‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell gave me all the complicated feelings and thoughts. So I am sharing all the complicatedness with you!
Explanation of the title. Lest I have a ridiculously long post, I decided to split it into two parts. Characters today, plot tomorrow.
Anyone who tells you this is an epic love story is off their rocker. This is not a love story (the scene on the cover? Never happened in the book), this is a tragedy of the worst kind. Not the kind where everyone dies in the end. The kind of tragedy that could have been avoided if only the character had made a different choice. If he had spoken up sooner, if she had taken a different turn, perhaps it all would have turned out better. But they don’t and it all ends in tragedy.
I think a tragedy of regret is worse than a tragedy of death.
On to the characters!
Scarlett O’Hara drove me completely crazy. (It might be because I am more like her than I like to admit, but I haven’t introspected that far) As a writer, I have a great respect for the author of this book. She never let Scarlett get away with anything. No problem was solved for her, no mistake was glossed over. When Scarlett made a decision, she dealt with the consequences, good or ill. The author didn’t try to make Scarlett look better than she was, or pretend that Scarlett was a good person on the inside. The author created a character, and then had the character do all the things she would do in any situation, and the end came naturally. As if we knew all the while how this would end, but we keep reading in the faint hope that our suspicions will turn out wrong.
Scarlett is a great example of a negative character arc. Honestly, she is like a female Scrooge with a better back story and no chance for redemption. Scarlett is afraid of going hungry again, so she does everything in her power to get money and keep that from happening. Including stealing her sisters fiance because he has money, hiring convicts and an overseer who works them to death (literally) because they bring in money, and cheating anyone and everyone to make a few extra dollars. A selfish socialite in the beginning, she becomes unscrupulous and hard by the end. What I disliked about Scarlett is how selfish she is. She sees everyone in the light of what they can do for her, and hates children because they can’t work and are ‘just’ a drain on her resources. Over and over again I hoped she would start seeing beyond the end of her own nose, but she never did until it was too late.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, I would have thrown the book across the room in disgust.
Melanie is everything Scarlett is not. She is kind, selfless, and thinks of other before herself. She only sees the good in people, which does make her blink to Scarlett’s ongoing emotional affair with her husband, but it makes her stand up for anyone and gives her a sweetness that is lacking in the other characters. However, she isn’t weak. Far from it. Melanie doesn’t care what other people think of her, she will do what is right no matter the consequences. Including care for outcasts from society, and being friends with Scarlett. She stands up for what is right and just even if all the people around her shrink away from the ugly task. Melanie becomes the glue that holds the characters together in the novel, without Melanie, the story would fall the shambles. Even Rhett Butler thinks she is a great lady, and gives her respect and kindness which he shows to no one else.
The two leading ladies of the novel are foils of each other.
Melanie’s sweetness draws other people to her, and she is surrounded by those she loves and love her. Scarlett drives all those she loves away (except Melanie) because of her stubbornness and pride. She dislikes her children, and they grow up traumatized by their own mother. Melanie adores her son and he grows up happy and healthy. Scarlett’s marriages are always unhappy, her emotional affair is fraught with unhappiness, and the one man she really loves and who really loves her ends up giving up on her. Melanie’s husband loves her (though it takes him forever to realize it) and their marriage is a happy one.
Melanie dies young and happy, Scarlet will live miserably to a friendless old age. If I had to choose, I would rather be Melanie with all of her loving friends than Scarlett with all her business success.
Rhett Butler starts out as one of my least favorite characters and ends as one of my favorites. Why? Because he is truthful. (Usually) If he doesn’t want to do something, he doesn’t do it, if he doesn’t like something or someone, he says so. Throughout all the pretending characters in this novel, his honesty is a breath of fresh air. While Scarlett pretends to not care about peoples opinions, he really doesn’t care, and I respect that about him. He may be irritating, but at least he doesn’t pretend that he’s not. Unfortunately, he also has a looooot of pride, and that often gets in the way of his best efforts. It may have been much easier if he had just come out and said he loved Scarlett, but that would have meant laying down his armor of pride. By the end of the book I pitied him. All he had left was his money and sad memories.
Ashley Wilkes (Melanie’s husband) is a coward, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Instead of telling Scarlett ‘Never, its over’, he drags it on and on throughout the years, knowing the affair isn’t right but not wanting to give it up either. He could have ended it before the novel began, but he was selfish and wanted to keep her. He hides his selfishness under ‘not wanting to hurt her’, and ‘chivalry’. Right. In comparison with Rhett who is ruthlessly truthful, he looks like a liar and a coward.
This post ended up being a liiittle longer than I thought it would be. I hope you enjoyed it, and see you in Part 2!