#Bookreview – Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

What Amazon says

Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhere as The Great American Novel.

Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years.

My review

Gone with the Wind is a historical romance set in Georgia in the USA and covers a 12 year period starting in 1861 when the main character, Scarlett O’Hara, is only 16 years old and ends in Atlanta when she is 28.

The novel opens on the porch of Tara, a cotton plantation owned by Scarlett’s father, Gerald, who owns 100 slaves and is a wealthy man. Scarlett is entertaining the handsome Tarleton twins, Stuart and Brett, who have just been expelled from their latest University and have returned home to face the wrath of their mother. The twins are irresponsible and carefree and don’t care about their recent disgrace at all. They do fear their mother’s anger and are hiding out at Tara hoping to return home after she has retired to bed. The twins are full of mixture of small talk about their expectations of a war with the Yankees, their friends and acquaintances and a barbacue that is being held the following day at the neighbouring Wilkes plantation.

The first chapters of the novel highlight the relaxed and comfortable life led by the plantation owners and their complete lack of understanding as to what a war means. The attitudes of the Southern gentlemen towards the impending war is almost childlike in its simple idealism.

During the barbeque, Scarlett’s favourite boyfriend and the man she is angling to marry, Ashley Wilkes, announces his engagement to his cousin, the meek and delicate, Melanie Hamilton. Scarlett makes a bit of a fool out of herself by declaring her love to Ashley while the other ladies are resting. Ashley confesses that he returns her love but that he is better suited to Melanie as “she is like him.” The conversation is overhead by the disgraced social outcaste, Rhett Butler, who is at the party as the guest of one of the other gentleman. Scarlett is devastated and in a fit of spite she becomes engaged to Melanie’s brother, Charles.

During the afternoon, notice that war has been declared arrives at the Wilkes’ plantation and all the young men rush off in a spirit of enthusiasm to join the war effort. Within a 6 week period Scarlett is married, widowed and discovers she is pregnant.

After Scarlett’s son, Wade Hampton, is born, she moves to Atlanta to live with Charles’ aunt and Melanie. Ashely is away fighting in the war. The novel goes into great detail about life for civilians in Atlanta during the war and how the living circumstances of people quickly degenerated due to the Yankees blockading the port. This part of the story is very sad and dramatic as many of the young men Scarlett grew up with are killed on the battlefields including the fun loving Tarleton twins and their two brothers. Rhett does not volunteer to fight and becomes a blockade runner, bringing much needed food and other goods into Atlanta and profiteering hugely for this trouble. He pops up continuously in Scarlett’s life bringing her small gifts and making life more pleasant and bearable.

After the war ends, the story follows the path of Scarlett’s life as she struggles to survive in a state devastated by war and Sherman’s burned earth policy. Scarlett and her family suffer starvation, cold, illness, and also unfairness at the hands of the Yankee victors who demand unreasonable taxes on the land.

While the blighted romances between Scarlett and Ashely, who both spend years imagining they are in love with each other when they are both really clinging to memories of the past, and Scarlett and Rhett, who are well suited but unable to communicate, are central to the story, it is Scarlett’s strength of character and ability to overcome adversity by willpower alone that make this book such a good read. Scarlett turns her back on all the old fashioned ideas about women of her conservative and cossetted childhood and strikes out on her own to make money and support her family and friends. Her decision to place making money above everything else and her preparedness to tolerate the Yankees in order to gain their business, makes her the town pariah, along with Rhett Butler who has long occupied this unenviable position.

Although Scarlett shows some undesirable characteristics due to her complete lack of understanding of other people, their feelings and emotions, I found her to be an admirable and formidable lady. She has an excellent head for business and maths and is also a leader. Despite her faults, she shows remarkable loyalty and stays with the heavily pregnant Melanie when Atlanta falls to the Yankees despite her own fear. She delivers Melanie’s baby and manages to transport them all home to Tara.

Scarlett is very conflicted because she wants to be a great lady like her mother, but she must do unladylike things to obtain security and wealth. She is a peculiar mixture of the Old pre-war South and the New post-war South. Scarlett holds on to her love for Ashley as he embodies the spirit of the Old South for her and her girlhood memories are pleasant and he features at their centre. At the same time she lets go of virtues like honour and kindness in order to achieve wealth and success. She is unable to see that her love for Ashley is merely a teenage dream and doesn’t have any solid foundation. She is totally unsuited to Ashley and is perfectly suited to Rhett, who is a scoundrel just like her. Her stubborn inability to see the truth about the men in her life ends up ruining her relationship with Rhett.

Gone with the Wind has three main themes as follows:

The transformation of Southern culture

A relevant extract: “Throughout the South for fifty years there would be bitter-eyed women who looked backwards, to dead times, to dead men, evoking memories that hurt and were futile, bearing poverty with bitter pride because they had those memories. But Scarlett was never to look back.”

Overcoming adversity with willpower

“Hunger gnawed at her empty stomach again and she said aloud: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness, the Yankees aren’t going to lick me. I’m going to live through this, and when it’s over, I’m never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill – as God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again.”

The importance of land

“The clay was cold in her hand and she looked at it again.

“Yes,” she said, “I’ve still got this.”

At first, the words meant nothing and the clay was only red clay. Bud unbidden came the thought of the sea of read dirt which surrounded Tara and how very dear it was and how hard she had fought to keep it – how hard she was going to have to fight if she wished to keep it hereafter.”

Have you read Gone with the Wind? Did you enjoy it?

Purchase Gone with the Wind

Amazon US

57 thoughts on “#Bookreview – Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    1. Hi Kim, there never really is a romance between Scarlett and Ashley. It is more of a clinging to the past and their youth. They were totally unsuited and they both realised that in the end. I wasn’t sure about Rhett, he was very mean to Scarlett. She was a fascinating character and the author did a brilliant job making us love and hate her characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. One of my all-time favourite books! I read it the first time when I was 12 and read it in three days. I even read it while I was ironing! I too loved the character of Scarlett O’Hara for all her faults. Like all wars, both sides suffered. In some ways, it was a necessary war, as it seemed to be the only way slavery would be abolished. This is a book I could read many times. An awesome review.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. HI Darlene, it is tragic that this war had to be fought. Civil wars are the worst of them all. I found the language and descriptions in this book very beautiful and that made it a wonderful read. I had mixed feelings about Scarlett, her attitude towards her children and babies was weird for me. I adore mine and I don’t understand such coldness towards a child. I didn’t like Rhett much and thought Scarlett would be better off finding someone else. I’m not sure what the sequel did in that regard. I’m not sure if I’ll read it. I may prefer to imagine my own conclusion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, civil wars are the worst. I also thought Scarlett was cold towards her children but there are women like that (hard for the rest of us to understand). I think Rhett and Scarlet would have been good for each other, if they would have stopped fighting, kind of like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I read the sequel many years later. It was Ok but not great. I like the way Margaret Mitchell ended the book, to be honest.

        Like

  2. Not only did I read this book but I saw it on the big screen and it was exactly as I pictured it in my mind. Hats off to the author, Margaret Mitchell, and the screenwriters. Both did a superb job.

    What I didn’t like, although the truth must be told, was the way black slaves were forced to live and yet be depicted to be so irrelevant in the scheme of life. It didn’t make me feel good being constantly reminded that my race was nothing and had nothing. Yet it was accepted subconsciously as just the way things were. I hope that that is about to change.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Terrific review Robbie…this novel, and the film, have gotten new attention due to the issue of slavery…there is a trend to “cancel” works of art from different eras wifi any aspect of their message is deemed “out of step” with the times…but it’s important to give context and perspective to these issues – and this is a terrific review that focuses on the brilliance of the storytelling as well as the issues at hand

    Liked by 4 people

    1. HI John, the recent controversy about this book is actually why I bought it both as a paperback and an audiobook. I was worried I might not be able to get it in the future so now it is in my huge stack of worthwhile books I need to preserve.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I truly hope that we don’t “cancel” books and movies because they were created in a “different” time…iinstead, the context and perspective can be truly valuable in how we address our future…

        Like

    1. Hi Priscilla, I listened to it. It is a 48 hour audio book. I did enjoy most of it but Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship towards the end of the book wasn’t nice. I suppose the fact I cared so much about Scarlett is a sign of fantastic writing though.

      Like

  4. I read the book once as a teen and once again as an adult. It was interesting to see how my perspective changed. This is a very good review, Robbie for a book that does the genre of historical fiction proud.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I have read both the book and seen the movie. Without question, the writing is brilliant. But I found, (I first read the book in the 1970s during the equal rights movement) that I have to see the story through the lens of the 1930’s. While Scarlett was strategic, business minded and wonderfully determined, I felt a pang of wistfulness because she could never quite understand that kindness had strength and power. Her choices, however, were based on survival – not only for herself but for those she loved. The tension between her and Melanie was well defined, which was what I enjoyed the most. Robbie – you have the best reviews – always brilliant and create a great discussion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Rebecca, thank you for joining in the conversation. I’m glad you enjoyed my review. I found Scarlett to be a most intriguing character. In many ways I admired her greatly for her determination and ability to overcome adversity but she also had a very selfish nature and was not at all understanding or empathetic towards others. Your attitude towards her children was very odd to me as mine are everything to me. I find it hard to understand someone who is so unfeeling towards her children. The great thing about this book is that it makes you really think about the characters and that is a sign of fantastic writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, Robbie. Her characters were distinct and memorable. She may have flirted with stereotypes but I felt that she had created something new in each character. Her attitude towards her children (YIKES) made me think, to examine her motives more closely, to become curious. As you said, it is a sign of fantastic writing.

        Like

  6. I read the book ages ago and of course I’ve seen the movie. I had forgotten that Scarlett had children by her other husbands and only remembered the one she lost with Rhett. I just finished reading the book, Scarlett, by Alexandra Ripley. It is the story of Scarlett after Gone With the Wind ends and was a fun read and has a happy ending to her story. Great review of GWTW.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I saw the movie and that prompted me to read the book. Believe it or not, I attempted to read it in one sitting. I made it until 4:00 AM with about forty pages left. What I remember is being taken aback at how selfish Scarlett could be. The movie softened her. I was struck by Amazon’s claim that Gone with the Wind is widely regarded as The Great American Novel. I’d never heard that before. In academic circles, the novel most often cited as The Great American Novel (and deservedly so) is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoyed both The Great Gatsby and Gone with the Wind although the last part of Gone with the Wind when Scarlett is married to Rhett wasn’t as good for me. I preferred the parts about the war and its immediate aftermath to the disaster that was Scarlett’s relationship with Rhett Butler. He was equally selfish and self centred.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I suppose when I think about Scarlett’s character she is typical of the type of person who rises up out of dire circumstances. You have to be very hard and determined to step on others and climb the ladder the way she did. She did, however, save her land and her family as well as a few other people like the three aunties and the Wilkes family.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think your assessment of Scarlett’s character is accurate. It has to be a good forty years since I read the book, my impression of her selfishness is what stayed with me, even though it’s relatively small in the overall scope of the book. Odd, the way that happens with the memory of books.

        Like

    1. Hi Barbara, I loved the history and the way Scarlett rose up and did what needed to be done. So difficult for women then. I didn’t love the ending though. I think she should have got some happiness at last.

      Like

  8. I both read the book and saw the movie long ago. I think the racial stereotypes would make me uncomfortable now. How did you feel about that–you didn’t mention it. (K)

    Like

  9. What a fantastic in depth review, Robbie! I’ve never read the book (I really probably should) but I have seen the movie. It was so long ago, I don’t recall much about it. Your review was very insightful.

    Like

  10. Hi Robbie – Hmm! For someone who has read the book it was great, and I loved the precis of the story but for someone who hasn’t read it, there were too many spoilers especially about Rett.

    Like

  11. Wonderful review, Robbie. I’ve seen the movie and thought Scarlett was rather willful and spoiled. It sounds like I’m missing a lot of detail by not reading the book- I’ll have to give it a try!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t read Gone with the Wind, Robbie. I saw the movie a long time ago, and found Scarlett annoying beyond belief! Lol. Perhaps she is less so in the book and I should give it a try. A great review and I really liked your summary of the themes. The “importance of land” is an interesting one. It was definitely a source of white wealth. And worked by slaves who were denied ownership of property and the ability to create family wealth to pass on through the generations. The legacy of that one distinction is felt even today. It makes it hard for me to feel sympathy for Scarlett.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t really think we were meant to like Scarlett. She was a product of her time and place, but she was also a survivor. Anyone can write a story about a good, kind, pleasant woman but to create a character like Scarlett takes skill. Those are the characters that stick with us. What I liked was when she became aware of some of her errors in judgement, especially when it came to Ashey Wilkes. “I loved something I made up, something that’s just as dead as Melly is. I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it. And when Ashley came riding along, so handsome, so different, I put that suit on him and made him wear it whether it fitted him or not. And I wouldn´t see what he really was. I kept on loving the pretty clothes – and not him at all.” Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind. A defining moment.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That is a wonderful passage, Darlene. And I do like her growth. Thanks for sharing the passage. I agree that it takes talent to create a protagonist who is so distasteful and still have a successful book. It’s a classic for a reason. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hi Darlene, I admired Scarlett and thought she was a much more interesting and better person than many of her peers. She was a survivor and I liked that. I did not understand her attitude towards her children, but other than that, she was a great character, flawed, but so was everyone else. What she realised at the end was what I knew as a reader all the way through the book. I didn’t like Rhett much and thought he was very cruel towards her. I would have ended the book differently and not had her loving Rhett. Rhett was very insincere as he behaviour before Bonnie died indicated. As you say though, the fact that we are even having this conversation about fictional characters is very telling about the author’s superb writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Robbie. FIVE STARS in your review! I was a bit hesitant to read your review, because I loved the book so much as a pre-teen and teenager (like Darlene, read it in less than a week the first time when about 12) and I’ve seen the movie at least eight times. You capture the book and its essence and themes, and the characters, perfectly in your review. Yes, it shows how the work of the slaves was discounted and not highlighted in the book (which has made some discount the book), but that’s what Meade showed – the culture of the South then and the wealthy plantation owners and how they “owned” the land the the people who worked on it. Being born a Northerner, I found it interesting to understand the perspective of the Southern landowners back then. As wrong as it was, and as horrible that our country needed a Civil War to make slavery illegal, Meade’s book shows what it was like in the south in that place and time. And her characterization of Scarlett, Melanie, Rhett, and Ashley are incredible. As a young teen, I wanted to be a Scarlett, but I knew I was much more a “Melanie.” Many of my friends had the same dilemma. 🙂 You’ve made me want to read this book again – next time in Audibles I think. Many kudos to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK, so we have that in common as well. Reading Gone With The Wind at 12 in under a week. It really stuck with me too. When I eventually saw the movie, I liked it but it was never as good as the book. Although it was very well cast. NO one can do Scarlette lie, Vivian Leigh!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know. I’m so grateful I read the book first (several time) before seeing the movie. But I must say, I also loved the movie. Vivian Leigh was incredible as Scarlett – and Clark Gable was the quintessential Rhett. I have a book about the making of Gone with the Wind movie. It’s incredible how much time and effort was put into it – to make it perfect. And the author had input as well. xo

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Not to mention Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard. They were all perfect. The only thing that bothered me about the movie was that some of her children were not included. Perhaps that would have made it too long.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s