Guest Post: Gone with the Wind

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Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 8.30.27 PM Julie McMahon is an American living in Melbourne, Australia where she drinks a inordinate amount of coffee and blogs semi-regularly at about her family’s adventures on the other side of the world. She becomes exceptionally uncommunicative when a good book finds its way into her hands.

I first picked up Gone with the Wind as a 13-year old. It was summertime, thank goodness, as I was to spend the better part of the next few weeks devouring the book. I may have been geographically in the Midwest that summer, but my imagination had me firmly planted in the South.

Nearly thirty years later I have reread it with adult eyes and the staying power of the book has struck me. Who could have written a better heroine than Margaret Mitchell did with Scarlett O’Hara, the belle of the Georgia countryside? Feisty, attractive and coy, she was also greedy, manipulative and selfish. Hardly a heroine worth emulating, but her adventures were well-worth following.

Set on the eve of the Civil War, Gone with the Wind follows the plight of Scarlett and those around her during the War Between the States through to the questionable era of Reconstruction. We witness Scarlett’s fall from gentility as the graceful and leisurely life she has known as a plantation owner’s daughter is destroyed by war. We watch her casual collecting of husbands as she maneuvers her way through life with a combination of flirtation and deceiScreen shot 2013-03-24 at 8.30.10 PMt. We see her unlikely alliance with Rhett Butler, a scoundrel like herself, but whose true motives remain hidden for most of the novel.

Mitchell’s talent lies not only in the theatrical storyline of Scarlett and her unparalleled manipulation of those around her, but in the vivid detailing of a graceful era shattered by war and violence. The suffering of the South at the hands of the Union Army is highlighted, providing a deeper and more colorful understanding of what has been simplistically defined as a war to end slavery.

Margaret Mitchell’s phenomenal bestseller won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937, but there is nothing old-fashioned about the novel. It is an enthralling read, though extreme in length (the hardcover version I read at 13 was over 1,000 pages long). Ideal for anyone with a love of historical fiction, Gone with the Wind is a captivating journey into the past.

If there is any drawback to the book, the reader is left wishing for closure as the novel ends with Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship unsettled. But to quote Scarlett as she once again recognizes an issue too weighty to tackle in one day, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

What is your favorite ‘iconic’ read?

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5 Responses

  1. Sigh. Oh, do I love that book. When I was in 6th grade (11 years old) I was the only student in my grade to test into an advanced reading class, so I ended up being a 1 person class. I convinced my teacher to let me read Gone With the Wind and spent many happy weeks sitting by myself in the school library with GWTW, keeping a reading journal as I read. A few years later, for a classic lit project in my Soph Honors Class, I cajoled my teacher into letting me read Scarlett (the authorized sequel), even though it wasn’t on her approved list of titles. I promised I’d write a comparative essay between the sequel and the original (which WAS on the list). Scarlett was a fun read, but even back then at 14 or 15 years old, I understood it could not compare to the the tale Mitchell wrote. Part of my love for this book is tied up with the story of how the book became a movie (an epic tale in itself). Gah, I could talk about this for hours!
    Favorite “iconic” read…hmmm…not sure what you mean by the use of this word…a book representative of an era? Of an historic event?

  2. GWTW is by far my favorite book. I was in 3rd grade the first time I read it. My older sister had read it and I read everything she did-which wasn’t always a good idea (Amityville Horror). The first time I though huh, what a nice story. Each time I read it I gain a new perspective and I seem to hate Ashley Wilkes just a little more.

    In 8th grade we studied the Civil War and we took sides and had to debate our position. Me and one other kid were for the South (No, I’m not for slavery but somoebody had to be on the South) I used GWTW for a reference, I know, I know settle down all you reference librarians. It wasn’t my only source but when you bring up Scarlett O’Hara in a heated debate people tend to stop and not only look at you a little funny but I was able to get a word in edge wise. Just as in the book and real life, the South lost the debate but me and that one other kid gave it all we could.

    By the time I was a senior in high school I had read the book about five times and number six was for a Novel class and no I didn’t tell the teacher I had read the book before. I know, I know the class was supposed to expand my experiences and introduce me to new books but hey who can pass up an easy A and the chance to read GWTW.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read my old friend GWTW. The characters never change but I learn a little more of each one every time. Mammy is one of my favorite characters. What a job she had trying to keep Miss Scarlett in line. “I’s going to Atlanta with ya and going I is” Nobody can strong arm Mammy not even Scarlett.

    My sister and I both love GWTW and when we get together sometimes we’ll just spew quotes (of course in our terrible Southern accent) and laugh and laugh until we cry. Then we bash Ashley. Sorry for any Ashley lovers out there. He just needed to get a back bone but maybe I hate that Scarlett couldn’t see past that she just loved the idea of loving him. I like to think that all ends well but I love it when Rehtt walks out. Yes, I’ve read Scarlett (the sequel) once and I don’t remember a lot from it. I like to let my imagination do the happy every after.

    I could go on and on and on so I’ll stop but Gone With The Wind should be required reading in schools.

  3. I wonder if there are many Ashley Wilkes fans out there? Although there was much to like about him, he was also incredibly weak and wishy washy when it came to love.

  4. I liked Ashley and Rhett but couldn’t bear Scarlett or Melanie. Melanie was a shrew, forcing Ashley to not see his sister -the only family he had left- because India had ‘lied’ about Scarlett chasing him. All of that “we all must protect frail Melanie’s feelings by shielding her from the truth” is ridiculous and indefensible.

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