• Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    The only thing that could entertain, distract and help me pass the idle time when sick last month was the audio version of Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

    Gone with the Wind

    My memories of reading this book and watching the movie are pretty unremarkable.  Long film, beautiful costumes, strikingly handsome actors, memorable moments - like "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn."  Escapist kind of story.  My kind of book.

    Funny how are memories of a story
     can be so different from our impressions
     when coming across the same story around 40 years later.

    It is probably next to impossible to find anyone who does not know this basic story ... but just to be safe, here is what Wikipedia provides in summary:

    Gone With the Wind was first published in 1936. The story is set in Georgia during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era.  It depicts the struggles of a young Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner,  who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty following Sherman's destructive "March to the Sea."  As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible.  It was adopted into a film in 1939.

    I purchased the audio version of Gone With The Wind mostly because recently I purchased the Kindle sequel  Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind by Alexandra Ripley.  I thought it would be good to reacquaint myself with the original story of Gone With The Wind before jumping into the sequel.  From what I read about the sequel - it was better than a TV movie they made.  I never saw the TV movie.

    As a product of the later 20th and early 21st century thinking on race and equality - I had a slightly different response to this story than when I read it 40+ years ago.

    • Written from the South's perspective, the story provided a fairly detailed account of how the South lived and thought at the time of our Civil War.
    • While history books usually give a commanding detailed account of the battles and causes for this conflict, this story filled in the gaps in what it was like to live as a civilian during this war on our home soil.
    • I have read and watched the movie of this story more than once.  This book is an example of a rare book that I will re-read.  I seldom re-read books.  
    • It was a long, long, long story.  I love a long story and this one is herculean in its length.  The book did provide a deep understanding of character motivation - filling in the gaps that would be missed in the movie (movie running time: 3 hours, 45 minutes.)

    • The story is marketed as a Coming of Age story set in the Civil War and Reconstruction period.  I would argue that a 'Coming of Age' label should be based on character evolution - growth and maturity gained through life experience.  I don't think that happened.
    • Scarlett O'Hara got on my nerves so badly that by the end of the story I was ready to kill that woman myself. (I know, I know, she's make believe, but you know what I mean.) Because this was the book and not the movie, I was witness to all her thought processes and priorities.  ALL of them!  She was so self centered, willful, and shallow.  For a woman with the intense drive and intelligence to survive and succeed in post war conditions, she was just plain stupid about everything else.  She never learned ANYTHING about life or how her actions were impacting others.  She never understood what was important in life until the very end of the story when she had lost everything that mattered.  Seriously, by the end I was happy to see her finally get what was coming to her.  I felt no sympathy or pity for this woman.  Maybe a small argument could be made that she was a product of a dying way of life and was hard wired to respond as she did - but there were other female characters who were the total opposite of her ...  who also were products of the same way of living.  I think Scarlett's lack of complexity as a flawed character is probably indicative of writing in the 1930s - when good guys all wore white hats and the bad guys were just as easily identified.  
    • Details about slavery and the "darkies" was hard to swallow.  During the reconstruction - when slaves were 'set free' with no life experiences, training, or history of humane treatment ... beyond slavery, there were long passages about how bad the "darkies" were behaving now they were free.  My 21st century self couldn't help yelling (silently) that if the Black population had not been forcibly yanked from their native land and forced -  against their will under horrible inhuman conditions - to the American colonies as slaves - those 'bad behaviors' of the "blackies" wouldn't exist!  No where in the telling of the story did it mention that the white men created this terrible situation they were struggling with and paying the price for that decision through generations.  Our founding fathers foresaw this problem when creating this nation, but they could not get the slave states to support Independence from England without including slavery!  But to be fair,  the book was written in the early 1930s and a more evolved recognition of the seeds of race relations was not yet recognized. Even if it was recognized - it probably had no place in a story that was designed to share the culture of the time.
    • So now I have the sequel to this book ahead of me - called Scarlett.  Guess who it is mostly about?  I am hoping that Scarlett's behavior reflects some sort of growth after 44+ hours of listening to Gone With the Wind.  The book will get my normal 80 pages or so to grab my attention and if not, it gets deleted off my Kindle.
    I doubt I will read or listen to Gone With The Wind again.  I am pretty much done being aware of all Scarlett's thoughts.  I will borrow the movie from the library and watch it again.  The costumes, the beautiful people, the story ... they are still there, so it is worth another look.

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