Gone with the Wind is a book I had a love (or at least like)-hate relationship with. I read it for my IRL book club. I’m the coordinator and founder of the book club, but I surveyed the participants for their top picks, and Gone with the Wind was one of them. I read part of it myself as a teenager, but I don’t remember ever finishing it. This time around, for about the first five hundred pages or so, I didn’t like Scarlett at all–not one little bit–and that made it hard to like the book. When the first part of the book was over and Scarlett was back at Tara, penniless and with so many others dependent on her, I liked her a microscopic amount. Well, maybe like is the wrong word. I understood her a little bit. My feelings for her didn’t change as the book went on–I never liked her any more, though I could at times see the desperation that drove her ruthlessness. When I finally, finally read her last declaration of the certainty of tomorrow and her ability to cope with her problems then, I was nothing but happy to be done with the soap opera.
So–I really didn’t like Scarlett or her story too much. That’s not to say, however, that I didn’t appreciate Margaret Mitchell’s skills of description and characterization. There are many descriptions in this novel that made me pause and re-read them, they are so good. This is one of my favorites:
The man who was making his way across the back yard stumped, like Will Benteen, on a wooden leg. He was a tall, thin old man with a bald head, which shone pinkishly dirty, and a grizzled beard so long he could tuck it in his belt. He was over sixty, to judge by his hard, seamed face, but there was no sag or age to his body. He was lank and ungainly but, even with his wooden peg, he moved as swiftly as a snake.
He mounted the steps and came toward her and, even before he spoke, revealing in his tones a twang and a burring of “r’s” unusual for the lowlands, Scarlett knew that he was mountain born. For all his dirty, ragged clothes, there was about him, as about most mountaineers, an air of fierce silent pride that permitted no liberties and tolerated no foolishness. His beard was stained with tobacco juice and a large wad in his jaw made his face look deformed. His nose was thin and craggy, his eyebrows bushy and twisted into witches’ locks and a lush growth of hair sprang from his ears, giving them the tufted look of a lynx’s ears. Beneath his brow was one hollow socket from which a scar ran down his cheek, carving a diagonal line through his beard. The other eye was small, pale and cold, an unwinking and remorseless eye. There was a heavy pistol openly in his trouser band and from the top of his tattered boot protruded the hilt of a bowie knife.
There are many other such examples, but that’s my favorite. I also took note of an unusual word usage in this book–Mitchell uses refugee as a verb repeatedly, as in The family refugeed to Macon at the beginning of the siege. I thought that was interesting, and my very limited research has not revealed any such usage elsewhere.
Would I recommend Gone with the Wind? Well, yes and no. It’s an engaging story, but because the main characters aren’t likeable to me, it was hard for me to see reading it as much more than a chore. Again, though, the characterization is wonderful. Sensitive readers should be aware of the fact that there is a lot (a whole lot!) of cursing throughout the story, as well as some pointed but not explicit references to marital relations.
Have you read Gone with the Wind? What did you think about it?