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Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (excerpt)

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (excerpt)

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4.37

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Published by Simon and Schuster
Margaret Mitchell's epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels 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.

Read the excerpt.
Margaret Mitchell's epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels 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.

Read the excerpt.

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Publish date: May 3, 2011
Added to Scribd: Mar 17, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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Activity (172)

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kristysp reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I'm so glad that Goodreads now has an abandoned shelf. Sadly, many books I pick up end up abandoned. Case in point: Gone with the Wind. I read about 150 pages, and I just couldn't do it. I hate Scarlett O'Hara, she is of no interest to me. The only remotely interesting character is Rhett Butler....and I just didnt have the patience to wait around for him to become important.
Also, the racism in this novel is just too painful to deal with. It goes waaaaay beyound the mere "Slavery was great, the slaves were happy to be working with kind masters" bullshit that the movie is known for. I felt that Mitchell described as the slaves in a really demeaning manner--she wrote them simple and childlike. And everytime someone used the word "Darkie" I cringed. Maybe it's just my modern sensibilities, but I couldn't get past it!

That said, Mitchell herself is a skilled writer. The prose was clean and lovely at some points and I admire her attempts to really explore her character's motives.

In the end, though, it wasn't enough. And I gave up.
srboone reviewed this
Rated 5/5
A great read, never boring. The last great novel by someone who actually lived during the civil war/reconstruction era. Romantic soap opera is not what i usually read, but this is magnificent.
melissarochelle_1 reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Read from July 26 to August 01, 2011I've read GWTW twice before and I love it. But this time around I was again too distracted by lots of other books. (It was part of a readalong and I was a bad participant!)Read in March 2008** spoiler alert ** 03/26/08 - Books with unresolved endings usually annoy me. But not this one. The reason is simple. In my mind, it's not unresolved. Scarlett has finally grown up and Rhett has finally moved on. It took Scarlett 12 years to realize that she loved Rhett and that he loved her...she kind of deserves the brush off. In my head, they do eventually get together though. I mean, they are so perfect for each other. I can't wait to read Rhett Butler's People!03/04/08 - Scarlett is in Atlanta, she's done with her one year of mourning, and she got out of going back to Tara for her disgraceful dancing while in mourning. I feel so bad for Scarlett...the fact that people of the pre-Civil War South thought that women should mourn for 3 years in black after the loss of a husband. Wow. And I know Scarlett comes off as selfish and vain (yes...she IS both of those things), but she's only 17! How many unselfish 17 year olds do you know? I feel like people don't give her a chance....And Melly IS one lame 18 year old. I love this book.
auntieknickers reviewed this
Rated 3/5
The 1939 film was re-released in theaters when I was about 12, and after I saw it I of course needed to read the book. It certainly held my interest but I think even then I was too much of a damn-Yankee to buy into the "Oh isn't it too bad the Old South is gone forever" mentality.
kimmr_2 reviewed this
Rated 3/5

The first time - and until now the only time - I read this book was in December 1975. I had just finished high school and my best friend persuaded me to read her favourite novel. Every afternoon for about three weeks I went to the local beach for a couple of hours to sunbake and read. From that first experience of reading Gone with the Wind , the novel became associated in my mind with the feeling of sunshine on my skin, the smell of the ocean, the sound of waves breaking on the sand and the sense of freedom which came from having my post-school life stretching before me. Those are the impressions that have stayed with me over the years, rather than anything about the work itself.

Coming back to the novel almost thirty-seven years later has been a very different experience and not an altogether positive one. I don’t mean that the experience has been all negative, as there are a number of aspects of the work which I like a lot. Firstly, I think Mitchell deserves praise for creating a heroine who is not a likeable character. Scarlett does have some positive qualities – she is practical and highly resilient – but throughout the novel she remains essentially unsympathetic and, well, stupid. There are few writers who would be prepared to make the central character in a romance quite so unlikeable.

Secondly, Mitchell’s account of the Civil War and in particular its affect on the civilian population feels authentic. As I read the chapters dealing with the war, I felt that Mitchell was writing about real and not just imagined experiences. Thirdly, the novel has moved beyond being just a work of fiction. At least in part because of the film adaptation, it’s an intrinsic part of American popular culture and therefore of English-language popular culture. In many ways, Gone with the Wind has become the story of the antebellum south, of the Civil War and of the Reconstruction, as well as an iconic love story.

However, on this reading, the negatives I perceived in the work had more of an effect on me than did its positive qualities. While I think that the novel is flawed in a number of ways, I’ll only deal with one of the problems I have with it in this review: the way in which Mitchell deals with racial issues.

A novel set in the south dealing with the Civil War and the Reconstruction will naturally have characters who reflect the attitudes towards slaves and slavery held by the white population at that time. Moreover, a novel written in the 1930s will reflect 1930s attitudes towards race. I don’t expect “political correctness” in relation to issues of race in a novel written before – say - the 1960s. However, regardless of whether it is realistic, the layering of 1930s-style racism over 1860s racist attitudes was, for me, disturbing and unpleasant.

Mitchell deals with race in two main ways, through the narrative and in the language used to describe the black characters. In the narrative, slave owners (and in particular the O’Hara and the Wilkes families) are depicted as caring philanthropists who treated their slaves with kindness and compassion and never abused them. “Good” slaves remain devoted to their former masters after the war and only “bad” slaves – the supposedly less intelligent field hands – pursue freedom. All “free-issue” former slaves are “trashy”, lazy, shiftless and abusive. According to Ashley Wilkes, slaves were not miserable, so there was no problem with the use of slave labour. Further, according to the narrative, the only reason for the creation of the Ku Klux Klan was to enable gallant southern men to protect their womenfolk from being sexually assaulted by former slaves. There is no acknowledgement in the narrative that the lifestyle and culture to which southerners were so attached was based upon human beings buying and selling other human beings. Nor is there any suggestion that there could possibly have been anything wrong with this as a way of life.

In relation to the use of language, black characters are described either as animals or children. For example: Mammy’s face is described as having “the uncomprehending sadness of a monkey’s face” and later as having “the sad bewilderment of an old ape”. Elsewhere in the text, Mammy’s eyes are said to see “with the directness of the savage and the child”. Pork is described as having a face “as forlorn as a lost and masterless hound”. The “lowest and most ignorant” of the former slaves are said to conduct themselves “as creatures of small intelligence might naturally be expected to do” and are described as being “like monkeys or small children turned loose among treasured objects”. Scarlett is outraged when the dignified Uncle Peter is humiliated by Yankee women, but then reflects that these women “did not know that negroes had to be handled gently, as though they were children, directed, praised, petted, scolded”.

As I read, the language used to describe black characters kept jumping off the page. Such language was not only used to describe the perspective of white characters, it was also used as part of the narrator’s – or author’s – voice. Even if such language is entirely consistent with 1860s or 1930s attitudes towards race, I found it deeply repellent and it adversely affected my response to the work as a whole.

It may be argued that for Mitchell to have questioned the myth of slavery as a benevolent institution or to use different language to describe her black characters would have been anachronistic. However, Mitchell had no difficulty acknowledging the hypocrisy of gender relations in the south and, through the character of Scarlett, she challenged accepted standards of female behaviour. I accept that Mitchell was a product of her environment and that the attitudes towards race demonstrated in the novel are not unexpected. However, it was impossible for me to ignore the racism in the narrative: it was just too pervasive for me to overlook or accept.

Many, many readers cherish this novel. I can understand why: the grand sweep of the epic is very compelling. Mitchell created a romantic vision of the antebellum and Civil War south and she peopled the world she created with memorable characters. But I can no longer respond to the novel as an iconic romantic drama. Rather, I see it as a work with some good points but with many flaws. In some ways I wish I hadn’t re-read the novel, as its bright place in my memory has now been dimmed. On the other hand, it’s been a very interesting exercise and an experience I’ve enjoyed sharing with my friend Jemidar (and with Jeannette before she threw in the towel and with Anna until she scooted ahead!).

I’ve downgraded my rating from the four stars I gave the book when I originally added it to my GR shelves. This is a compromise between the five stars it deserves for Mitchell’s achievement in writing a story which has such an important place in American popular culture, and one star for those things about the novel which I dislike intensely.
jarvenpa reviewed this
Rated 3/5
Okay, I think this book is overdone, and in many ways silly, and probably racist. But when I read it (and I was 16) I was totally, utterly, completely engulfed in this story. And I wanted to be Scarlett, bold and determined and selfish and passionate and forever surviving, somehow. I loved this book so much that when my best friend was killed that summer, one of my first thoughts, after the shock and tears, was "at least I lent her my copy of Gone with the Wind, and she read it before she died". And her name was Margaret, now I think on it, lovely fairhaired Margaret with her skin flecked with golden freckles in the desert sun.
Well, shows you what is of utmost importance to the readers of books.
liliana_shelbrook reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Love this book! In my view, a classic in American historical fiction.
fromthecomfychair reviewed this
Rated 5/5
What did I really know about the sufferings of southerners during the Civil War and Reconstruction? Well, I surely have a different picture after reading GWTW. Although the movie is quite faithful, even in the dialogue, it's basically the story of a love triangle. It's only reading the book that you realize that a whole piece of civilization was destroyed, along with the slavery that made it possible. I'm really glad I finally read this. It was so much better than I had imagined.
kanwal_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
A wonderful, historical, and always amazing to read novel for all times and all generations. Margaret Mitchell not only describes the situation in America (Georgia, Atlanta) during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but also manages to fit in a beautiful love story.
shesinplainview reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Absolute masterpiece even better than the film which is saying alot. However, I admit I hated the ending. It has gnawed at me ever since these past thirty years. I so wanted Scarlett to open her eyes and come to her senses before it was too late. I admit that I fantasize about different endings that show her & Rhett together.

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