On my list of things to accomplish for 2011 I had listed: "Read Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind." Obviously, I missed my deadline by a few months but the good news is that I got it done!
Not getting the book until Christmas 2011 probably had something to do with my not finishing the book in 2011, but that's not really the point of this post.
I don't need to write an actual review, I have a feeling the story is pretty well known by now. I want to discuss the main characters and how I feel about each of them.
Scarlett O'Hara: Before I read the book, I only knew Scarlett from the movie posters I've seen and what I remembered from the movie that I watched as a kid. I wanted to like her, but I got more and more angry with her as each chapter went by. She found a way to hurt every person she loved. And when it came to love, I'm not sure she even knew what love was. The only thing she really loved was Tara and herself. While I was angry with her, I also respect her. In a time when women were better off being dumb and pretty, she wasn't ashamed of her business sense. She knew how to make money. At Tara after she fled Atlanta she was able to keep herself, her child, a newborn and several adults alive. Nobody on the plantation died of starvation while she was there. She did what she had to do and wasn't afraid of what people thought about her. She ran two lumber yards better than most men ran their businesses at that time, what her husband thought of her didn't matter. I think her main flaw was that she didn't understand what love looked like and she thought that what she and Ashley had for each other was love, but how could it be?
Rhett Butler: He was the best thing to happen to Scarlett, but probably the worst thing, too. He was the only man who really saw her for who she was and he was the only one who could really love her because of that. He challenged her and gave her everything she wanted and he was the one with the broken heart. He, like Scarlett, did what he had to do during the war to stay alive. I don't agree with all of his business choices, but he survived. Where he probably hurt Scarlett more than helped her was by giving her everything he wanted, but also by not being open about his feelings for her. I hate that he hid his love for her. I'm not sure that it could have pulled her mind away from Ashley, but I think she would have loved knowing that she was indeed loved by someone. I almost feel sorry for him, but he wasn't crying about his marriage, he was getting is somewhere else.
Ashley Wilkes: I may like him the least of all of the characters. He was a brave man, joining the war when he didn't believe in it, but he was weak. He had an amazing wife, all of Atlanta knew how great she was, yet he was secretly in love with Scarlett. If he really did love Scarlett and Melanie at the same time, I have no idea, but I don't think he did either. I think he loved Scarlett because she was what he wasn't - smart and strong. In Melanie he had kindness and love. If he had just been a man and not put himself in situations with Scarlett to make her think he loved her, everyone would have been better off. Scarlett is partly to blame there as well, but he was the married man. He was lucky to have been wealthy and handsome enough to have women like Scarlett and Melanie in his life. Without them, he wouldn't have survived the time after the war. I believe he would have given up.
Melanie Wilkes: She represented what was pure and right. She loved unconditionally and with her whole self. She was kind to others and looked for the good in people. Where she faulted was that gave too much of herself to other people and ultimately that she wanted another child. Scarlett thought she was weak until she was dying and she realized that Melanie was just as strong as she was. Melanie never hid from a fight, with soldiers during the war or from the other women in town. She stood up for what she believed in and I have the most respect for her because of it. I believe she knew all along that there was something unspoken between Ashley and Scarlett but because of the love she had for both of them, she was willing to look past it. I wish Scarlett had seen the good in Melanie before it was too late.
I'm so glad that I finally tackled the 1037 pages of the novel. Living in Atlanta I was moved by the falling of the city and watching it rebuild through the eyes of Scarlett. When they would drive down Peachtree Street, I know I'll do the same thing sometime this week. I know the distance from Atlanta to Jonesboro and while it doesn't seem long to me today, I know that back in days of horses and carriages, it was a much longer journey. The story was very relevant to me, more than what I imagine it would be to someone who has never been to Atlanta and is living in Portland. Now I can move on to easy, beach reading for the honeymoon!
When Stephen and I started dating we took the Margaret Mitchell tour of the Oakland Cemetery. I'm so glad we did and I can't wait to visit the Margaret Mitchell house in midtown. I pass it nearly every single week and when I lived in Midtown I passed it at least once a day. She was a brilliant story teller and author and had a way with words. It's sad that she was taken from us so tragically.