Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell
published 1936
completed September 2011

Before I start the review, I just want to mention that the cover image is the same one that was on the book that I read. It was a copy that I borrowed from my library, and let me just say that I'm not a fan of that cover. What is up with Scarlett's hair? It's all whispy and looks like half of it has been burned off. Hideous, I tell you! Maybe I'm the only one that thinks so.

So, on to the book. I don't know if there is anyone alive that doesn't at least know the premise of Gone with the Wind. I'll just sum it up by saying it is a story of Scarlett O'Hara of Georgia and begins before the Civil War and continues through the Reconstruction. The scope of the novel is about ten years. I read a post by Jill of Fizzy Thoughts that made me laugh. She said that she hated Scarlett from the beginning (as did I). Click on over because she says it so much better than I can. Scarlett is awful! I kept hoping through the ten years of the story, she would have grown out of her selfishness, but no, she just seems to get worse. Despite not liking Scarlett, I actually like the novel (didn't love it though). I'm curious if there is anyone out there that actually liked Scarlett.

Gumption is often mentioned in this book as a positive trait. It is, to some extent, but where it starts to break down for me, is when morality is lost because of gumption. For example, is it okay to steal food from other so that you can survive. I'm not talking about stealing from the rich even, I'm talking about stealing from other poor who will likely starve without it? Scarlett was full of gumption; she was constantly pushing to ensure security for her family. But at what price? I think it's interesting in the end that there is much discussion about happiness. Scarlett is constantly in pursuit of what she thinks will make her happy, but what happens when she has it? Is she really happy? I'm sure you can guess what the answer is.

I know there are many who think Melanie as a character who is too unrealistic. I disagree. I have met people like her who are strong, but refuse to be dragged down into the muck. They see the good in others and are principled, yet kind. Some call people like Melanie naive, but I think she knew much more than she let on.

Having finished this behemoth of a book, I'm glad to have said that I've read it. I certainly won't be doing it again. The first half was a major slog. Once I hit about 500 pages in, it picked up and I read the rest fairly quickly. I'm a bit lukewarm on this one. I didn't find the writing anything special, not poorly written, but a little repetitive. I found the historical parts kind of boring. Historical fiction isn't a genre I generally enjoy, so out of personal preference, I was wishing those parts were more succinct.

Lastly, I watched the iconic movie a couple of days after finishing the book, and I was surprised by how much was changed. I found it interesting that they chose to leave out her first two children. For simplicity, I can see why, but I think showing how poorly she treats her first two children is quite an insight into her character. I found the movie a little slow and it took me a few days to watch it because of the length.

Am I blaspheming by saying I didn't love this? If you've read it, what are your thoughts on Gone with the Wind (especially Scarlett and Melanie)?

P. S. I still remember all of your recommendations on what to review! Thanks to everyone who responded. Life has hit me hard in the past few months, but I'm going to try to catch up. I'll definitely try to post reviews on the ones you requested first. Thanks!


  1. GWTW is one of my fave rereads next to LoTR. I love Scarlett regardless of her shallowness/selfishness and I understand her completely. She is very realistic to me because of the good and bad in her character.

    From all the GWTW blog posts I've read, I'm not the only one who appreciates Scarlett and admires the book and you aren't the only one lukewarm about it. It is very interesting how books can affect people so differently.

  2. Lesa--Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is interesting how books can be viewed so differently by different readers. I knew there were many who love GWTW so you are definitely in good company.

    Me not liking Scarlett is probably more to do with my personality. I do agree that she does have some good qualities.

    Have you seen the movie? If so, did you enjoy it? I think the Scarlett in the movie comes across a little more sympathetic than in the book.

  3. I read this one years ago (2003 I think) and I remember loving it. It was long before I was reviewing book though, so I'm curious if my opinion would change with a re-read. I remember thinking Scarlett was both enthralling and disturbing. She definitely puts herself first, but she's a fascinating character to read.

    I love the movie and have seen it many times, but have yet to re-read the book. I also agree that Melanie isn't unrealistic. I think she makes a very concsious decision to always see the best in people and others find strength in her support. Wonderful, honest review!

  4. Gone With the Wind is my favorite novel. Scarlett is EXCELLENT as an anti-heroine: I don't necessarily like her, but I'm fascinated by her, and part of me admires her, for her strength (though, like any strength, it comes with weaknesses.)

    I think of this both as a psychological novel and a historical novel. I believe it starts out historical and becomes psychological as the story contines into the second half, but that it's all essentially set-up for the final scene -- the novel's climax.

    I think Melanie (and all of the other main characters) are foils for Scarlett, to show how it's possible to survive without resorting to her tactics (Melanie), and how it's possible to NOT survive if you don't (Ashley.)

    I don't think the point in this novel is to like Scarlett. I think the point is to consider what she did, and whether or not it was necessary. It's supposed to leave you unsettled (is my opinion.)

  5. Melissa--Even though I didn't like Scarlett, I did find her fascinating. It was interesting to see just how far she would go. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it for the first time when I was younger. I'm curious to see if it will hold up to a re-read for you. Are you planning to read it again soon?

  6. Jillian--I completely agree that the point of the book is not to like Scarlett. I do admire her fortitude, but disagree with some of her morals. I think her character study was fascinating and made this book worth reading for me. I think what kept me from loving it, wasn't my dislike of Scarlett, but just the first half historical details--just not my cup of tea.

    I loved Melanie, and I agree that she is a foil for Scarlett and does really show that you don't have to sacrifice your integrity to survive.

    You're spot on that the first half is more historical and the second half is more psychological. I think that's why I was so much more interested in the second half. I think I read the last half in about three days. :)

    I'm so glad that you've such a great love for GWTW. I always am disappointed when I don't love a book that I expect to. I guess I just have to remember that different books work for different people, and that's okay.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insight!

  7. Wonderful review, Kristi! 'Gone with the Wind' is one of my favourite novels. I read it just after I finished college and it has stayed with me. When I read it, I remember not liking Scarlett that much, but I also remember admiring her, for not giving up and trying to always get what she wanted, even if her circumstances were difficult. I loved Melanie though - she was kind and gentle and strong. I also loved Rhett Butler. I am surprised that you haven't mentioned him in your post :) I haven't seen the movie version of the book, though I have the DVD. I think it is more than four hours long and so it is more like a mini-series! I hope to read Gone with the Wind' again someday - I have a new hardback edition which looks lovely and I should read it atleast for that. Thanks for this wonderful review!

  8. I read GWTW last year and it remains one of my favorite books.

    I DID not like Scarlett, but just like others have said, was intrigued by her. I can’t remember where I heard this or if it’s even true, but the character of Scarlett is a representation of the southern states during that same time period. With the issue of slavery in mind, the south wanted security, financial wellbeing, and happiness, but at what price? I thought it makes the character of Scarlett even more fascinating to find these parallels.

    Then again, I’m not much of a history buff either, so I really haven’t found the motivation to verify the validity of these connections.....

  9. Nope--this one isn't one of my favorites either. I started reading it before I began grad school and the ONLY way I made it through was by making it the focus of a project for my research class. Made me appreciate it a little more, but barely. ;)

    Scarlett is TERRIBLE. Interesting perspective on Melanie, though. Makes me want to read it again just to see your points (but...I think I can resist). Glad to see you posting a bit again. Hope all is well with you!

  10. Vishy--I did skip Rhett Butler. What was I thinking?!? I actually loved him. He was a bit of a scoundrel, but he wasn't selfish like Scarlett. I hope you enjoy the movie.

    Two Bibliomaniacs--Interesting thoughts on Scarlett's character. I can see that. I'm glad I'm not the only non-history buff :)

    Trish--Yay! I'm not the only one that didn't love this. Thanks for the welcome back. Things have been a little crazy, but hopefully I'll be able to post a little more regularly. :)

  11. I hated the cover, too...and I read a different edition. Scarlett was not looking her best.

    And I'm totally with you on Scarlett...I was surprised that she was such a successful business person. I'd never seen the movie, so my preconceived notions of her character didn't have that factored in. So part of me was all "you go girl" until that whole convict labor issue came up. The woman had no sense of right or wrong, at least in regards to her own actions. Drove me batty.

  12. softdrink--I completely agree, I had grievances with her, but that convict issue really pushed me over the edge. Her profits were somehow more important that the dignity and lives of others. Not okay with me! I'm glad I'm not the only one.