In June, 1936, Margaret Mitchell's first novel Gone With the Wind was published and it was an immediate sensation. Purchased just a few months later by MGM for the sum of $50,000.00 (the most ever for a first novel - to be a movie - book) it immediately developed a life of its own. But, we don't review movies here in the Library, so you should really read the book!
Now living here in the Deep South, close to where the book is set, I decided to go back and read it one more time. The first time I saw the movie was waaaaaaaaay back in 1957 - my mother took me. I was not very old, but I remember every detail. When I was 13, my grandmother gave me the book for my birthday and I still have that original copy, the oldest book in MY Library.
At that age, I was a bit confused because there was SO much in the book (1037 pages) that wasn't in the movie. But as I got older, realized that the movie studios NEVER EVER do things exactly like the book. Better for me - I'd rather read than watch. Anyway......for the unfamiliar reader,
Gone With the Wind is the story of Scarlett O'Hara and her trials and tribulations during the American Civil War in the Old South. The story opens almost immediately before the war starts, 1861, on her familys' plantation, Tara, somewhere in south Georgia. Scarlett lives at home with her parents, 2 sisters, and their family slaves. You will find as you get into the story, that the slavery issue does permeate the book, although Scarlett doesn't really confront the issue or discuss it.
Although Scarlett seems to have everything a girl of her station could possibly desire, what she really wants, and can't have is Ashley Wilkes, the tall, blonde, good-looking son of the neighboring plantation owners. As we prepare for, and head off to the annual barbeque at the Wilks' Twelve Oaks plantation, we begin to feel what maybe coming. At this point, I am certainly not going to give you the entire story line - read the book for yourself!
But I will give you a quick list of the players:
Rhett Butler - self proclaimed blockade runner and scalawag (thats kinda like a scoundrel for all you Star Wars fans) who fall is love with Scarlett and has to catch her between husbands and problems. Rhett is not one to pick sides, but in the end, does the right thing. They could have cast Han Solo in this role and done very well, thank you very much. *wonders if George Lucas ever read this book?*
Ashley Wilkes - Love of her life (she thinks) engaged and married to his cousin, off to fight the war for the Confederacy. Very well educated, suave and debonair, and totally unprepared for the realities and horror of war and its' aftermath.
Melanie Wilkes - Ashley's wife, and the brunt of Scarlett's jealousy. Melanie is too good a person to even be aware of Scarlett's interest in her husband - makes for some interesting dialogue and deception. But in the end, the one true friend Scarlett has. Too bad Scarlett figures that out too late.
Charles Hamilton - Scarlett's first husband - marries him in a fit of anger because Ashley marries Melanie - bad mistake!
Tom Kennedy - Sacrlett's 2nd husband - she steals him from her own sister. Poor Tom! But Scarlett needs $$ to pay the taxes on Tara, Rhett is in jail, and everyone else is broke after the war. Our heroine will do ANYTHING to protect Tara!
Belle Watling - The Atlanta Madam who saves Ashley and his friends when the KuKluxClan raids a black shantytown in retaliation against an attack on Scarlett. She is one of my favorite characters - the perfect whore with a heart of gold. She has alot more going for her than alot of the sickening sweet girls the book is populted with.
Aunt PittyPat Hamilton - Melanie and Charles aunt, she lives in Atlanta and Scarlett visits her to get away fromthe boring life of a widow in the country just before Atlanta falls to the Union army of Sherman. Lucky PittyPat, she gets out before the city burns, and comes back to make her home a safe haven for Scarlett and Melanie after the war is over. This character is the epitomy of the ditzy, silly southern belle at the age of at least 50 - You will either want to slap her or give her a hug. Mammy - Scarlett's conscience. She doesn't always listen to Mammy, but that doesn't make any difference - Mammy tells it like it is, no matter what. And she is always there for Scarlett regardless of whether she approves or not - she understands Scarlett like no one else.
If you HAVE seen the movie, you do understand the scope of the scenery, the production, the immense size of this story. And you really can see in your mind the horrible scene before the buring of Atlanta by Sherman, when the injured and dying are laid out in the hot summer sun in the city square at the railroad station. You will feel the fear and frustration as Scarlett is trapped in Atlanta, the Yankees on the city outskirts, as Melanie is in labor and Scarlett just wants to go home to Tara and her Mother.
The escape from Atlanta, Rhett's help, his mocking and teasing thru the entire story, and his deep love for Scarlett that, in the end, cannot survive her obsession with the hapless Ashley Wilkes. The people she leaves in her wake as she heads toward her own personal day of reckoning are captivating, true to the period, and written in a way as to be completely believeable. This really must have been the way it was in Georgia in 1861-65, and afterward, when the Carpetbaggers came.
Such a devastating time in American history, a war of brother against brother, best friend and best friend choosing opposite sides, the Blue and the Grey, and in the middle of it all is an incredible story on one womans' personal journey from the top, down to the deepest of despair, clawing her way back up again, loosing it all, and never giving up. This is a story for the ages, a true American history lesson, as well as a profile of an amazing woman and her place and time.
Title: Gone With the Wind