After months of reading Gone With the Wind (I started around December) in between p-sets and while eating, I’ve finally finished it on June 3, 2014. That is a day to remember. I want to say that this is the third or fourth time I’ve started this book, and I’m glad that I’ve reached my goal to finish it, all 1448 pages of it (maybe more).
Now that I’ve read it, I can see why it is both loathed and loved today. Gone With the Wind addresses almost every single major social issue that we’re dealing with today or have dealt with in the past decade. There’s the obvious issue of racism and slavery, but there is also gender roles/equality, abuse, war, politics, and everything in-between. And through three of the main characters, you can see these many issues.
Scarlett O’Hara is the main character of this novel, and we see her grow from a strong-willed girl of sixteen to a still strong-willed woman of twenty-eight. What I found especially interesting was that, to me, Scarlett didn’t seem to develop much as a character. Yes, she lead a rather involved life; this includes war, destruction, attempted rape, three husbands, a miscarriage, three children, poverty, hunger, and countless losses of family, friends, and possessions. But she still remains the same character-wise in my opinion. If you read a scene with Scarlett in it near the end of the book, you probably couldn’t tell that she had grown from the beginning of the book. She’s rather stubborn to the point of being bratty in some cases, but her stubbornness definitely helps her succeed. With regards to the whole gender role issue, Scarlett embodies both sides; she is both the strong, independent woman who can succeed (and succeed pretty well) on her own, and she is a tantrum-prone girl who often needs to be scolded. But I have to say, as much as she annoyed me, I still admired her strength and her ability to keep moving forward, even when everyone else was looking back. She would kick off nostalgia and keep running towards the future instead of remaining stagnant.
Rhett Butler, the other main character, is, well, quite the character. He’s basically a male form of Scarlett, and he was also rather annoying. But funny. And a bit charming. But ever so annoying. I’m sure I would have slapped him at some point if I could. But Rhett definitely develops as a character. In the beginning, he is the charming, careless, clever Rhett who thinks of no one but himself. Towards the end, he knows true loss and he is left a broken, battered man. At forty-five, he settles down and contemplates his life more; no longer is he careless, and his selfish ways soon became non-existent. That being said, I liked to see him develop through the book, and to see him finally throw away his boyish attitude toward the world and become more of, I guess, a man.
(Side note: Gone With the Wind is not a love story. It may be marketed as such, but the love triangle is really not the main focus. I think it more so emphasizes what the characters do to overcome hardship)
And Melanie, my favorite character. I honestly think that she is the true main character. I didn’t realize it until the end of the book just how awesome Melanie is. Sure in the beginning, we only get Scarlett’s opinion of her as a washed out, plain, weak, small girl who couldn’t handle anything that could possibly ruin her innocence. And for a good half of the book, that was my perception of her. But enter the Civil War and a baby and a will to survive. I won’t go into to all the details, but she really proved herself to be a stalwart. She is the glue that holds everyone together, she is the only one that the careless Rhett respects and calls a “great lady”, and she is the only one that can wrap all the matriarchs of Atlanta around her finger. Even her husband, Ashley, could not measure up to the strength of his wife. Gone With the Wind is meant to chronicle the life of Scarlett O’Hara, but I really think it begins and ends with dear Melly.
Such are my thoughts on Gone With the Wind. Of course, I could comment on much of the issues with the book, but I won’t. While I was reading, I sometimes had to check myself before I rooted or condemned a certain character. Gone With the Wind certainly makes you think, and it was a very enjoyable read.