2012 Challenges, Books, Quotes, The Classics Club

Book 105: Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

Well I survived the slog. At points I honestly didn’t think I would get through the novel and really should have waited having just finished the five books of Martin’s epic saga, but I did and I didn’t. It took me nearly three weeks to read the novel (which, yes I know, isn’t a lot of time for some people – but it was never-ending for me), and they were three very long weeks.

Counting for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge, the Tea and Books Reading Challenge and The Classics Club, I am definitely glad I read the novel (aside from the story of course) because it puts me that much closer to my yearly goals! Technically I’ve finished the Tea and Books reading challenge (my original goal was Earl Grey Aficionado, or six books) but I upgraded last month to the Sencha Connoisseur level which is eight books.

The story itself is overwhelming when you try to take all of it into account and there’s no way you can so I’m only lightly touching on a few of the things which stood out to me.

  1. The hardest thing to wrap my mind around is that this is Margaret Mitchell’s first novel. Let me say that again, her FIRST NOVEL. How can you ever follow-up something as epic as this? From the packaging (a line in the bio mentions no one told her the South lost the Civil War until she found out when she was 10) to the characters (Rhett, Scarlett, Melly, Mammy, Dilcey – they go on) this is definitely one of those novels that doesn’t come around very often. I have read somewhere that her second novel, Lost Laysen, appears on many lists as one of the best novels never read because it was so overshadowed by Gone With the Wind.
  2. Overall I thought the characters were genuine, most of them were able to raise some sort of emotional response from me (none more so than Scarlett) and although many were pure caricatures, Mitchell wrote them in such a way that they came to life on the page. I know a lot of the critiques of this novel come from the way Mitchell wrote about the slaves and African American’s, their language and descriptions of their incompetence and naiveté, but honestly if that’s what’s going to piss you off about this novel why are you reading at all? You’ll be pissed off by any novel written from any perspective that isn’t your own. I won’t go more into it – but basically take into account what was going on in the time period and who the author is. I’m not saying I approve of slavery or the descriptions of the slaves, but without keeping perspective you’re likely to not agree with anyone.
  3. Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley and Melly – UNREQUITED LOVE. Need I say more? Mitchell when asked said the novel was about survival, and it truly is, but I believe it’s even more so about star-crossed lovers and mistimed/unrequited love. Part of this has to do with maturity and circumstance. Even though I was always frustrated with Scarlett – from her childish innocence and demand for love and affection to the final pages where she realizes who she loves and why she loves them, you can’t help but root for her in the end. She’s survived and she’s pushed through and even though she has comfort and money, she’s lost love and decency.
  4. I didn’t mind the Civil War setting as much as I thought I would. And let’s face it the talk of magnolia’s and a slower pace of life really made me miss the South. Even though it’s been nearly 150 years and a lot has changed, some things sound incredibly similar (check the additional quotes).

I’m looking forward to the film (which I will get from the library soon). As I was reading the book only vague bits and pieces of the film were coming back to me and I apparently didn’t remember a lot of the major plot points.

Recommendation:Aside from READ IT. My major recommendation is to break it into multiple parts. The book is conveniently split into four parts and if I would’ve paid attention to this I would have read the first two parts then taken a break and read something else and then followed up with the last two parts. It is definitely worth the read, but you do have to dedicate a lot of time and attention to it to get its full value.

Opening Line: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

Closing Line: “Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from Gone with the Wind
“When a Southerner took the trouble to pack a trunk and travel twenty miles for a visit, the visit was seldom of shorter duration than a month, usually much longer. Southerners were as enthusiastic visitors as they were hosts, and there was nothing unusual in relatives coming to spend the Christmas holidays and remaining until July…Visitors added excitement and variety to the slow-moving Southern life and they were always welcome.” (160)

“‘All wars are sacred,’ he said. ‘To those who have to fight the. 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. All wars are in reality money squabbles…'” (230)

“A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well as or better than a man, a revolutionary thought to Scarlett who had been reared in the tradition that men were omniscient and women none too bright. Of course, she had discovered that this was not altogether true but the pleasant fiction still stuck in her mind…Why, why her mind stuttered, I believe women could manage everything in the world without men’s help—except having babies, and God knows, no woman in her right mind would have babies if she could help it.” (580)

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21 thoughts on “Book 105: Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell”

  1. My local bookshop owner jumped up on me when I plucked this book off the shelf and said YOU MUST READ THAT BOOK! I kinda wish I’d bought it then, I keep hearing how good it is. Just that… I’m really not that attracted to reading books set in the American south about that time and era. But I know it is supposed to be so good and his recommendation is a good one. I went back there again though and it weren’t there. 😦

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    1. Thanks for the comment! I know what you mean about reading books set in that period. Although I have a soft spot for Southern literature, the Civil War is of no interest to me. I was surprised at how much I found myself wondering why I’d never been to a re-enactment or read anything from that period while reading this novel.

      Keep an eye out I’m sure a copy will crop up again! If not I know I got mine relatively cheap from Amazon from a local seller.

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  2. Lost Laysen was actually just a little story she wrote for a boyfriend. It was never intended to be published and she was all but a child when she wrote it. She wanted to be known only for Gone With the Wind. It was published posthumously when it was discovered in the 1990s.

    GWTW is my favorite novel. My ancestors fought for the Confederacy in the Battle of Atlanta depicted in the novel, and my grandmother went to the same theater as Margaret Mitchell. It’s burned down since, or I’d be going there too! 🙂

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    1. I guess novel wasn’t quite the right word – I’ll have to see if I can find the lists again, I read it on two last year and thus it ended up on my list of works to read. I knew it was published posthumously, but had assumed it was a longer work!

      I’m not sure where my ancestors were at the time – I think we’d arrived in the US at that point, but I’m woefully ignorant. (That’s a great piece of knowledge and a great connection to the novel!

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      1. I own and have read Lost Laysen. The story is about 60 (very brief) pages long. The book itself, if you get the copy I got, has about 68 pages of biographical info and photos about Mitchell. Mostly about how the story was discovered. Worth the read for its historical significance, but certainly no Gone With the Wind. 🙂

        My ancestors have been traced back to 700 AD. We were in France (called something else back then that I can’t remember how to spell), then Scotland, and finally the Jamestown settlement in America in 1611-ish. We ended up in Georgia in the 1700s. I’m actually going to go walk the land my ancestors bought in the 1700s Wednesday. My cousin still owns it. 😀

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        1. I can’t help but notice it’s been three years since you read this book. That, sir, is an utter tragedy. Fortunately, one of us — I don’t want to name names, but her pen name rhymes with serene — is hosting a group read in May. A very, very long group read. As in, three months long. Which leaves you really no other option but utter enthusiasm. 🙂

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          1. Ha! Thanks for the invite, but unfortunately three years doesn’t seem nearly long enough. There were parts that we’re epically great, but I just did not fall in love with this like so many other people. Good luck with the read-a-long!

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  3. There’s a really wonderful essay about this book in Pat Conroy’s ‘The Reading Life’ which in itself is a wonderful collection of essays about the books and people that influenced him in his writing career. After reading his essay, you really begin to understand the influence this book had on a whole generation of people living in the South. I think it is wonderful and though I have only read one of Conroy’s book I can see by the kind of book he writes how he was influenced by Margaret Mitchell’s classic.

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    1. Oh – that sounds fascinating. I always love finding out what books influenced writers yhen going back and reading them and sometimes you can definitely see the influence.

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  4. As you watch the movie, it’s fun to know that there were MULTIPLE directors and they all saw Scarlett differently. I always wondered what Scarlett would have been capable of had she been born 100 years later….

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    1. I’m still waiting to watch it – DVD from the library didn’t work in my computer. I wasn’t aware there were multiple directors, that’ll definitely put a new spin on it as I’m watching. I always imagine her as one of those bad-ass Sci-Fi/Fantasy heroins who’s kicking ass and taking names if she were born later or written in a different universe.

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  5. I was simply swept away by this book. Even now when I think of it I feel a bit breathless. And I agree with you about perspective. It rather annoyed me when people picked apart the book just because Mitchell wrote about the war from her point of view. It seems quite silly to lose sight of the bigger picture for the bits along the way.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment! If there is one peeve that bothers me more than any other it’s people pretending a book was written in a vacuum. Yes there were some racist and even misogynist plot lines/stories in this novel, but look at who she was and when it was and why she was writing it. It doesn’t excuse it, but you should be able to say, well that was a sad point in history, but look how much has changed. Don’t demonize an author or a story because of their subject matter – they have just as much right to write about it as a person does to not read it you know?

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