It is unfair of me to only allot “brief” afterthoughts for the mega-monster volume that is Gone with the Wind but I do hope to rein in my frustrations. I know Gone with the Wind (1939) is a beloved novel by many. It did little for me. Please note that this is my negative opinion. I have the right to my opinion as this is my blog. I fully respect the fact that others love this novel and Scarlett and everything to do with it. I’m sorry. I really wanted to love it.
I did like the setting, to begin with. I have not read many novels or historical accounts of the South during Reconstruction, and Margaret Mitchell brought it alive. Reading Mitchell’s novel pointed out the issues of social class that I, as someone raised in the North, never fully comprehended: the plantation owners actually lived according to a type of feudal system, of sorts, that was suddenly obliterated by the conclusion of the Civil War. This social class system-wide collapse devastated the economy, and the returning soldier’s generation was completely unprepared to work. They were trained to read books. Personally, I still think it was probably a good thing that the hierarchy was destroyed, but now I can see why some extreme Southerners may desperately attempt to hold on to the past by declaring the “war between the states” not yet over. Gone with the Wind put the incomprehensible-to-me South into context for the first time.
That said, pretty much everything else about the novel was a disappointment for me. I did not like the writing: Mitchell showed-not-told for much of the novel, and it just d-r-a-g-g-e-d on. Although she did somehow manage to draw me into the setting (see above), if this hadn’t had an historical context, I’d have drowned in the wordiness.
Further, I did not like the characters because they were so unrealistic and blah. Yes, I found Scarlett blah. I found Melly unrealistically good to a fault, and Scarlett such an evil woman that I hated everything she did. She was bad to a fault. I know many people like Scarlett because she is such a go-getter. Personally, I found Scarlett to be a selfish creature, and I couldn’t like her. Rhett was just as bad (although I liked him at first), so the entire “romance” of the novel was just cringe worthy. I don’t always hate bad characters: Armadale’s Lydia Gwilt comes to mind. But Scarlett never once cared about someone else. She had no conscience to make her interesting. Occasionally, she remembered her mother, but even that didn’t seem like an active conscience. Being bad all the time was just boring. Maybe there are people this awful in real life (I’m sure there are), but she had no redeeming qualities to me. I couldn’t like her, even after 1000 pages of hoping I could.
*spoiler* Also, when I though Scarlett was going to change at the end, I got excited. The novel was almost redeemed. And then she turned selfish again and the novel ended. Blah. *end spoiler.*
In short, Gone with the Wind is finally gone from my TBR. I am very glad I read it, and I’m proud I stuck through to the end, even though it took about six weeks to suffer through. In the end, though, I found it far too long and far too much Scarlett.
What did I miss? What did you love about this novel? (Dare I ask?)