Gone With The Wind : Book Review

 

 

Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With The Wind. 1st ed.,.

984pp. ISBN 978-1-4472-6453-8. 47 SAR

Gone With The Wind

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind isn’t an avant-garde book, but readers seldom realize it when encapsulated by its spectrums of war and peace, love and hatred, and hope and despair. Margaret Mitchell uses this historical fiction to portray her inner desires and expectations in life. Set in the late eighteenth century, Gone With The Wind gives its readers an in depth interpretation of the American Civil War. Portrayed from an omniscient third-person-point-of-view , Scarlett O’Hara , the protagonist,  Rhett Butler the main antagonist, Ashley Wilkes, and many other characters each embody a certain element of that period of time.

The novel centers around the infamous Scarlett O’Hara and her transformation from a sixteen-year-old charming “beau” magnet to a persistent young woman who fights for her goals and dreams. However, a noteworthy amount of this thousand-page novel was devoted to the intricate details of the Southern society during the Civil war.

Margaret Mitchell exposes her novel by painting a vivid , sometimes over-descriptive, picture of the pre-war South and its society. Massive plantations, lush lands, barbecue parties, and dances with the “beaus” is what impressed southerners at that time.In accordance with that lierurle-ly lifestyle came prejudice. . Prejudice, for instance , was portrayed in slavery and in the monetary based hierarchical structure the southern societies had.  Slavery, although not as horrific as discussed in other literary works of that era, is a big example of how hypocritical such aristocrats were. Often viewed as ignorant and childish, the “darkies” were actually a  keystone to that community. Once the “darkies” were free after the war was over, chaos came into existence in the plantations and despair resided in their ex-owners’ hearts. Monetary social hierarchy, another instance of prejudice, was also evident. As a matter of fact, their community was divided into various levels of wealth, starting from the so called “white trash” up to large plantation owners .

Through certain interpretations, one can clearly see that the characters were clearly picked to symbolize various historical elements during the civil war. Most importantly, Scarlett O’Hara represents the people of the south. Her metamorphosis from a belle in 1861 to a fierce fighting woman in 1873 clearns this analogy. Previously, she didn’t care where wealth came from and believed that it would never end. Because she was rich, proud, and charming, she thought that she was invincible and would be able to get her long loved , Ashley Wilkes.  Ashley in that context represents the “Cause” for which the confederacy was fighting for , and unfortunately that “Cause” was proven to be misleading. Likewise, Ashley turned out to be the weakest and the least honorable character in the book, contrary to what Scarlett had previously perceived him as.

Another interesting element of the book is the antagonist himself : Rhett Butler. When Rhett first meets Scarlet she is 16 to his 33. She is acting like exactly what she is – a spoiled, willful child who isn’t getting her way and isn’t at all used to that sensation. Rhett, who  eavesdropped on the scene between Ashley and her that instigated the tantrum, mocks her and laughs at her. This pretty much defines their relationship.  A man who ridicules you is, as Scarlet tells Rhett numerous times, “no gentleman”. That’s not a surprise. At the very start of the novel we are told: “He has the most terrible reputation. His name is Rhett Butler and he’s from Charleston and his folks are some of the nicest people there but they won’t speak to him. . He was expelled from West Point (for drunkenness and something involving women). . . . And then there was that business about the girl he didn’t marry.” Rhett has a long history of not rescuing the women he gets in trouble, which in his time would definitely qualify him as “no gentlemen”.

An interesting aspect of Gone with the Wind is the author herself. Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1900. Mitchell grew up listening to stories about Atlanta during the Civil War, stories often told by people who had lived through the war. In 1926, encouraged by her husband, Mitchell began to write the novel that would become Gone with the Wind. The irony lies in the fact that Mitchell died car struck when crossing peachtree street in Atlanta!

Gone with the Wind differs from most Civil War novels by glorifying the South and demonizing the North. Other popular novels about the Civil War are told from a Northern perspective and tend to magnify the North’s values. Mitchell’s novel is unique also for its portrayal of a strong-willed, independent woman, Scarlett O’Hara, who shares many characteristics with Mitchell herself. Mitchell frequently defied convention, divorcing her first husband and pursuing a career in journalism despite the disapproval of society.

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