Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time. Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives. In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.
Where on earth do I begin? My love for this novel, which I only read recently, knows no bounds. I laugh and cry and gasp and nearly throw it across the room whenever I read it (or parts of it), but even so, what do I have to say about the story or the characters that’s unique? Hundreds, probably thousands of other readers have reviewed Gone With The Wind and given their decided opinions on just about everything that can be found inside its pages. However, most of the reviews I’ve read have focused on Scarlett and Rhett’s ‘romance’ (really, it’s more lust and greed than true love) and/or Scarlett’s infuriating qualities to the exclusion of all else. But there is SO. MUCH. MORE. to this book than just that.
What about the other characters? Melanie, Ashley, Mammy, the Tarleton twins, Frank Kennedy, Gerald, Ellen, Archie, Carreen, and so on. Sure, they’re mentioned sometimes (Ashley, Melanie, and Mammy the most – the others get forgotten, more often than not), but not like they deserve to be. And what about Will Benteen? Everyone, and I mean everyone, always forgets him. Much of that probably has to do with the fact that he isn’t in the movie, but even the reviews I’ve read on Goodreads never, ever mention him. And that’s ridiculous! If it hadn’t been for Will, Scarlett might never gotten Tara back on its feet (at the very least, it would’ve taken her ten times as long), and that’s not just my opinion. Even she admits it to herself. He’s Scarlett’s right hand man, and she likes him a lot, but so does everyone else, which is kind of a miracle, you know. If Scarlett likes someone, you can be pretty sure everyone else will dislike him or her. But everyone likes Will. He’s intuitive and kind and gentlemanly and awesome. HE’S JUST SO EPIC. SO. EPIC. You can’t help but love him, IF you pay attention to him and don’t skim over all his scenes.
Speaking of other little-thought-of characters, there’s also Wade. I feel so sorry for him. The way Scarlett brushes him aside all the time, or yells at him, and the way he’s so scared and worried all the time (and he’s just a little kid!) breaks my heart. So when Rhett encourages/spends time with him, I can’t help but like him, just a little. A few other minor characters I like are the Tarleton twins (it was quite sad when they died), Gerald and Ellen, Archie (who also wasn’t in the movie, but he’s great), and Carreen. The Will/Carreen subplot gives me allll the feels. Ashley annoys me, but I didn’t hate him like I thought I would. Melanie is a dear and one of my favorite female fictional characters. Scarlett is the WORST, though I must admit that, while I’m angry/annoyed with her about ninety-eight percent of the time, I can’t help but admire her the other two percent. She’s got grit and gumption and determination. I have to give her that. And Rhett…my feelings are extremely mixed when it comes to him. He’s got very (VERY) loose morals and he can be cruel, but he admires Melanie and loves little kids and he’s the only person who can see through and stand up to Scarlett. Half the time I like him, half the time I’m disgusted by him. *sigh*
What about the writing? Margaret Mitchell is my writerly ideal. The way she strings together words, leaving golden prose sprinkled through every page, paragraph, and sentence in Gone With the Wind takes my breath away. Gorgeous descriptions of Tara and ballgowns and Atlanta; nerve-wracking, vivid depictions of Melanie in labour, wounded lying everywhere, Scarlett shooting the Yankee soldier; dialogue that snaps and crackles right off the page and into your mind. The woman was a genius writer. Absolute genius.
What about the epic scope and breadth and depth of this story? I never got bored reading Gone With the Wind. I didn’t skip a word, which in a book of its magnitude is pretty impressive (all those sewer bits in Les Miserables, anyone?). The intensely interesting, iconic scenes keep coming and coming, and it would take forever to list them all. You know the ones I’m talking about, anyway. And the last two or so pages have got to be one the best, the most satisfying endings in literary history. I had an huge book hangover after finishing Gone With the Wind, because it was so perfect and awesome and epic in the truest sense of the word (of all three words, really). Unlike what I had thought, it was soooo much more than Scarlett and Rhett twitting each other for a thousand pages. There’s the war, Reconstruction, social commentary, dozens of awesome characters, and just….ASODIJFAWEPOIJASDFMO;IAEKA; SKFLW’QERIO.
I don’t have anything else to say. JUST GO READ IT.