Gone with the Wind, the American classic of war, loss, rebuilding and at its heart, a story of epic love, the story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler two of the most unforgettable and beloved characters in literature.
I see Rhett as representing the future and Scarlett, the stubborn ideals of the South, clinging to the old ways of life and doggedly determined to uphold the old ways, never realizing it is already dead and she has never conformed to it in the first place. But just like the south, Scarlett picks herself up from nothing and builds a new, better life for herself and her family.
At times I wanted to shake Scarlett until her head snapped for her utter stupidity and manipulations. She is conniving and manipulative, willing to do atrocious things to feel security. But, but she has known harshness and brutality and while her means aren't what everyone would choose, she saves not only herself, but her family as well. But damn it, can’t she see she loves Rhett and has always loved him, that Ashley isn't the man she thinks he is and that Melly is an incredible woman?
I was surprised at how stupid she comes across at times. There are times when Rhett or Ashley make reference to a book or quote and Scarlett doesn't understand nor does she care too. She is clueless to understand people and see what is right in front of her face. But for all of her faults, I love Scarlett. She’s headstrong, determined and unwilling to be defeated. Despite her thoughts of jealously and hate, she takes care of the people that she loves, sometimes unwillingly.
Rhett Butler, one of the most dynamic and dashing leading men in literature. I just love him, his wit, his intelligence, his flaunting of convention. But most of all, he is one of the only people, if not the only who understands Scarlett, her fierce determination, what drives her – and he loves her for it. Encourages her where others discourage. He loves her in the sidelines and lets her be herself but all the time he is there supporting her.
Grandma Fontaine was one of my favorite secondary characters. Wise in her old age, she understands Scarlett as maybe only Rhett does and she gives advice and understanding to Scarlett who doesn't take the time to realize she’s not just a crazy old lady.
I think Grandma Fontaine sums up Ashley’s character best at Gerald’s funeral. Talking to Scarlett she tells her Ashley was raised to read books and that’s about it, he is a gentleman born and bred but he’s helpless. In the era of Reconstruction, well-bred families have limited choices, to rise above the ashes of their homes and re-make their fortunes or to let the misery overtake them. Ashley is of the Old South and he doesn't fit in the new south, nor does he try to. He clings to the old way, longing for a past that will never be again.
It’s obvious from the start Ashley is an ideal Scarlett has created and he can never live up to the picture she has painted. Ashley represents the old way of life and is too weak to thrive in the new. I've never had a liking for Ashley and the book sheds more light on his character. Yes, he’s weak but he’s so damn weak. Everyone claims he is a gentleman and in ways he is but he keeps Scarlett dangling for years knowing how she feels, knowing he will never leave Melly. I never thought Ashley loved Scarlett in the movie, admire and respect yes, but never love. And he doesn't love her now, but he does lust after her and he knows keeps her at arm’s length but never gives Scarlett the words to unleash her. He’s a weak coward.
Melly, he never realized until it’s too late how much he loved and depended on her. It breaks my heart to see poor Melly die and the two most important people to her never realize her value until it’s too late. What an incredible woman Melly is. A true lady but with a fierceness of mind and grit even in her weakened body. She is the backbone of these characters, giving them confidence and standing in the shadows as their champion.
There is obvious racism in the text but as a reader, I put in perspective first the time period the novel was about, the Civil war and also the time it was written, the 1930’s. Both are times of turmoil when those feelings streaked the American conscious. They are not my feelings, nor society’s, but once upon a time it happened. Gone with the Wind is about a time long past and that needs to be put in perspective when reading. I absolutely love Mammy; she is a force to be reckoned with. Iron strong, she is the soul of her family.
I loved the descriptions of the old south before the war, of beautiful plantations and parties, belles and beaux and a laid back way of life. It represents a time before modernity and machines colored the landscape, the determined and headstrong gallants rushing to war for their convictions, fighting a cause that was dead long before they stopped fighting.
The ending, oh the ending. I think my heart wrenched more at the end than at any other point of the novel. Damn Scarlett for taking so long to see what was in front of her face for years! I have mixed thoughts on what happens to Scarlett and Rhett. Mitchell left it open to the reader’s opinion what happens and I've two minds about it. On the one hand, Scarlett always gets what she wants in the end and the other are Rhett’s words (paraphrased) can something broken ever be truly put back together? If they do get back together, will Rhett be able to forget the past and have something wonderful with Scarlett?
I’m so glad I finally read this book. I loved every page and it’s now up there with the best books I’ve read this year, first or second and definitely in my all-time favorites. Now if I can just get four hours to myself to watch the movie again…