Book Review: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Book Review: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Title: Gone With The WindBook Review - Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Author: Margaret Mitchell

Publisher: Macmillan Inc.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

First Publication: 1936

Language: English

Major Characters: Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes, Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, Gerald O’Hara, Ellen O’Hara, Mammy, Frank Kennedy, Charles Hamilton

Setting Place: Clayton County and Atlanta, both in Georgia, during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era

Theme: The Transformation of Southern Culture, Overcoming Adversity with Willpower, Survival

 

Book Summary: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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.

Margaret Mitchell’s monumental epic of the South won a Pulitzer Prize, gave rise to the most popular motion picture of our time, and inspired a sequel that became the fastest selling novel of the century. It is one of the most popular books ever written: more than 28 million copies of the book have been sold in more than 37 countries. Today, more than 80 years after its initial publication, its achievements are unparalleled, and it remains the most revered American saga and the most beloved work by an American writer…

 

Book Review: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Despite boasts that Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is “the greatest romance of our time,” this approximately 1,000-page book is not just a romance. Its intense focus on a ruthless heroine neatly underscores what this brick of a book is instead: an exploration of transformation, loss, and the deep unfairness of life. Perhaps no story can do more justice to these themes–more memorably and, ultimately, devastatingly–than this, Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece.

There’s little happiness in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, something that surprised me even though before beginning I was aware it’s a complex book. Neither heroine Scarlett O’Hara nor Rhett Butler are likable people; their relationship is an unhealthy one, with Butler abusing O’Hara after they marry. It’s the Civil War that hoards the spotlight. This war backdrop, as is true of all war backdrops, lends the story an important gravitas and drama; however, this same backdrop infuses Gone With the Wind with an undercurrent of hopelessness, and an all-encompassing hopelessness it is.

“Hardships make or break people.”

To say that everything hinges on the war backdrop wouldn’t be exaggerating; the war affects each character profoundly, providing the meaning behind their most significant actions. It’s the narrative’s very life force. Margaret Mitchell put a human face on this war that’s remarkable, and her gruesome (but not gratuitously so) descriptions strike all the right emotional chords at just the right intensity.

She impressively juxtaposed the war’s atrocities with Scarlett O’Hara’s superficial frets; this young woman shamelessly laments her lack of stylish dresses while just a few miles away men lie bleeding to death in cramped hospitals without benefit of painkillers. Scarlett O’Hara most certainly is a fearless woman with a strong independent streak, but she’s easy to despise. She’s not so unlikable though. This protagonist is utterly captivating, someone who held me spellbound, much as she does the many characters she manipulates.

“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.”

Gone With the Wind isn’t really about Scarlett O’Hara, though, as compelling as she is. The book’s power lies in part on Margaret Mitchell’s spin on the theme of transformation; Scarlett is merely the character she used to drive home that theme. In the world of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, not all personal transformations are for the better. Margaret Mitchell’s creation isn’t the syrupy maudlin type with inspirational characters turning over a new leaf by story’s end.

This isn’t to say that no one gets their comeuppance in due time or that no lessons are learned, but, like life itself, countless unfair events unfold. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell isn’t in the business of imparting happily-ever-afters. “The greatest romance of our time” is a surprisingly contemplative tale: real, deeply sad at times, and unafraid to reveal a great many of life’s uglier truths.

“After all, tomorrow is another day!”

Finally, I believe it’s worth mentioning that Gone With the Wind’s Southern sensibility is very strong. The South here is a living character all its own, and this vividness lends even deeper resonance to the story while breathing life into its large cast of characters. I know some have taken–and do take–issue with the Georgia of this era, when slavery and sexism were very much a reality; however, it’s always clear that Mitchell’s goal was only authenticity and accuracy in portrayal, and she wasn’t expressing personal sentiments. Her Pulitzer Prize is well deserved.


Controversy:

Published in 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind has been banned on social grounds. The book has been called “offensive” and “vulgar” because of the language and characterizations. Words like “damn” and “whore” were scandalous at the time. Also, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice disapproved of Scarlett’s multiple marriages. The term used to describe slaves was also offensive to readers. In more recent times, the membership of lead characters in the Ku Klux Klan is also problematic.

The book joins the ranks of other books that controversially tackled issues of race, including Joseph Conrad’s The Nigger of Narcissus, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


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as of May 27, 2020 6:45 AM

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