Author Margaret Mitchell
Publication Date January 10, 2007
Margaret Mitchell's epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time.
Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.
In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.
The title or “catch phrase” really says it all, “A Civilization Gone with the Wind”. Or, Scarlett O’Hara is the epitome of a young southern girl, pretty, vivacious and naive to the world around her. All that changes when the civil war begins throwing away all that she once held dear.
Katie Scarlett O’Hara, the belle of Clayton County love and hated by its residence. She is able to snare all the beaux away from their respected girlfriends holding their hearts captured. All except the one she cares most about, Ashley Wilkes from Twelve Oaks plantation (and the Wilkes always marry their cousins). After a failed attempt to win his heart (and exposing herself to their guest Rhett Butler) at the Wilkes’s home she marries Melanie’s brother Charles In an effort to make Ashley jealous after marrying his cousin Melanie Hamilton. This bond makes Melanie, the woman standing in Scarlett’s way her “sister”. Soon, after each marrying Charles and Ashley go off to war and after only a few short weeks of marital bliss Scarlett is made a widow after Charles dies soon after enlisting. Falling into fake mourning and depression for looking horrible in black, Scarlett and her son Wade Hampton leave for Atlanta to stay with her Aunt Pitty Pat and Melanie, where she will be “sitting there just like a spider” waiting for Ashley to return home.
I shall quickly sum up Scarlett’s stay in Atlanta. Scarlett, being the vicious young girl she is struggles to maintain her fake mourning, and comes out scandalously after being bid on to dance a reel with Rhett Butler. She spends most of her time working towards the cause, whether it be at the hospital or organizing a fundraiser, it is what Scarlett eats, sleeps and breathes.
Ashley does return on leave for Christmas and is showered with love from the two women who are in love with him, but upon his departure asks Scarlett to take care of Melanie while he is away. She agrees reluctantly and even more so after learning that Melly is carrying his baby.
The Yankees capture Atlanta, with Melanie very inconveniently going into labor that day. Doctor Meade is swamped by caring for soldiers and so Scarlett and the incompetent darkie Prissy, who knows nothing about birthing babies are left to their own resources. After the baby’s birth Scarlett tracks down Rhett who takes her halfway home to Tara in a stolen mule and cart.
Tara is not the haven that she left so long ago and has been striped of its beauty and grander by the wretched Yankees. After facing deprivation promises that she will never go hungry again, committing murder, theft and an attempt to sell herself. After the war has ended with the confederates surrender Ashley comes home, beaten and unable to cope with this change of situation. Scarlett begins to throw herself at Ashley once again but due to his honor refuses to proceed further. To make matters worse, the taxes on Tara have been raised and goes back to Atlanta in an attempt to collect the money in a very creative way, she failed at doing this but, she conveniently runs into Frank Kennedy who has made quite a bit of money from starting a general store. Scarlett has a light-bulb moment and after a whirlwind courtship ensnared Frank’s hand in matrimony and wallah, Tara is safe from the bill collectors.
Personally, I’ve always found Scarlett’s marriage to Frank to be simply filler between her hardships at Tara and her marriage to Rhett. But although she and Rhett are so alike Ashley still manages to drive a wedge in their relationship.
Soon after Frank’s death which was caused by Scarlett’s stubbornness and never-ending thought of obtaining another dollar, practically turns around after his funeral and becomes Mrs. Rhett Butler. I will stop here as I don’t want to give too much away (I hope this wasn’t one huge spoiler) and say that the ending has much hardship and reflection.
I’m not sure if you could tell but I absolutely love this book and has remained one of my favorite novels since I first read it at age 13. This is a story unlikely to be forgotten.