Friday, November 9, 2012

Gone with the Wind

Author: Margaret Mitchell
Number of Pages: 1024
Reading Level: 9th grade and up
Reading Time: 1 month

Margaret Mitchell's classic novel of the decline of the Old South centers around a spoiled, selfish girl called Scarlett O'Hara. The clever and manipulative Scarlett, who grew up in the cotton-rich South, has always gotten whatever she wanted, whether it be men, jewelry, or a trip to the nearest town. However, all of that changes with the outbreak of the Civl War. Death becomes all too real, food becomes scarce, and Scarlett, determined not to be beaten by the war, takes everything she can and gives nothing back. However, she sacrifices all the ladylike teachings that have been instilled in her, and the remnant of the South doesn't like it. In fact, the only person who seems to understand her at all is the roguish, sarcastic, and dashing Rhett Butler, who cares for no one but himself. In this brilliant novel, you see an age passing into oblivion, and the Old South is "gone with the wind."

I was so surprised at the draw of this book. I truly loved it. I hated Scarlett at first and couldn't imagine living through a thousand pages of her selfish, obstinate ways. As the book progressed, though, I came to understand Scarlett a little better, and while I didn't like her, I did respect her. She had strength, passion, determination, and a will to move forward instead of looking back. You come to realize after a time that it was only people like her who survived, emotionally, the decline of the South. I also loved Rhett Butler. Like Scarlett, I thought he was a disgusting, rude man at first, but as time goes on you begin to appreciate his suavity, his sarcastic bite, and his sliver of a conscience that popped up occasionally.

The depictions of the South and the Civil War were fascinating. I, like nearly everyone else in America, learned about the Civil War from the viewpoint of the North. Slavery was bad, we all agree upon that. The South was racist; it's true. But it doesn't hurt to see both sides of a conflict, even if you know which one is right. It's always interesting to step into another man's shoes and see things the way he did. The racism was shocking, but it was true to history. And it shows you a new perspective on slavery, the new freedom of slaves, and even the Ku Klux Klan (though, let's be real, it was still horrid).

My favorite part of the book, though, was the relationship between Scarlett and Rhett. It fluctuated from like to dislike, to abhorrence to love and back again as quickly as could be. As a great lover of sass in novels, this one was especially great. Their arguments, their banter, Scarlett's indignation at nearly anything Rhett said, Rhett's brutal honesty; there were times when I laughed out loud at their conversation!

Gone with the Wind is, indeed, a masterpiece of Southern literature, one that I will be reading again and again.

A Note to Parents:
This book is definitely not for children. There's prostitution, adultery, lust, murder, possible rape, and quite a bit of language. It is, however, a brilliant novel, and I would recommend it to any high school student mature enough to read a thousand pages of classic Southern literature. My biggest complaint (and it's not even really a complaint) would be the blatant racism. However, I give this a pass because, as wrong as it is, it fits with the time period. If the book wasn't racist, it wouldn't be accurate. That being said, this book could bring up great conversations on morals and what you would be willing to do to save yourself, your family, and your home in a situation like Scarlett's.

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