Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell: A Discussion of Chapters 1-9

Gone With the With The WInd, by Margaret Mitchell

Amy and I are doing a readalong for Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind.  She has never read it before, and I read it in high school – typically, beyond whether I loved it or hated it, I don’t remember that much about books I read back then.  Hence the readalong.  I was a little derailed by feeling under the weather and jury duty, but have managed to catch up with most of the reading and will be posting my thoughts on each of the sections.  Hopefully I will be mostly caught up by Sunday or Monday.  I’m saying this even though I suspect that it might not be true.  But I am trying!

The 2nd Time Around

Like I said, this is isn’t my first time reading Gone With The Wind and because of that,  I had a hard time starting it. Psychologically I was thinking about the fact that they had a lot of back story to set up, and that I was going to have to wade through pages and pages before I got to the juicy parts, like when Scarlett is on her own and living in Atlanta.  It was not as bad as I had thought (it seems like nothing you dread ever is, and you are usually okay if you just jump right in), and I was actually quite surprised to see that all the back story wasn’t as long as I had initially expected and that it was more interesting than I expected.  I have seen from looking around that a few struggled with the first few pages.

Scarlett’s Parents – More Alike Than Not

Most of the things that occurred in the first five chapters are subtly important for what will come later in the story.  Ellen and Gerald O’Hara’s marriage is explained, and it is crucial because it is the basis for Scarlett’s make-up and the war that is going in inside of her.  Though Scarlett longs to be a lady and beloved like her mother, she has gotten none of the gentility that her sisters find attainable just through having more complacent personalities – like the way that their mother appears to be now. On first appearances Scarlett is not at all like her mother, but  is hard headed, obstinate and always determined to have her way at any cost (it is stressed how much Scarlett is like brash Irish immigrant, Gerald), all the while hiding behind the barest veil of being a lady.  Ellen is just and stubborn and obstinate in her own right, but she has the advantage of having mastered the veneer of being a lady, and has accepted that as the image that she will portray no matter what.

A more accurate comparison between Ellen and Gerald, and the war of personality traits that rages in Scarlett is the battle for dominance between life and death.  Ellen’s heart, and essentially Ellen, has been in the grave ever since the death of her dashing and troubled cousin Philipe ( whom she wanted to marry) dies in a street brawl.  She stubbornly chooses to marry beneath her, leave her home, and carry the mask of death to its extreme as a southern lady.  She is perfect, and she runs the estate perfectly, she always know just what to say and do.  While Ellen might care about her family, she has essentially been dead for a long time.  Mitchell has a  lot to say about the ideals of being a “lady”, and just how smothering that was.  Scarlett wants to do all the things that a lady shouldn’t because they are fun and they make her feel alive.  She is young and she wants to flirt, have all the attention, and eat as much barbecue as she wants at the picnic.  There is a funny scene where she argues with Mammy about eating like a bird.  Mammy says it’s what gentleman like in a lady, but Scarlett wants no parts of it, and I don’t blame her one bit.  Especially if you saw the passages about the food! Yum!  Being a lady seems to be the embodiment of going against your natural inclinations and doing what others want you to do.

Scarlett and Rhett

It was thrilling to see Scarlett meet her match and I found the scene where she first interacts with Rhett to be charming and hilarious.  Rhett is one who has always chosen life over dull rules and refuses to be confined or restricted just to please society.  Scarlett would have always been temperamental and volatile enough to walk a fine line of her own, but with Rhett slyly encouraging her, she is off and running in coming out of mourning for her husband too fast and abandoning widow’s black for color.  I agree with a lot of what Rhett says – in many ways he is the voice of reason, but unfortunately for Scarlett reason has little to do with preserving Southern society on the brink of collapse, and age-old tradition

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Blogger Unplugged! December 23,  2009   Jan 2, 2010

I have to cut this post off here rather abruptly, because I will just go on and on, and I still have some catching up to do.  I didn’t get to my thoughts on GWTW’s treatment of slavery so I will include that next time.  I am way behind Amy!

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  1. Funny, I had never given much thought to Scarlett being like her mother before. On second thought I had always let Scarlett's perception of "we're so unalike" color my vision of Ellen. To me, Ellen has always been Scarlett's first taste of being different, the other, the person who's not ladylike or proper or well-mannered or even good, and she's kind of the ghost that follows Scarlett around in place of a conscience.

    I'm really looking forward to the rest of your series…and the wheels are already turning on how I can do a Gone With the Wind-related post on my blog! (Now that my book's been done for several months [there's a Scarlett chapter] I think I can bear to turn back to GWTW once more…;) )

    1. I am just thinking about that more now. Scarlett's mother was very stubborn. I can't imagine walling myself off like that, but she takes it in a very different direction than Scarlett.
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    1. I think that it is worth a read. I am enjoying my re–read.
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    1. The scene where she first talks with him after throwing the vase is so funny. Rhett has such a sense of humor and is so witty and handles Scarlett well. It is a relief to see someone able to since she has everyone else all twisted up around her.
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  2. I would love to reread this one someday. I know I missed a bunch of the book when I read it previously and I think having read it so soon after seeing the movie made a difference too. I will be interested to see what I think about it when I reread and don't have the movie so fresh in my mind. Although it is pretty darn hard to not picture Clark Gable as Rhett!

    1. I think it is almost impossible not to picture the actors as the characters. They make a big deal in the book that Rhett is a big and muscular man, and say that it is almost ungentlemanly how big and muscular he is. Now I don't think Clark Gable is built like a linebacker by any means, but I still can't help but to see him as Rhett.

  3. Oh my I so loved this book when I first read it. It must have been in 7th grade. I am going to love following your read along!

    1. It has been such a great book to re-visit and it is interesting to see things in a different way now that I am reading as an adult.

  4. It's been years since I read this but — as is often the case — the book is so much better and richer than the movie.
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    1. It is! Mitchell certainly manages to pack the history in there too. I am mystified that people think of the book as fluff. You learn a lot about societal customs, the war and prevalent attitudes of the time.

  5. I'm re-reading this one too! I also like the chemistry between Scarlett and Rhett. Soem of the things he says to her are just fantastic. He really tells it like it is…lol.
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  6. I kept this book in the car one summer when I was about 14 or 15 and reread it over and over. I missed what you say about Scarlett's mother being dead for a long time, but yeah. Interesting to read over your shoulder, and to think about the book as an adult!