Monday, January 25

Books I Read in 2009: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

A reader suggested I write SPOILER WARNING at the beginning of the post. If you haven't read or seen Gone With The Wind, beware! Here there be spoilers!

When I was hospitalized in November, one of the first things I did was check out the floor's library. I'd read Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell many times as an adolescent but I felt drawn to it. I'd watched the film with my son not too many months back and I remembered by struck by how differently I'd responded to it. I wanted to read the book for old times' sake but also to see how I'd feel about it as an adult.

I think I was about twelve the first time I read it. By the time I was fifteen, I must have re-read it a good half dozen or so times. I could never "get" what the deal was between Scarlett and Ashley, never mind what was happening with Scarlett and Rhett. Scarlett just seemed really unlucky in love. Rhett's motives were completely incomprehensible to me. Why would he want to marry Scarlett if he didn't love her and seemed contemptuous of her? I didn't understand.

I think just about everyone must have read or seen the book/movie. I decided to focus on the changes in my own understanding from the time I was a child to now.

This time around, I was really amazed by how selfish, spoiled and shallow Scarlett is. In fact, she seems to have some kind of personality disorder, almost an anti-social personality. She doesn't show feelings of empathy or connection to other people whatsoever beyond what they can do to serve her needs and wants. What kind of heroine is this? Ah, she seems to be an anti-heroine! She's pretty ruthless--using and abusing people until she's "done" with them and then she moves on with barely a backwards glance.

When I was a kid, Ashley was a knight in shining armor, the guy in the white hat. He was noble. Now, he just seemed weak and confused, unable to adapt well to the changing times brought on by the end of the Civil War. The poor guy couldn't make up his mind about Scarlett. He would say "No no no" with his words but many times his actions toward Scarlett said "Yes yes yes!" Well ... but not enough "yes"es to string her along the way he did.

What was up with that? Why was Scarlett so obsessed with Ashley? She explains it herself. She got a pretty picture into her head about him because he was the one young man she could never manipulate when she was gallivanting about the county, belle of the balls and collecting beaux. If she'd been able to "catch" him, she would have eventually become bored with him.

Melanie's the only character I "got" as both a child and as an adult. She is the true heroine of the story, an apparently weak but thoroughly strong woman in character and conviction. In the scenes I remember her best, she's doing her best to fiercely protect Scarlett. Scarlett, of course, never appreciated her in the slightest until it was too late!

I was totally clueless about Rhett until I re-read Gone With The Wind in November. It hit me overwhelmingly how much he'd loved Scarlett and how deeply she'd cut him over and over. She was the reason he kept returning to Atlanta during the war. Every time she needed help, he was always there. He did his very best to get her to love him back and she never did, not until it was too late. Why he kept on loving her is a little beyond me though. I think he tried to forget her but just couldn't.

No wonder it's called the greatest love story of all time!

2 comments:

Alasandra said...

I have adored Rhett since I was 15. Scarlett so didn't deserve him.

katztales said...

You should write SPOILER WARNING on the top of this post!

Yes, I thought the whole thing was a dysfunctional fest too but it was a jolly good read. Haven't seen the film yet.

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