Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell | Book Recommendation

“Food! Food! Why did the stomach have a longer memory than the mind?”

War isn’t poetic or romantic, not even in literature. ‘Gone With the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell makes such a compelling read in its realistic portrayal of the American Civil War period.

Gone With the Wind’ had been on my TBR for a very long time. The fear of reading a classic with the American Civil War as its background, running into twelve-hundred-pages was always unnerving. Finally, when I started reading, I was amazed…there was not a single dull point where I felt the urge to skip some paragraphs. (Yes, in a lengthy book, you always have those boring sections but not here!)

Margaret Mitchell took ten years to write this book that was published in 1936 and what a masterpiece it turned out to be! The title of the book, ‘Gone With the Wind’, comes from Mitchell’s favourite poem ‘Cynara!’ by Ernest Dowson.

What is ‘Gone With the Wind’ about?

The story begins in 1861 in Georgia: a time when the South had declared secession from the Union or the United States. The South wanted to continue the existing practice of slavery while the North (that Mitchell refers to as Yankees in the book) wanted to free the slaves.

Scarlett O’Hara, the protagonist is the eldest of the three daughters of the rich, wealthy O’Hara family. Gerald O’Hara, Scarlett’s father was an Irish immigrant who owned the large plantation ‘Tara’. Sixteen-year-old Scarlett comes across as unapologetic, brutal, and shallow. Her self-absorbed disposition seems to focus on only charming members of the opposite gender. Outside her little flirtatious games, Scarlett thinks she truly loves Ashley Wilkes. Sadly, Scarlett’s fairytale Prince decides to marry his cousin Melanie Hamilton. Melanie epitomizes goodness but for Scarlett, she remains dull and boring.  

Rhett Butler witnesses Scarlett’s impulsive encounter with Ashley. Rhett is like Scarlett’s counterpart in temperament and self-centeredness. Moreover, he had earned a bad name as a Casanova, running a blockade, and profiteering from the war. He is not the conventional hero, an anti-hero for sure but someone who woos you with his broad-mindedness and honesty.  

In a childish vengeance against Ashley’s decision, Scarlett accepts Melanie’s brother Charles’ proposal. Soon after their marriage, Charles leaves for the war where he dies of measles. Now instead of cutting a sorry figure, Scarlett is honest about her indifference towards her deceased husband. At a young age, Scarlett bears the burden of motherhood as well; as a single mother, she is far from a glorified motherly character.

Scarlett accepts to leave ‘Tara’ with her young son and stay with Melanie and Aunt Pittypat in Atlanta. Secretly, Scarlett awaits Ashley’s return from the war. In Atlanta, Scarlett runs into Rhett Butler and later witnesses the town under siege. The uncertainty with Rhett and Ashley against the backdrop of war leaves you on the edge.

Would You Like Scarlett O’ Hara?

I began this book with a dislike for Scarlett. Yes, who wouldn’t? A sixteen-year-old protagonist who is bored of listening to civil war talks and would rather be concerned about her green dress doing wonders for her skin tone. Scarlett had believed that a pretty dress and clear complexion were the weapons to vanquish fate that is until the war broke out. A few pages down and I loved this woman. It is impossible to be Scarlett; to be as unapologetic, brutal, and indifferent!

As Charles’ widow, Scarlett breaks free of the societal pressure of mourning and living a certain way. She is no crusader for the feminist cause, perhaps a bit too selfish but she exposes society’s double standards.

Scarlett’s only wish through her hardships is to unite with Ashley.  

A young widow and single mother, Scarlett is further shattered by the loss of her mother. Ellen O’ Hara was the mother hen who took care of her children, the plantation, and managed the employed people. With the Southern defeat, Scarlett is pushed to take responsibilities on her shoulders. Poverty changes Scarlett, she works hard at Tara…a survival instinct that most of the well-bred bookish men around her couldn’t get hold of!

Somewhere, on the long road that wound through those four years, the girl with her sachet and dancing slippers had slipped away and there was left a woman with sharp green eyes, who counted pennies and turned her hands to many menial tasks, a woman to whom nothing was let from the wreckage except the indestructible red earth on which she stood.

In the post-war reconstruction phase, Scarlett decides to run a sawmill when the lumber trade is perceived to be a man’s profession. It was acceptable for the Southern women to turn to seemingly feminine professions of baking, sewing, or teaching music in their penury but not the lumber trade. Yet, Scarlett makes profitable income from the sawmill managing it single-handedly.

Portrayal of the Civil War period

Frankly, expect a Southern perspective regarding the Civil War as it comes from the white protagonist from one of the richest plantation owners. Scarlett believed that the Southerners held a strong kinship with the ‘darkies’ and took care of them as children. Of course, you cherish the affection and loyalty Mammy and her family had towards O’Haras. 

Is it wrong then? No, rather refreshing to read a viewpoint encompassing the fears of the rich white community during the civil war, after the slaves left them and their plantations and houses were raided. The big bubble of hypocrisy and Southern supremacy was busted once war reached the doorstep of the rich in Georgia. The wealthy families turned to basic necessities – growing food, arranging clothes for winter, and having a shelter rather than reminiscing the good old days.

The much-glorified war as Ashley writes in his letters to Melanie is in fact a soldier’s hunger, fatigue, fighting diseases, and lack of basic amenities for an unknown purpose.

As the war continued, women were asked to donate jewellery as a last contribution and help in the hospitals caring for the injured soldiers. They had already let the men of their family – brothers, sons, and fathers – leave for the war. In the plantation areas, there were no men to grow food, the land lay barren and the population starved.

Is this Romance, Drama, or War fiction?

‘Gone With the Wind’ is an amalgamation of romance, drama, and war fiction. Margaret Mitchell created three unforgettable characters – Scarlett, Rhett, and Ashley. And, I would say Melanie Hamilton as well. The kindhearted Melanie may merge in the background but it is her presence throughout that makes Scarlett stand out.

Scarlett is endowed with an inability to comprehend Ashley’s philosophical conversations but her naïve, stubborn love for him is endearing. In romance, she is stuck in a twisted paradigm between Ashley and Rhett.

As Scarlett would say, ‘tomorrow is another day’, do not think about your burdens at this point. Scarlett’s grit, endurance and her strength to overcome loss is sure to inspire you. You will be in love with Scarlett and in awe of Melanie when you reach the end!

Last year, I had written about ‘The Intimidating Longest Books on my TBR’ and I am glad I can happily strike out one from there.  

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa.

47 thoughts on “Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell | Book Recommendation

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  4. I am feeling ashamed how come I have not read this famous book Gone with the wind nor watched this movie, your honest review on the book especially the confusing character of Scarlett pushing me to add the book “Gone with the win”d to my next reading list.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw the movie and loved it. Vivien Leigh was simply lovely as Scarlett ‘o Hara. And Clark Gable does a superb job as Rhett Butler. I watched the movie when I was in my twenties and found it marvellous. I have not read the book though. BTW Margaret Mitchell received the Pulitzerfiction prize for fiction for this novel in 1936.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I have not watched the movie but have heard really great things about the actors and now, of course, you add to it! So, surely will watch it sometime soon.
      Yeah, Mitchell received the Pulitzer prize…only if she had lived longer, she was so talented!
      Thank you so much for stopping by.

      Like

  6. Browsing through your other posts this one drew me in like a magnet. I had loved the book and subsequently the movie too. Towards the end i was confused who I should be rooting for – Rhett or Scarlet. 😄
    Your review is super. Love how you went through the salient points in the book and characters.
    Well done Ninu!
    #myfriendalexa #radhikacharyareads

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I have not watched the movie. I really feel Rhett didn’t get his due in the literary circles…everyone speaks of Heathcliff but this man was an anti-hero who was a feminist and a loving character.
      I am so glad you liked the review. Thank you so much for stopping by.

      Like

    • Exactly, I wish Margaret Mitchell had continued for another 500 pages and given the readers a closure on Scarlett. Had she lived longer, probably we could have got a sequel.
      Thank you so much for visiting!

      Like

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