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
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!