Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

What is there to say about Gone With the Wind that hasn't already been said? I've been thinking about this a lot. Since it took me a full two weeks to read, my posts about it at Instagram were just updates about where I was in the story and that seems like a good place to start. 

Here are the updates I wrote throughout the reading of Gone With the Wind:

  • 5 days into my reading, the Yankees are coming, Prissy don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies, and Scarlett is frankly pissed that Melanie survived childbirth. 
  • As God is her witness, Scarlett will never be hungry again, or so she says. Not sure if that's really working out for her. I'm so involved that last night I found myself thinking, "Damn Yankees!" I was angry with them for stealing food and valuables, shredding the furniture, and causing everyone but Scarlett, her son, and Melanie's baby to hightail it to the swamp with whatever they could carry. Also, Melanie is tough under that sweet exterior.
  • I passed the halfway point in Gone With the Wind two days ago but yesterday I was so glum I didn't feel like reading at all. I declared that it was Intermission and went to bed early. Back to reading, tonight. Scarlett is wearing her mama's green velvet curtains and I keep thinking of Carol Burnett's hilarious skit in a dress made of curtains with the curtain rod still in them. 
  • Getting there, slowly but surely. There's a lot more that's not in the movie, the farther you get into the novel. I'm enjoying the newness and depth of these added details but I'm also starting to get fidgety, wanting to finish. The funniest/weirdest thing about my Gone With the Wind experience? While I'm reading, the movie theme song is almost always playing in my head. Strange but true. 
  • Rhett and Scarlett are not getting along. Rhett thinks Scarlett has abominable taste in home decorations and Scarlett doesn't care because it's so fun to have money and flaunt it. I hope to finish by tomorrow but might go to bed early and ruin my plan. 
  • FINISHED!! I hope to rewatch the movie soon. I read somewhere that what's most amazing about Gone With the Wind is the fact that Margaret Mitchell managed to make people care about such an unlikable heroine. Scarlett is cunning and courageous, though, in addition to her negative qualities. And Rhett, Melly, Ashley . . . so many fascinating characters. I will remember this book fondly forever. 

Highly recommended: a new favorite - Reading this saga was not just fun, it was an experience. I gave Gone With the Wind five stars. Captivating, informative about the way Southerners thought and behaved and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, absolutely addictive reading. 

I can see why Gone With the Wind is considered problematic, now, and why it's also The Great American Novel. Like most other novels with vernacular dialogue, I sometimes became frustrated because those bits were so difficult to read. But, It was simply one of the most engrossing reads of my life so I can't take off even a fraction of a point. 

It took me two days but I did manage to watch the entire movie version of Gone With the Wind across Saturday and Sunday evenings. It's been ages since I've seen it and it was a different experience viewing the film after reading the book. Instead of just sitting back and enjoying it, I was analyzing the differences between book and movie, like the fact that Scarlett's first two children don't exist at all in the movie. 

Obviously, a lot of material had to be cut out of the book to make even a 3-hour film but I was surprised at how faithful the movie is to the book. Instead of cutting out too many important scenes, what David O. Selznick did was boil down many of the plot points to a single scene. So, instead of having Scarlett's long drive to Tara past burned-out mansions, as in the book, the movie shows a single ruined mansion, Twelve Oaks. This nicely ties back to the barbecue at Twelve Oaks where Scarlett surrounded herself with her beaux to try to make Ashley jealous enough to ditch Melanie. Spoiler: It didn't work. 

I like the way the movie ends on a high note, with Scarlett determined to win Rhett back. Even as a child, I was fine with that ending because I remember just believing Scarlett would succeed. I went ahead and got them back together mentally and I was satisfied. 

Back to the book:  I keep using the word "experience" to describe the reading of Gone With the Wind because it truly was. There's so much to the book. Scarlett is both heroic and hideously selfish. Rhett is a rogue but he also has a heart and adores children. Melanie is weakened by childbirth permanently but she's tough as nails when strength of spirit is required. Ashley is so much nerdier than I realized and a terrible businessman. The war is described with some detail but made palatable by the fact that it's told through the eyes of the people of Atlanta as they become aware of what's happening or through Scarlett's eyes as she ends up nursing soldiers against her will. Seriously, what an amazing read. 

Have you read Gone With the Wind? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. I've not read the book but one time, during a long Christmas break, I watched the movie in one sitting and was mesmerized. It was only then that I thought about possibly reading the book.

    Ryan Murphy, of American Horror Story fame has that show on Netflix called Hollywood and it has an actress playing Vivien Leigh and it touches on all the racial stereotypes depicted in the film. It's not about Gone With the Wind, just about Hollywood during that era but it's fascinating.

    1. This is my first time reading it! I've seen the movie many times, though. In fact, when I was . . . maybe a pre-teen?? . . . the movie was rereleased in theaters and that's the first time I saw it. I never forgot it, partly because I was so stiff from sitting for 3 hours! Eventually, I bought the DVD and I'm happy that I still have my copy.

      Oh, that sounds interesting. I'll have to look up Hollywood. The racial stereotyping was really pretty disturbing but I tried to just focus on enjoying the romance and the history and ignore all the awful racial slurs. I noticed they changed the wording in the movie, now and then, so it can't have really even been considered acceptable back then.

  2. I kept this book in the car and read and reread it all of one summer, the summer I turned 12. I loved it. Since then I have become aware, as the kids say, that "your fav is problematic," most of all from an article that I can't put my finger on at this moment but will come back when/if I think of it.

    1. I'm certain the troublesome aspect would not have jumped out at me if I'd read it at that age.

  3. Never read it yet! But it's one I've always felt I ought to. Haven't seen the movie either but I think I will wait on that until I've read the book.

    1. I've always felt I ought to read the book, too, although I saw the movie when I was pretty young and later bought a copy so I knew plenty about the story. Definitely read and see the movie if you can fit them in!


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