My Edition: Here
Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND is a classic tome that has intimidated readers for years since it’s publication. Myself included, GONE WITH THE WIND became the book that most people knew the general idea of the story, but never bothered to pick up the novel (especially considering the extensive movie made in 1939). Going into the book, I expected a sweeping love story and rich Southerners, but was surprised with the raw emotion and level of humanity I have rarely been struck by in a book.
// SYNOPSIS //
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell’s magnificent historical epic is an unforgettable tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and a people forever changed. Above all, it is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett O’Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.
Since its first publication in 1936, GONE WITH THE WIND has endured as a story for all our times.
Before writing this review I was thinking of the many ways I could try to sum up this book and to be honest, there isn’t one. Not only because of it’s incredible size, but also because GONE WITH THE WIND explores more than just a love so tumultuous and violent that we – as readers – dare to crave it. This novel explores the depths of human emotions and capability, and the extents to which one must go when they are exposed to utmost of stifling environments.
Scarlett O’Hara is a much more complex character that most give her credit for. While telling various family and friends that I was making my way through Mitchell’s work, most responses included punishing Scarlett in one way or another for her attitude, and while I don’t agree with many of the things she says or does in the book, I do believe that Scarlett is stuck between a rock and a hard place. In trying to save her home and family, she does some undeniably horrid things – employing convicts for free, tricking men into marriage, etc., – but at the same time, it becomes difficult to fault her when, at it’s bare bones, her intentions are those that equate to the safety and security of the ones she loves. It was in these moments that I had to look back at myself and wonder what I would do in that position and, even more so, if my morals would also have to take a back seat.
Scarlett’s opposite in everything except a moral ground is the unrelenting Rhett Butler – social cast-away and rich ‘scallywag’, to quote the novel. In GONE WITH THE WIND, Rhett proves himself different from the other southern men around him for his lack of filter and unstoppable sarcastic remarks. However, what seems to set Rhett apart is an underlining softness that runs through his actions. You know how they say actions speak louder than words? I believe that Rhett becomes the novelistic embodiment of that cliché.
Rhett, even more so than Scarlett, became my main focus throughout the story. His dichotomy between a chosen ruthless language and the gentle spirit that cradles his love is what drew me in to such a complicated man whose past, as far as I could tell from my own reading, remains mostly a mystery.
However, like I said at the very beginning, this book is so much more than the characters that inhabit it. For me, GONE WITH THE WIND was more about emotions than anything else – it becomes about the the human condition under insurmountable turmoil and our reactions to it. The end of GONE WITH THE WIND can leave its reader a bit unsatisfied, as all the realizations that we have begged for throughout reading the book come to fruition, but almost completely without resolution. That being said, it does play somewhat into the theme of expectation, and what consequences we suffer when we have expectations put upon us by others and by ourselves. Mitchell makes us look at what it means to have an identity and if we are tying that identity to another person, thing, or group.
GONE WITH THE WIND is book that is so many things at once, and if you’re looking for a light read, this may not be the way to go. However, albeit the size that it is, Margaret Mitchell’s only literary venture is one that I would recommend to almost everyone, as it has portrayed the human condition and capability to me in a way I had never been faced with before.
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