Gone with the Wind

September 26, 2012 Classics, Historical Fiction 31

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is a book with an aura around it. I have never watched the movie in its entirety (for shame, I know), and until recently I hadn’t read the book either. I am a huge trivia buff and attend a monthly trivia night. It’s for charity, so I don’t feel like a jerk for winning all the time. Because it’s not ME winning, it’s the CHARITY winning. See? Anyway, at trivia one month there was an entire category on Gone With the Wind, and I, Katie the bookworm, couldn’t answer any of the questions because I hadn’t read it. I had to remedy that, fast.

I was expecting the book to be a bit of a chore- I thought the language would be antiquated and it would just be about a bunch of fancy people sitting around in rooms. Everyone knows Jane Austen is the only person who could pull THAT off, so I wasn’t enthused.

I WAS SO WRONG. This book was amazing. I’m from Illinois, ye olde Land of Lincoln. Everything I knew about the Civil War came from a Northern perspective. That’s not really surprising- everyone knows that history is written by the winners, but I was fascinated by the Southern perspective presented in this novel.

Slavery was an ugly, filthy, horrific institution and I’m not about to go defending it. However, I take an Anne Frank approach to humanity when I say that I think deep down all people are basically good. Nobody starts out a monster- the world has to break you somehow to turn you into an asshole. The people of the South certainly didn’t see themselves as monsters. They were refined people who held fancy barbecues and debutant balls. Sure, they owned slaves, but most people considered themselves kind owners. At least it appears that way in Scarlett’s family. The devotion of Mammy, Prissy, and Big Sam illustrate that sometimes the relationships between slaves and their owners were almost familial- and the affection between slave and owner was mutual.

However, just because there were some decent folks who owned slaves and treated them well, that didn’t make it right. Unfortunately, plantation owners had a TON of land to work and couldn’t afford to employ a huge brigade of free men. It’s like if today you went to a farmer’s place and told him that his very expensive tractors were now property of the government and he’d have to figure out some other way to bring the crop in. The plantation owners were pretty well flabbergasted. So, the war broke out. (Side note on the slavery thing- most people in the North had never seen people of color. Many of them were every bit as racist and mistrustful of slaves as people in the South, they just didn’t need the labor as desperately. There’s a scene with Scarlett and a carpetbagger seeking a nanny that illustrates this poignantly. God bless the abolitionists, but we Northerners should get off our high horses- odds are our ancestors weren’t exactly enlightened.)

You know what happens when you’re on the losing side of a war? Your house and farm are burned or occupied. Your valuables are looted. Your family is scattered. Your friends are killed. It’s an ugly business, war.

Katie Scarlett O’Hara is the heroine of our story (I mention her full name specifically because my name is Katie…) She is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and widely considered to be the prettiest belle in Clayton County, Georgia.

There are a lot of people who idolize Scarlett. She’s beautiful, she’s feisty, and she is swept into one of literature’s great love stories. Personally? I would not hang out with Scarlett. She is a narcissist of epic proportions. She goes around stealing other people’s fiancés (even her sister’s!) and plotting ways to attract attention. She can barely tolerate her own children. Scarlett’s biggest concern is Scarlett, and her own fabulousness.

But dammit, for all her flaws, she’s the lady you want to have on your side during the Zombie Apocalypse (assuming of course, it’s not just the two of you about to be eaten. She’d blow out your kneecap if it meant her own survival.) Her single-mindedness serves her well in surviving the reconstruction of the South. Having no moral compass really helps you re-establish your fortune when your friends and neighbors are still floundering. Scarlett suffers no guilt fraternizing with carpet-bagging northerners. She’ll make friends with occupying forces if it’ll get her ahead. She does what she has to do to get her fancy fanny back into the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed. She toys with the emotions of Rhett Butler (who is himself a scalawag- a term used often in this novel, for which it earns endless brownie points) while carrying a flame for the only man who ever turned her down. (I’m going to go ahead and say it- Ashley Wilkes is kind of a weenie. Sorry dude.)

She’s also the greatest procrastinator of sadness I’ve ever seen. She’s confronted with tragedy after tragedy, but rather than deal with her feelings and accept her grief, she puts it off. She decides to think about it later, when it doesn’t hurt as much. I don’t know what therapists would say about her coping mechanism, but it keeps Scarlett in fighting form. I love this book for giving me another perspective on history. I love this book for having such flawed characters. I love this book for not giving Scarlett a perfectly happy ending. I just love this book. Read it!

31 Responses to “Gone with the Wind”

  1. Jupiter

    There’s one imagining I never imagined… Scarlett on my Z-Day Team! Oh, that would be epic.
    I really love Gone with the Wind and I think you summed it up well.

    • wordsforworms

      Seriously- Scarlett is scrappy. She could charm a survivalist out of his supplies using nothing but a dress made out of curtains. And suffer no guilt a the thought of his imminent demise. Thanks for visiting!

    • wordsforworms

      Dad, are you trying to make a joke about my middle name being Rose? Because if you’re trying to call me a be-otch, you could have just come out with it. We have that kind of relationship, Old Man.

  2. MrsCrazyPants

    This is one of those books I’ve always planned to read, but was scared off by it…. I think I shall give it a try in the near future!! (and then give you my therapist assessment of Scarlett LOL) 🙂

  3. janereads

    I love this book. Read it many times. Seen the movie many times. Even read the authorised sequel ‘Scarlett.’ Glad you like it. It’s never too late to discover a classic for “tomorrow is another day” …

    • wordsforworms

      I read Scarlett too, and I liked it. The only problem is that I’m not sure Scarlett deserved redemption… Of course, that didn’t keep me from unabashed joy at Rhett’s reappearance and their happily ever after 🙂

  4. Natalie

    Gone with the Wind is one of my all time favorite books! I’ve read it countless times. Every time I read it, I find my views on the characters and the sometimes awful situations they find themselves in different. So glad you’ve now read it!

  5. Mabel


    Awesome post. I love what you say about the Northerners. The New York Race Ripts of 1863 come to mind…

    In a side note, I met General Lee’s great-great (etc) granddaughter at work once. She was a customer, and somehow we got to talking about Virginia, and how she feels pulled to it, and how maybe that’s embedded in the bones of us, and she told me she was General Lee’s direct descendant. It felt like meeting Lincoln!! I rave over history like most people rave about… well, Twilight. Or whatever is popular right now. I’m usually reading. 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      Oh Mabel, we’re going to be pals, I can tell. I LOOOOOVE history! I just lectured my Dad the other night on how Ireland was never officially involved in WWII! That bit about the North really stuck with me. It’s so easy for us in the North to be proud that slavery wasn’t legal here, but it sure as heck didn’t make us civil rights activists. I’ll listen to your historical rants and raves whenever! 🙂

  6. Don Royster

    Hi, y’all. Enjoyed your review. Just three things to offer. Carol Burnett did a very funny rendition of Gone With the Wind. It’s in 2 parts on You tube.

    Secondly if you want a great read on the Civil War: Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War: A Narrative”. Read the opening chapter of Jefferson Davis’ departure from the Senate. It reads like a novel.

    Finally I have a blog post on North/South relations coming out Friday at Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such. It’s humor as are all my blogs.

    Oh, and I chased down your blog from your comment on 101 Books. Was interested to get your perspective.

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