Review: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Final Verdict: 4.0 out of 4.0

YTD: 1


Plot/Story:

4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impactful (socially, academically, etc.)

“The greatest love story ever told.”  “The epic novel of our time.”  These are just two of the many descriptive phrases applied to Margaret Mitchell’s brilliant tome, Gone With the Wind.  Is it an epic tale, indicative of the essence of the American south during the Civil War?  Absolutely, it is.  Is it one of the most tense, romantic, and familiar love stories of all-time?  Yes, it definitely is.  But, when it comes down to it, do these short phrases accurately describe what Gone With the Wind is all about?  No, they do not.  Gone With the Wind is about the end of an era – the collapse of a civilization.  It is about selfishness and prosperity, morals and aristocracy, war and destruction, mercenaries and old maids.  When we come right down to it, the book is about change and how people deal with change differently – some, those who understand how to take advantage of circumstances, will manage change with extraordinary success; others, those too old, naïve, or stubborn to adjust, are destroyed by change – deflated and disillusioned.  In the tradition of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, Gone With the Wind is American reality in print – a detailed period piece which resounds beyond its time and echoes on through the ages. 


Characterization:

4 – Characters extraordinarily developed.

I cannot think of another book that is written so perfectly and that I love so much, whose main characters are so utterly despicable and unlikeable.  Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler lack almost any kind of redeeming quality – they are easy to hate, yet, somehow, I love them.  This is the mark of inspired writing and realistic characterization.  Although I was often at odds with the actions of Scarlett and Rhett, I also sympathized with their plights and understood why they chose to act the way they did – why they made the choices they made.  Some of the minor characters, too, were downright unbearable.  From the faint-prone Aunt Pittypat to the combative India, from the faulty White Knight, Ashley, to the Yankee Army Wives, so many characters in the cast of Gone With the Wind are largely negative – foolish, weak, selfish, and proud, among other things.   Still, as irritating as they might be, they are honest characters.  They are believable and independent from one another, equally dislikeable, but each in his or her own way.   Fortunately, there were some saving graces – characters easy to fall in love with, such as Scarlett’s angelic but deceptively strong sister-in-law, Melanie.  Also, Scarlett’s loud but wise nurse, Mammy.  Ellen O’Hara, too, the well-respected matriarch of Plantation Tara and, yes, even Scarlett’s verbose, drunken Irish father, are decent people – flawed, but champions nonetheless.  Put together, this cast of characters, crafted and molded so superbly by Mitchell, are interesting to watch, easy to believe, and enjoyable to spend time with.


Prose/Style:

4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

At just over 1,000 pages, Gone With the Wind is quite the chunkster.  Its subject matter, too, is hefty.  Combined, the length and plot are seemingly daunting and the primary reason why it took me so many years to take this book down off the shelf, where it has been sitting for a half-decade.  Surprisingly, I found myself breezing through a hundred pages a day and finishing the book in less than two weeks.  One of the things I most hate in a book is lengthy chapters – chapters of 25 pages or more- and this book was filled with them; yet, for some reason, it hardly bothered me this time.  So, why was I able to read the book so quickly?  Interesting themes, partly.  Entertaining characters, somewhat.  But, largely, it was thanks to the prose.  While, at times, I found the romantic (lower-case “r”) a bit over the top, it was not so dramatic as to distract from the more important elements of the story.  That being the one minor complaint – all that is left to say about the style and prose of this work is that they are simply lovely.  The language is fluid and charming, as befits a story about the American south.  The dialogue is well-spaced and delivered appropriately, supporting the general narration and the many internal monologues of Scarlett.  There were some grammatical errors, becoming more frequent later in the book, but this is a complaint against this particular edition (1973) and the publisher (Avon), not the author.   


Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.

4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

Instead of trying to describe the many interesting and important elements of this book – the topics covered, the politics presented, the societal elements explored- it might be easier to talk about what was not in this book.  This is a book about the American south – and there are many different types of southerner depicted here, with ample time provided to express their belief systems, social ideals, political aspirations, etc.  The one thing missing which could have provided some more insight would have been a prominent Yankee/Northern character.  Still, as I’ve mentioned a few times – this is a southern book, and it is appropriate that it be presented through southern eyes (mostly Georgian, although there are brief interludes from Louisiana, Virginia, and even Ireland).  Perhaps the most interesting elements in the book is the battle between the decline of the “Old” south and the rise of the “New” (characterized by the “Oldies” as scallywags).   The nature of love, too, and the blinders we place upon ourselves – the distracting fantasies, the aching for the past – are intimately, almost painstakingly evaluated.  Ultimately, though, it is perhaps Scarlett’s oft repeated thought, “I’ll think of it all tomorrow.  I can stand it then,” which sums up the various aspects of this book and its themes.  So much has happened, so much has changed.  It is only those who can continually refocus, who can stay strong and positive, and who can adjust to the changes, sacrificing, at times, prior ideals, who will survive the turmoil. 


Suggested Reading for:

Age Level: High School +

Interest: American South, Civil War, Antebellum Era, American Reconstruction,


Notable Quotes:

“My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

“He never really existed at all, except in my imagination.  I loved something I made up . . . .  I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it.”

“Death and taxes and childbirth!  There’s never any convenient time for any of them!”

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

“If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight?  But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war.  And that is money.” 

“As God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again.”

21 thoughts on “Review: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    1. I was put off for years by the sheer size of it as well, but after reading War and Peace last year, and some other hefty tomes (Les Miserables, Atlas Shrugged, Anna Karenina) in the past three years… I realized there’s nothing to fear. With the exception of Atlas Shrugged (that book was awful), all these other giant books have become favorites of mine.

    1. It actually isn’t pro-Confederate. At least, I didn’t think so. It’s pro-South, which is different. And two of the primary characters (the two whom Scarlett respects most) are actually anti-war.

      Many of the staunchest Confederates in the book don’t come across as the greatest of people (and some of the Northerners/Yankees are portrayed quite positively). I think it’s hardly political at all, to be honest (although, I was a little bit surprised by the way the early formation of the Ku Klux Klan was explained – I’ll have to look into the facts of that further at a later date). If political statements are made, it’s not clearly “pro-Confederate” and “anti-Union.” There are elements of both sides present – and both are portrayed with positives and negatives.

      It’s hard to describe… I think it’s much more about the individual and how independent actions have certain consequences, and how we must live with our choices. It certainly does lament the downfall of an era – but not necessarily with any clear indicator that that era should, in reality, be brought back.

  1. I think I am one of the few people who hate that book with a passion. Won’t watch the movie, or read the book ever again, and I wish I could get the hours of my life back on that one. I honestly can’t say why I dislike it so much. I know it is well written, I know it has a great plot, and that the characters are realistic.

    Oh, well. That is why there are so many authors, and books, and stories.

    1. Haha – I hate it a little bit, too. I hate the main characters and what they stand for – but I had to realize that that’s what makes Mitchell so good, that she created such incredibly realistic characters (who I just happen to despise). I’ve had a few experiences in the past with books I ultimately rated very highly because I felt so passionately negative about the main character (such as Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov).

      I can understand why some might not like this book at all – it’s a lot to swallow. It has some negative to wade through and some drama to endure but unlike, say, Atlas Shrugged, its overarching themes are, to me, positive and important (and not too incredibly biased).

  2. Hi, Thanks for the post. After you, like many years I have finally decided to take the plunge. I figured because I have seen the movie, I would know what happens. But, I am only on pg 50, and realizing the book explains the holes, that I always wondered about. There is a readalong on goodreads, ultimately, that was the real reason, I started reading.

    My reading goal, is to finally read a couple books a year, that I have wanted to read either contemporary classics, like Margaret Atwood- Handmaid’s Tale to a classic of Jane Eyre. Like you said chunksters scare me. Or there are so many other books to read, it keeps going to the bottom of the pile.

    The other is I review books, when they come in, I regretfully have to stop the books I want to read for pleasure, to books that come in for review, they come first.

    Thanks again for your post. If you would like I will let you know when I post.

    1. I’ll be reading The Handmaid’s Tale this year as well – and Jane Eyre is great.

      Sure, I would love to read your review, whenever you post it. Please let me know with a comment or a pingback and I will stop by to see what you thought of it!

      I have never seen the movie, but it should be coming through Netflix soon.

  3. One of my favorites. I literally could not put it down when I read it in high school. I read for about 14 hours straight – all night. Fortunately, it was summer vacation. I want to reread it, but I’m worried that the same thing will happen and I don’t have summer vacation anymore!

  4. Add me to the “avoided because the book is so darn huge” pile. I suppose I also belong with the group that avoided it because of being northerners and intimidated by the political overtones potentially presented. But avoiding, no longer.

    Not after reading your review anyway. One can tell that you enjoyed the book, but you didn’t gush like a silly schoolgirl. It’s very appropriate, given the novel and a refreshing view. I suppose I’ll have to tackle this one this year.

  5. I LOVE your evaluation of this book — your suggestion that the themes revolve around change and how characters the react to it. (The ones who can survive being the ones who are able to say again and again, “I’ll think of it tomorrow,” and keep walking.)

    I’ve read this book three times, and I will DEFINITELY read it again. I’m actually fascinated with the author and am reading all the biographies and letters I can find on her.

    You make an interesting point when you say the book is missing a prominent Northern character, and follow up that suggestion by conceding that “this is a southern book.”

    I read that Margaret Mitchell wrote this novel because she was curious about the Atlanta women of her day (1920s.) They had survived the American Civil War and Sherman’s March, and they were hard, bitter women. What had happened to them to make them so hard? Gone With the Wind is Mitchell’s answer to that question.

    Also — squeeee!!!! I’m excited that you liked it! 😀

  6. I’ll probably just echo a lot of what Jillian had to say, but yeah, I’m glad you liked this one. I was so skeptical going into this one-I thought I was going to hate it. But I was continually surprised by how much I loved it. And I think you’re right; the novel is definitely about dealing with and accepting change. 🙂

    Great review!

  7. I read this book long ago but what I loved about it, besides the really detailed picture of life in the South during the Civil War, was that Scarlett was so NOT ladylike. Sure, she’s not a nice person either. But I’ll take a tough unconventional female character over one who’s nice, any day. Scarlett survives because she’s tough.

  8. This is on my “chunkster” list for this year. I’m trying to make an effort to get to books that I have been putting off for no other reason than length-induced intimidation. I’m glad to see that you enjoyed it!

    1. Oh, wow! If it were a 1st Ed. 1st Printing, we’d definitely be having a conversation! But, still, be careful! I’m actually going to go out and purchase a new copy, because mine is rather old as well (it’s just an Avon mass market paperback, but I still want something more new/sturdy/stylish).

      1. My aunt loved to collect old books. She would go to antique shops and just pick up old books not even looking at titles. When I became a book worm she let me go through all of her titles and I was like OMG Gone With The Wind! So she gave it to me. You can find amazing books at antique shops!

  9. I first read this as a teenager and I still love it. I haven’t read it in years but I might need a new edition as a present — there are some beautiful hardcover editions, my old paperback is so worn and ratty and yellowed.

    And I do love that quote about death, taxes, and childbirth. Darn right!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s