Gone With The Wind is an epic wartime romance novel by American writer, Margaret Mitchell. It was published in 1936 and adapted for cinema in 1939. The book covers a period of about 10 years and is set during the American Civil war and Reconstruction period of 1864-74.
For someone who supposedly wrote this book out of boredom, Mitchell must have had a plethora of time on her hands as this mammoth of a book is over 1000 pages long and thus grants the reader a relieving sense of accomplishment for just having finished it.
The story focuses on the tempestuous life of Scarlet O’Hara. Scarlet is from a huge plantation called Tara located in the state of Georgia. She is the oldest of three daughters born to Gerald and Ellen O’Hara. She is a character of extreme resilience in the face of adversity and suffering which she continues to face throughout the book.
The characterisation in this book is absolute perfection. Practically every character in this book has such strong development that changes them or makes them experience some form of catharsis at the end, except for Melanie (because she’s just perfect). I won’t give too many examples, though numerous they are, but I believe Scarlett and Rhett Butler, the latter of whom becomes Scarlet’s love interest, experience exceptional development. Ashley Wilkes, a gentleman from the same county as Scarlett in Georgia also exudes this perfect characterisation because of his anachronistic ideals that leave him disillusioned in a new age in which he cannot adjust.
I really enjoyed how the use of characterisation complimented the symbolic nature of the book. For instance, Ashley Wilkes, as with Scarlet’s mother Ellen are the epitome of grace, godliness and the Old South whereas Rhett Butler embodies the New South and lacks Ashley’s sense of anachronism which helps him to adapt and to thrive in a new society, brought on as a result of the war.
“They both see the same unpleasant truth, but Rhett likes to look it in the face…and Ashley can hardly bear to face it.” – Scarlett O’Hara
“There’s just as much money to be made in the wreck of a civilization as in the upbuilding of one..” – Rhett Butler
I feel no review on such as book as Gone With The Wind would be complete without some form of commentary of the slavery situation that was prevalent in those days. This book offered invaluable insight into the plight that black people faced under the tyranny of the Old South, but the book reflects another light on the situation; one where black people didn’t feel oppressed, but rather accepting of how things were back then. During emancipation, many of them didn’t want to leave their masters or found themselves also struggling to adjust to the ways of the New South.
Mammy is a perfect example of this. Mammy is the black, maternal housemaid with undying loyalty to the O’Hara family. She practically bred Ellen, Scarlet and Scarlet’s children as though they were her own children and even chastised them as such. When Scarlet presented Mammy with the opportunity to be ‘free,’ she hotly refused claiming that she wasn’t ‘no free issue n*gger.’
Needless to say, I absolutely loved reading this book. It was emotive, funny, moving, stirring and depicts a most compelling romance between Scarlett and Rhett, through its total abandon of ordinary convention. This book is such an insightful masterpiece that I would encourage all to read despite its lengthy prose and it gets a very easy five stars!
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