GWTW Chapters 1-10: Don’t Be an Ostrich and Read This

Peachtree Street with Wagon Traffic - Atlanta, GA, 1864

Peachtree Street with Wagon Traffic – Atlanta, GA, 1864

This is the first check-in post, and I could not be more excited! The only thing upsetting me right now is that I have to rush this post because (I didn’t plan ahead) I am leaving for the long weekend (Victoria Day in Canada — yay for my favourite queen!), and so I won’t be able to read any other posts and comment/share the excitement… 😦 But as soon as I get back!
Anyway, this post is going to be a disorganized mess with a hint of serious analytical reading at the end. Mainly, I am just going to list all the things I loved. This way you get to pretty much track my annotations and thought process throughout the ten chapters. I covered my thoughts on the first couple of chapters in this post, so since then…

love that Mammy forces Scarlett to eat lots before going out and keeping up appearances and eating like a bird. It seems that Mitchell is shamelessly exposing the foolishness of ladylike behaviour and shows that a woman can have a healthy appetite (duh). In Atlanta, Scarlett pours waterfalls of syrup on her pancakes — I love it!

I love the way Mitchell portrays Gerald. He seems to be the comic relief of the novel. However, I especially like how Tara and the Tarleton plantations are secretly matriarchal. Ellen and Beatrice Tarleton are vastly different but both are wilful and powerful women who manage the affairs of the whole household and business.

I LOVE how Mitchell’s feminism is showing. I am going to go ahead and assume she was a feminist without a label.

“There was no one to tell Scarlett that her own personality, frighteningly vital though it was, was more attractive than any masquerade she might adopt. Had she been told, she would have been pleased but unbelieving. And the civilization of which she was a part would have been unbelieving too, for at no time, before or since, had so low a premium been placed on feminine naturalness.”

Here is where my critical interlude comes in. So far, Scarlett seems to be unhappy in situations where she cannot be her natural self. For example, she initially sees marriage as a way to escape pretences and show her true character. Married women can eat in public and be a little more opinionated.

However! Even within the social insitution of marriage a woman cannot be herself. And as Scarlett learns, widows fare even worse. As Rhett remarks, there is a custom of “burying widows alive”; they cannot dance or dress up or act happy. 19th century widowhood is another interesting venue for research…

So Scarlett is unable to be herself while also conforming with the society of her time. She can, however, attain freedom outside of society. An interesting moment in text is presented when Scarlett is fascinated by Belle Watling. She admires her hair and manner of walking with her head high. As a prostitute, Belle is a social outcast, but this estrangement from society is what allows her a measure of freedom. It is the same with Rhett. He is exiled from polite society and himself suggests that once your reputation is gone you are set free from societal constraints. Scarlett is able to experience this freedom when she dances with Rhett after his bid.

Speaking of Rhett… Let’s just say I squealed at:

“This,” said a voice from the depths of the sofa, “is too much.”

Such a good scene! In my English course this year we explored the dynamics of scenes of eavesdropping in Princesse de Cleves. This episode in GWTW reminded me of that. Rhett is now part of her secret :).

I still have tons to gush about, like Melanie and Ashley’s discussion of Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Dickens that leaves Scarlett clueless. But I think this is where I’ll leave it. GWTW is FANTASTIC, so don’t be an ostrich and read it!

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4 responses to “GWTW Chapters 1-10: Don’t Be an Ostrich and Read This

  1. Oh, I LOVE your thoughts on Belle Watling! I had never seriously considered her! So, so true: she is successful because she refuses to play along, and therefore she is an outcast. 😀 I am completely with you on the feminism in the novel, and I would definitely say Mitchell was a feminist. 🙂

    • Thank you! Since she was named and everything I assume she will reappear in the novel…
      Oh yes. Margaret Mitchell is becoming more and more appealing 🙂

  2. Yes, wasn’t the Melanie/Ashley discussion about Dickens and Scarlett’s reaction funny? I almost feel that Mitchell doesn’t like this character (Scarlett) as she’s quite hard on her sometimes.

    I’m still only half-way through this section. So many books on the go but I hope to be able to pick it up again in the next few days. I’m enjoying it much more than I thought I would.

    In any case, great thoughts and keep ’em coming! I definitely need some help along with this one!

    • It does seem so, doesn’t it? Some of the qualities that Mitchell dispensed to Scarlett are not really pleasant. I am still undecided whether I like her myself.

      Best of luck catching up! If Goodreads doesn’t lie, you’ve got quite a load of books to tackle! 🙂

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