historical facts that you need to dig out the archives to get, the historical facts you could have only gotten from the eyewitnesses of that time. That why I’m so enormously grateful to Margaret Mitchell for all the research, for interviewing these eyewitnesses that still were alive and for writing it all down for generation to come to enjoy and savor. Margaret Mitchell’s contribution even greater, because she collected facts and wrote the story from the Confederate’s point of view, from the point of view of the side that lost, because you would never find some of the attitudes or visions in the textbooks that are controlled by the winner’s side (winners are always glorious aren’t they?).

I always loved Scarlett, I adored her. She probably was my role-model. For me, she is an example of truly strong female character. I read how she has been called an anti-hero, most of people see her as selfish, she even described in the novel itself as not beautiful and stupid. However, these qualities can always be regarded differently, from other point of view. And then you can see Scarlett as charming, goal-orientated, driven, strong and fearless person. What not to like? I also always loved Rhett, probably for the same reasons as I loved Scarlett – he is an almost complete resemblance of her, just in the male form. I used to think about Melanie as Scarlett saw her – weak and incapable, though I changed my mind with time and now I agree with Rhett, she is truly a lady. However, even this realization didn’t make me like her. And I always hated Ashley, his weakness and melancholy, his dreaming and absolute incapability to exist in the real world, his indecision and incertitude was always driving me crazy. And I could never see what Scarlett saw in him. It took me years to realize that she wanted him, only because she couldn’t get him and at that point I almost fall out of love with Scarlett, though finally deciding to allow her one weakness - Ashley.

I could never understand why the ending of Gone with the Wind is considered to be tragic. No, I agree that at the end there is a lot of tragic events occurred, but the last paragraph, in my opinion, is an undeniable example of sparkling optimism. Even the last sentence is a pure optimism – Tomorrow is another day!

I would like to encourage as many people as possible to read this book. Don’t be alarmed by its size, if you like a good story, you will breathe through it in no time and will be left with a sore feeling of parting with beloved characters, with mesmerizing settings and with unforgettable, glorious and dreamy, lost forever South.


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