Warning: This post contains spoilers for chapters 1 – 10 of Gone with the Wind
Okay, let me preface this blog post by stating that I am enjoying Gone with the Wind (GwtW) more this time than the previous time I attempted to read it – although there are still aspects of the novel that rankled me. My least favourite thing about GwtW would have to be Scarlett, I just cannot wrap my head around her, although now she has moved away from Tara and Rhett Butler is involved I am enjoying her more – I will talk about characters later on in this little discussion. I only finished reading chapter 10 this morning, so this post may be a little bit of me working out my feelings, I usually write my book reviews later, about a week or two after reading the books, but with this I want it to be more organic, rambling and my honest thoughts while reading. I will review GwtW for the Classics Club challenge once I have completed my reading!
The first six chapters I struggled through, and it was only when Scarlett became a widow that things started to get interesting in my personal opinion. Before this point it just felt like I was reading a Jane Austen novel, and I’ve made my feelings about Austen clear on multiple occasions – it’s just not for me. Chapter seven and part two certainly start to discuss my favourite topic – war. Before this, all discussions of war were punctuated by Scarlett’s commentary of ‘How dull!’ Once we are in Atlanta, the war is brought before Scarlett, and seeing her deal with her personality in this period is interesting.
I’m one of those readers who is plot driven – a book can have really weak characters, as long as they are doing interesting things. Until part two, the book was driven by characters, and notions of romance, and whilst I enjoy a good character more than a poorly constructed one, it would not have been enough to push me through – I’m pretty sure last time I abandoned GwtW during chapter 5 – just before things got interesting! Having this readalong really pushed me, and I’m glad it has because I’m now enjoying where this story is going – it is starting to have a strong plot.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the characters at all – and I’ve already said that Scarlett’s not my favourite, but I think that is kind of the point. (is it? Are we meant to like Scarlett? I’m not sure) I love Gerald O’Hara and his blustering, yelling self. I love that he spends half his screen time (page time?) drunk and causing mischief! The Tarleton family are a hoot – I love how they are unashamed horse people and I’ve forgotten the mother’s name, but she reminds me so much of an aunt I have, that I had to laugh. Also, as a flamin’ redhead, I have to say I like this family. The twins strike me as bland, however.
No discussion of GwtW would be complete without a comment on Rhett, and at this point, I feel like I don’t know him well enough. I’ve liked the conversations he has had with Scarlett, and the way he sees through her ‘charms and airs’ and brings out the individual in her. I’d also like to mention the wedding ring thing – how the two ladies donate their wedding rings to the Cause – and Rhett sent back Melly’s so that he would be invited to dine with the family – it made me laugh out loud at his cunning! It also reminded me of a story of the wedding ring woman, who in WWII gave scraps of food to escaping POW’s in Borneo, and because they had nothing of value to give to her, they left the young girl their wedding rings. It’s just one of those things that is meant to touch your heart, and to have Scarlett subvert that, is pretty awesome.
Mitchell certainly can create vivid settings and bring the reader to the Southern landscape – I have never visited America, but at times I looked out my window and expected to see rolling fields of cotton. I didn’t – still gumtrees here in Australia. I found the setting of Tara, although vivid, to be somewhat boring. Once the action moved to Atlanta, I was more taken. I think that might come from being raised in the country – fields and large sprawling houses aren’t new to me, but the bustle of towns always excite me. I like the discussion of the railways and the naval blockaide (if you have only just met me, Hi! I’m a naval and railway nerd!) and that takes place in the city.
I’d be stupid to not discuss slavery – I’ll imagine I will have more to say on this point later – but it is with rose coloured glasses that Mitchell paints slavery in the South, and reading about how the negroes couldn’t cope with information in their small skulls and that they were all happy in their servitude is sickening, given today’s views on such matters. I constantly had to remind myself that these were views common back then, and that, although it was denied, slavery was such a big issue and this work was political – as all literature is. I’ve read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it was the first book ever reviewed on this blog – you can read my review here, if you are so inclined, and I think that the reader needs to take into consideration that both points of view are valid and contestable.
Mitchell’s writing is flawless, and regardless of my opinion of her plot/themes/content, I have to appreciate her way with words. This much discussed line has to be the first that jumped out and stole my admiration:
“She lay in the silvery shadows with courage rising and made the plans that a sixteen-year-old makes when life has been so pleasant that defeat is an impossibility and a pretty dress and a clear complexion are weapons to vanquish fate.”
The foreshadowing in these lines are great too, obviously some bad shit’s about to happen to this character so she no longer thinks that appearance is so important, or that she has power over fate. It also speaks of the invincibility of youth that so many young people cannot see is folly.
Gone with the Wind has also introduced my new favourite expletive, “God’s Nightgown,” because really, how can you not love that expression! I also really appreciated Scarlett’s well put view of what war is,
“The war didn’t seem to be a holy affair, but a nuisance that killed men senselessly and cost money and made luxuries hard to get.”
It’s true Scarlett, you will be wearing your chickenscratch lace before you know it. Also, why the hell are they bothering to sew sofa cushions in the Confederate style? Like seriously, do they think that appropriate sofa cushions with little stars are worthy of their time and helping the war effort? Make your soldiers more clothes, make more bandages! *spoiler alert* You are going to need many bandages, and the war is a long way from finished!
So – I think judging by the fact I just rambled for over a thousand words, I am enjoying GwtW, and I am looking forward to reading more. Things that I am looking forward to in the next ten chapters include getting to know Mr. Butler better and witnessing the reaction when the Confederates don’t “lick’em within a month!” Also, when does the war come to Atlanta? Because I’m always looking forward to a war ravaging!