GWTW: Final Thoughts – All About the Girls

I do not own this image (though I did add the text :P)

What a journey. When I added Gone With the Wind to my Classics Club list, I did so with the same attitude that guided me in adding other books: I’ve heard it’s a classic, I knew I wanted to read it, I didn’t know what it would be like. At all.
I have not watched the movie, and everything I knew about this “great American novel” was a diluted version of second- or even third-hand opinions. It’s about Southern plantation owners and the Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara falls in love with Rhett Butler – it’s a romance, see. Something about walking through a burning city; also red-carpeted stairs. The film poster looks like a smutty paperback. 

Oh no, my friends. OH NO. This is now one of my favourite books. And I have a few things to prove about it… It’s not a romance. It’s problematic, but great.

The following post & comments below may contain spoilers. They lurk in the most innocent sentences, hiding in synopses, and jump out from arguments no matter how vague. Reader, beware. 🙂 

Let’s start with the stuff that’s hard to swallow. There are several problematic things in this novel, and let them stay as lumps in your throat because to ignore them would be to ignore the validity of these issues in real life. In fact, the novel’s status as the great American novel is something to be discussed because it doesn’t represent all Americans. Racism is a thing in the novel. I’ve seen some arguments that try to answer for this: the novel is told from Scarlett’s perspective & she, being raised in that social order, has internalized it to the point where she does not see that it is wrong. She loves and respects Mammy, Pork, and the others. BUT that doesn’t change the fact that there is some pretty terrible stuff thrown around regarding race, and the author fails to interject as a narrator to fix this even a little bit. (Not to mention that it kind of glorifies slavery & rejects the abolition movement as bogus.)

GWTW is sexist (sometimes). How can it be both fantastically feminist & occasionally sexist? There are sexist remarks thrown around, but the reader always knows they come from characters who just don’t know any better. Melanie embodies the cult of domesticity and is elevated above others for that (but she also defies it at times & paired with Scarlett, the two become a statement on femininity and whatever the hell that means). There is a very misogynistic character who killed his wife for cheating, and everyone’s chill about him. But all of that isn’t what bothers me most. What bothers me most is that Scarlett – the best heroine I’ve read in a while – still has to be “tamed” in order to find love. Damn it. Scarlett is happy with him (not Charles, not Frank, not Ashley) because he is the only one whom she cannot bully, read: he can tame her. *puke*

Rhett Butler is also abusive that one time. He spoils her, but also controls her to the point of deciding what kind of hairstyle she can and cannot have. And remember that bit when he told her he would crush her skull? Yup. Oh, and also the scene which people still debate was rape or not. (I don’t think it was rape, but I’d still slap a trigger warning on that thing.)

I do not own this image

However, and I’ll say that again – HOWEVER! GWTW does so many things so right, and one of them – the one I love most & will argue till the ends of the earth is that Mitchell places female companionship above the romance.

I should acknowledge that the seed of this idea was placed in my head from a post by Corinne/Jillian which stated that the relationship between Melanie and Scarlett takes centre stage in the novel (or something like that!). The more I read on, the more I agreed with that analysis. By the end of the novel, I was willing to defend this thesis with all my heart. Here’s why.

Scarlett was brought up in an environment that instigated competition among women and taught them to dislike each other. The scramble for beaux which marks the opening chapters of GWTW is the perfect example of this terrible outlook. On top of that, Melly is set up against Scarlett as competition for Ashley’s heart. Scarlett’s bound to hate her, right? And that is how she feels towards her, at first. Despite that, Mitchell allows Scarlett and Melanie to bond during moments of struggle and misfortune. Melanie, who has all the reasons for jealousy, never treats women as enemies & treats Scarlett as a sister, constantly defending her. Scarlett finds support and strength in Melly (especially after her mother dies; and Melly is like a mother to her & Rhett & many others…). *SPOILER* Finally, Melanie’s death is a pivotal moment in the book; one that strikes hard at Scarlett & triggers her realization of everything that she failed to see before!!

This was such a great scene in both the book and the movie! So proud of Scarlett. <3

This was such a great scene in both the book and the movie! So proud of Scarlett. ❤

GWTW is not a story of romance to me, though it does have romantic moments. It is a story of survival, as Mitchell herself stated, and it is specifically a story of women’s survival during the Civil War. Rhett Butler as a character is not present in the novel as often as Melanie. And although he is [almost] always there to save the day, it is Melanie who is a continual source of Scarlett’s strength. The end of the novel is not brought about by a Rhett-Scarlett reunion (repeat: THIS ISN’T A ROMANCE!), but by Melanie’s death which opens Scarlett’s eyes once and for all. The story ends with a proclamation of Scarlett’s gumption: this is her story & she is going to secure her happiness by winning back Rhett (another realization grâce à Melanie). But GWTW ends there, not with a satisfactory ending of romance, but with a conclusion of a great friendship & a promise of a new life.

I was going to bury you, Reader, in textual evidence, but I am too lazy to search for my annotations, so I will leave just one very powerful (& long) passage:

      “ Behind that door, Melanie was going and, with her, the strength upon which she had relied unknowingly for so many years. Why, oh, why, had she not realized before this how much she loved and needed Melanie? But who would have thought of small plain Melanie as a tower of strength? Melanie who was shy to tears before strangers, timid about raising her voice in an opinion of her own, fearful of the disapproval of old ladies. Melanie who lacked the courage to say Boo to a goose? And yet––
Scarlett’s mind went back through the years to the still hot noon at Tara when gray smoke curled above a blue-clad body and Melanie stood at the top of the stairs with Charles’ saber in her hand. Scarlett remembered that she had thought at the time: “How silly! Melly couldn’t even heft that sword!” But now she knew that had the necessity arisen, Melanie would have charged down those stairs and killed the Yankee – or been killed herself.
Yes, Melanie had been there that day with a sword in her small hand, ready to do battle for her. And now, as Scarlett looked sadly back, she realized that Melanie had always been there beside her with a sword in her hand, unobtrusive as her own shadow, loving her, fighting for her with blind passionate loyalty, fighting Yankees, fire, hunger, poverty, public opinion and even her beloved blood kin.
Scarlett felt her courage and self-confidence ooze from her as she realized that the sword which had flashed between her and the world was sheathed forever.
“Melly is the only woman friend I ever had,” she thought forlornly, “the only woman except Mother who really loved me. She’s like Mother, too. Everyone who knew her has clung to her skirts.” (936-937)

So thank you Margaret Mitchell for giving us a wonderful protagonist, coarse and flawed so that she was real, a punch to the ideals of perfection. Thank you for giving us another equally heroic lady, though shy and quiet, to dispel the myth that strong women always have to be rebels. And thank you for giving us a female friendship powerful enough to outshine the romance. ❤

My favourite still of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett! I thought she was brilliant!!!

My favourite still of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett! I thought she was brilliant!!!

5h

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23 responses to “GWTW: Final Thoughts – All About the Girls

  1. I think Scarlett is an interesting, complicated character because she has no idea how much she harms herself by trying to be what society wants (a lady). She’s so torn! She has this enormous yearning to be herself, and an equally enormous regret that she isn’t what her mother wanted of her. She’s at her best in Atlanta while married to Frank, I think, because she has all kinds of freedom & pretty much acts like his husband. 🙂 I mean, look how often he stays home while she goes to work. Role-reversal! At that point, she doesn’t care what society thinks, but in a healthy way. It becomes unhealthy when she starts caring what society thinks, & drowning her sorrows in alcohol & sour grapes. This is EXCELLENT inner conflict: the self longing to be accepted but refusing to conform. She so so so so wants to be loved like Melly. But she cannot possibly be Melly, therefore, she fits nowhere. So she is unendurably lonely, & she doesn’t really know it. She feels she has no place, yet she knows she is smart enough to do all kinds of things which were considered unacceptable.

    I think Mitchell took the sexist attitudes which were likely very, very common in her own era as well as in the Civil War era, and pitted them against her steel-strong heroine to see which one would be the last standing. I don’t (personally) feel that Mitchell was trying to showcase abuse as a good thing. Scarlett had been relegated to weak men before and had no good opinion of them, because they could be bullied. With Rhett she finds equilibrium: she can be incredibly, incredibly strong in her marriage without breaking Rhett. Does that make sense? He doesn’t whine at her not to be unwomanly. He takes her as she is & slaps back, and she respects that, and is, I sense, even relieved by it. The catch is that he takes it too far: he does become abusive, and the equilibrium rocks into an unhealthy relationship. (Which I sense Scarlett doesn’t entirely understand, as she sees things through a nineteenth century filter. At the time, it was lawful, and even morally expected, that a man would discipline his wife physically. I am sure Mitchell was very aware of this while she was writing, & I can’t imagine she was okay with it.)

    At last, even Rhett breaks, and Scarlett is left alone, the only one willing to go forward. No one has proven strong enough for her: not Rhett, & certainly never Ashley. So she is (it appears) destined to be free but alone. To survive as herself, she is destined to break everyone, even the man she thought was strong enough to take her.

    HIGHLY FEMINIST! I reckon. I think the point is that, to be a strong woman, a woman of that period could not be compatible with anyone. I love how Miitchell systematically removes the “parent” figures in her life, until there is no one left to tell Scarlett what to do or think, but Scarlett. Yet their voices are forever in her head. Even at the end, she grasps with ghost arms for the man she has been taught all her life she is supposed to win. Even at the end, she doesn’t entirely get it — what has been done to her, by the loving people in her family who never knew her or really understood her — or gave her a chance.

    As for the horrific attitudes of the Civil War era which find their voice in Gone with the Wind, they are excruciating to read, but how will we ever hear them if readers of even Confederate novels ask the narrator to soften words which were not softened in that period in history? Mitchell showcases abolition as a Confederate would have showcased it. She was not any of her characters or her narrator, and it is not the function of art to explain itself or soften itself. I read her work very much like a stage drama, actually, with Scarlett’s thoughts as a spoken part of the screenplay, & the narrator as a Confederate character standing alongside the other characters. I could definitely be reading with a jaded eye (it’s my favorite book, after all), but I think there is value in literature which gives us a glimpse of a time period we regret — without softening it for us. We can read it & assess its perspective without agreeing with it, & see our own history more clearly. Not by buying into the book’s perspective, but by seeing it without a filter — so that it is at least closer for us. People who lived that era didn’t have the benefit of a friendly narrator softening the stage drama. I am a history minor & have actually studied Atlanta Reconstruction pretty intensely. Mitchell was giving us the attitude of the time period. (Only my thoughts on that.) 🙂 x

    Naturally, I LOVE your remarks on the relationship between Melanie & Scarlett, and the way Mitchell suggests through them that female friendship actually is an important part of the female life, sometimes even more nourishing than the romance story, which to this day is too often the only story a literary heroine gets.

    I feel like at the end of the novel, Scarlett is going to go back to Mammy, & the two will find a sort of uneasy friendship at Tara. I don’t know what will happen between Suellen & Scarlett! I wish they could find friendship, though. The equilibrium. I remember Scarlett was completely behind Suellen’s attempt to restore the family fortune by taking the oath. Maybe eventually they’ll find things in one another to respect, with Will between them.

    (By the way, Will Benteen reminds me a bit of Mitchell’s second husband John. I had him on the mind while I was reading the Will sections. Mitchell’s husband was extremely calm, easy-going, capable, intelligent, etc. The passages where he’s driving her home while she’s pregnant telling her what happened to Gerald felt like an 1800s exchange between Margaret & John. 🙂 He was her rock, from what I’ve read.

    • Indeed! All those times that Scarlett mentally torments herself, she tells herself that she should be more like Ellen/will be more like her once she has money, once she does this or that… And Ellen’s character seems (to me) to represent the social ideal of womanhood (just like Melanie fits the Angel in the House ideal).

      Scarlett with Frank was great! I loved how he protested against her business, but she bullied him into silence. I agree that at this point Scarlett ignores societal pressures & it’s good for her because she is able to make enough money to sustain herself & her independence. I think it becomes unhealthy once she is too blinded by [Rhett’s] wealth & wants to spit on old Atlanta society just for the sake of showing off. Even Rhett wants to save his image for the sake of Bonnie…

      The way you phrased her inner conflict is brilliant! I love it & whole-heartedly agree. 🙂

      About the sexist attitudes and all that, as I mentioned, I still find some elements problematic but I can balance that with all the wonderful things that Mitchell does with this text… Equilibrium is the key word 🙂 and Rhett is by far the best partner for Scarlett, though he does go overboard. As you said, even Rhett breaks eventually (there is that great quote that Scarlett holds others’ love like a whip — I’m sure you know the one I mean! ).

      AHH, Scarlett is just SUCH a strong female protagonist! There’s no denying that. “I love how Mitchell systematically removes the “parent” figures in her life, until there is no one left to tell Scarlett what to do or think, but Scarlett. Yet their voices are forever in her head.” –> Very true, and I haven’t thought about this. But her moment of realization that the Ashley she loved was made up in her head, and the real Ashley is incompatible with her brings back the first chapters of the novel where Gerald explicitly tells Scarlett that she and Ashley are different. At the same time, I feel that Scarlett had to know herself first to know that Ashley wasn’t for her.

      About the Civil War history: I should have made it plain that I know so so so little about that, and I bow down before your knowledge :). I realize that Mitchell was representing the majority attitude of the time. I only felt that she was biased (considering she loved Confederate history?) & also that many people reading this book nowadays would not see themselves represented or represented in a positive light? I don’t know…

      Scarlett MUST go to Tara at the end, Tara is kind of the reason why she survived & I love Scarlett’s relationship with her home. I don’t know if she can make up with Suellen. 🙂 She stole Frank! Haha. Do you think Scarlett would stay & live at Tara or move back to Atlanta?

      Love your remarks about Will. I loved his quiet personality & that he knew everything from half a glance, without being told. I wonder if all of the main male protagonists were even slightly based on men Mitchell knew?

      Thank you for your lovely & detailed comment! ❤ I'm sorry it took so long to answer, I wanted to make sure I read it properly and addressed everything!

      • No worries on the delay at all, Maria! We’re both busy, I’m sure. I actually have to make my own response fast as I’ve loads of things to do today — though I’d rather draw up a chair & discuss Gone with the Wind all day!

        I completely respect your suggestion that not all viewpoints are fully represented in this novel. I guess my thinking is that Mitchell was writing for her own era, first of all — and one that was not as evolved (has America really evolved at all though? I often wonder) as it is today. I feel that in many ways she was parodying what she seems to support. I can’t put a finger on why I think that, though I’ve tried to scrape together some thoughts (which I cannot recall if you read early in the readalong — you may have already seen them, and understand I’m only sharing again because I’m too lazy / too busy to try to recapture them all here 🙂 http://historyisnotwas.blogspot.com/2015/07/should-gone-with-wind-be-banned.html

        For example, Mitchell experienced severe domestic abuse with her first husband. Court records show that within six months of marrying her first husband (interestingly named Red) he had not only physically beaten her, he had very likely raped her. She was absolutely mortified, & so frightened of him she kept a pistol under her pillow until the day he died (he jumped from a window several years after the publication of Gone with the Wind.) Yet you see marital rape play out in Gone with the Wind, and Scarlett’s reaction is nothing like Mitchell’s was. Mitchell was so depressed and mortified she couldn’t leave her room for quite some time. She was deeply affected. Scarlett? Not the same. Scarlett is a character, there to serve a literary purpose. So my thinking is: what is the literary purpose?
        Mitchell’s second husband was very forward thinking (for a Southern man of the time), and he and Mitchell shared many of the same views. I don’t for a second believe she was writing Gone with the Wind in support of the old South, or the old Confederacy. I do think she had a conservative viewpoint: she didn’t like FDR’s New Deal because she felt that big government was intruding on the South. She strongly believed in self-reliance, and she felt that way about African Americans in Atlanta. She believed that it was very important to offer all people (white or black) the tools to grow on their own, rather than allowing the government to come in and rescue them, because that would only breed a generation of people who couldn’t get up and survive on their own, and instead waited for the government to help them. The issue in this being? The government acquires power over the individual. What appears to be an aid actually holds citizens back because they never learn to grow on their own.

        I don’t agree with her entirely, but I do partially agree. I think in Gone with the Wind, she is considering Reconstruction with a similar viewpoint. As an author, I mean, not as the characters or her narrator. But I do think that her attitude was similar to her response to the New Deal: big government sweeping in, putting a bandaid on it, and breeding people who would never grow for themselves. I don’t think (personally) that this was about race for her. It’s just that during Reconstruction, blacks received the aid and they were the ones being crippled by big government.
        She was not a bad person — not even slightly. She was incredibly giving, incredibly generous, incredibly insightful, and she was absolutely floored when people starting calling her a racist because of her novel. She couldn’t understand it and had no defense because she couldn’t. She did say that she had given the most moral characteristics to Mammy and Pork and Dilcey, and she simply didn’t understand. Now, looking at the novel from our era? Yes, it’s tough to read. But she didn’t write it in our era. So I guess my point is — literature is a product of its own time. When we read it with a 21st century mentality, we risk missing what it said to its own time. Does that make sense? I strongly feel that the message was NOT “Oh, for the old days!” She didn’t have that mentality at all. She was very forward thinking. The mentality I believe she did have was – “Look at the mess which has been made. If only during Reconstruction, people had thought to teach women, and African-Americans male and female, how to survive. They were never taught that, and we’re nearly as crippled as we were in the 1860s, and yet everyone goes on, crying for the old days and expecting everything to go on as if there never was a war.” And then her own civilization crumbled when World War One came, and she lost her mother and fiance within six months, then married a man who beat and raped her, and then she took a job as one of the only female reporters in Atlanta. Self-relaince. She was supporting herself for the first time in her life. This was only a few years before she began writing Gone with the Wind.

        People remembered her after she died as incredibly, incredibly generous — like Ellen and Melanie. With a saucy personality, like Rhett’s, and a charming spirit, like Scarlett’s. They said she would drop everything to help a sick person. She was also quietly donating money to fund black education in Atlanta when she died. Self-reliance, you see? She strongly, strongly believed in giving people the tools to help themselves. This was just before the Civil Rights era. She was living in the Jim Crow South and might have faced severe ostracism or worse for funding black education, but she did it anyway.

        None of which is to suggest she thought as a twenty-first century Northerner! She was a Southerner from Jim Crow Atlanta. But we do her work an enormous disservice if we assume that she was simply a stock Southern racist — and fail to look more deeply at what she WAS saying in Gone with the Wind. Not that it’s an easy task — I don’t mean that at all. I’ve read it five times and am still contemplating and processing. It may take a lifetime! But she was more complicated (and forward thinking) than I think people give her credit for.

        Also, I completely forgot Scarlett stole Frank! Ha — of course, they can’t get over that! (Chuckling.) And yes! On Ellen! I feel that way too! The undeniably impossible ideal, which took Ellen’s life in her early thirties.

        Oh, & you mention Gerald: did you notice in the conversation you cite, though, that he was not suggesting she becoming an independent woman and follow her heart. He was trying to get her to marry their neighbor, so he could join the two lands. The Tarletons, if I recall. He was trying to sell her, friend. This is what I’m talking about. Sure, he likely saw that Ashley wasn’t like her and they wouldn’t be happy, but his goal was to get her to marry the suitor he preferred. Very much like how he selected Ellen because he needed a mistress for Tara: translated, another slave.

        I do think her protagonists were very heavily inspired by people she knew, as well as herself, & I think Scarlett would hope to stay at Tara, but a good writer would make that impossible. If the story continued. 🙂

        — Oh, dear. I guess I did write on a while, didn’t I?

      • I’ve read your post before, but I reread it again to freshen up. First of all, I do think it is important to detach Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell (I hope I made that at least remotely clear in my post), and I think most readers can realize that mostly everything in the novel comes through to us through Scarlett’s lens. However, there are also moments when an omnipotent narrator interjects (the chapter of Ellen’s backstory is the first to pop up in my mind).

        Secondly, I do love your notes on the dynamics of performance! That passage about Prissy certainly stands out & even resembles Scarlett’s own introduction. Scarlett’s inner world is very different from her demure appearance, and only her turbulent green eyes give any hint of that.

        I don’t mean to set aside your arguments that Mitchell was a writer of her time writing about an even more remote era, or that she was portraying the Old South for what it was. I guess what I’m trying to achieve with my assessment of the problematic elements in the novel is set up a warning sign for 21st century readers & assess the text as a 21st century reader. … Which you don’t think is a good idea 🙂 But it’s something I feel I have to mention…

        Reading about Mitchell is very interesting and, as I continually discover, provides more and more insight into her novel (especially the government-over-individual idea). And I don’t believe Mitchell was a bad person or a racist :), I hope I did not imply that.

        Wow, your comments about Gerald turned everything very dark! I didn’t think of it that way… Sure, he was trying to encourage a union with one of the neighbours (I thought), but I guess there was a very pragmatic reason for it too. :/

        And since you are the best person to ask: what is a good biography of Mitchell (to begin with)?

        The more food for thought you provide, the more I realize how much more there is to the novel! I think a reread needs be scheduled already! 🙂

      • I would definitely recommend Southern Daughter by Darden Asbury Pyron. It’s really, really dense, so it’s not necessarily a fun read. Margaret Mitchell & John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone with the Wind is way more fun, & it is certainly informative. It was also published after Southern Daughter, so it could perhaps be more up to date. It take a bit of a biased look at Mitchell though, portraying her as a hypochondriac and such. That said, I just reread it & LOVED it. I’ve journaled on both over at my place. Search by Margaret Mitchell. Also (you’ve probably read it), I wrote out a rummary of my ten favorite books on the novel or Margaret Mitchell a couple months ago:

        http://historyisnotwas.blogspot.com/2015/05/top-ten-tuesday-top-ten-books-about.html

        My very favorite is A Dynamo Going to Waste but it only covers a very brief period in her life.

        Again, I hope I didn’t lecture in my notes above! I’m given to rambling & figuring out what I think as I type, so some of that was nothing but! I certainly didn’t mean to suggest I thought YOU thought Mitchell was a racist. I guess I was just referencing the widespread suggestion that she was, even in her own day. & well, if people read the book & say — “well, it was hard to overcome those racist bits, but the rest was excellent,” I feel like I want to suggest that the bits that are uncomfortable could be contemplated rather than avoided. Not agreed with: I don’t mean that. But contemplated. You’re a keen reader & surely know that, so pardon me! I do like to lecture! 😛 And as I said, I’m still & always processing the book. Nothing I say on it is my final thought, & I utterly respect the inclination to read with a 21st century eye, and certainly to offer a warning, because passages are indeed extremely uncomfortable.

        I didn’t mean to darken things with Gerald? I just pointed out that he was hoping to trade off Scarlett. I mean, I’m not sure what else one could call it. I like the man, but he was a typical patriarch, I reckon. He owned slaves, and he went off in search of a wife because he couldn’t handle the plantation without her. Read Plantation Mistress (which I still need to finish.) Wives were worked like crazy on plantations & told they were revered and beautiful, when in reality they were chattel, as evidenced by Ellen’s labor and early death. (Not all, of course. I’m sure there were exceptions. I’m talking general rule.) Countless women in the era were married, spent their lives having a dozen or more babies, and died in their early thirties, utterly spent.

        Sorry to darken things, but that’s a fact, and I think it’s something Mitchell was gesturing at in the novel. She cloaks a lot of serious criticism behind light-hearted characterizations (like Jane Austen!): the uncomfortable idea that enslaved people APPEARED so happy with their lot (to their owners), and that Southern women were up on pedestals, and that women like Scarlett were silly and empty-headed, when in reality… that’s what I think Gone with the Wind is about. Maybe I read it ten more times & see something else. I don’t know. That’s what I mean though, about contemplating. I think there’s a lot in it, & why shouldn’t it be a bit dark? Of course, when I first read it, I just swooned over the love story & imagined Scarlett & Rhett getting back together & felt sad about Gerald and sighed for Ellen & wanted to go back to the first chapter (still do! to experience it all again!) etc, and all of that is the best way to read probably. 😀

      • I’ll add those books to my TBR 🙂 From your top ten list I think I’ll be interested in A Study of Scarletts. I think I read the post where you journaled about that book, and that’s where I picked up the Melanie-Scarlett focus… It’s not *about* Mitchell, but I’m interested.

        No, no, nothing like lecturing! 🙂 I was only clarifying that I didn’t think ill of Mitchell, not that you implied that I did. Ah, now I am tempted to go back & edit the post because I feel I am not analytical enough and too judgmental! You think me a keener reader than I am: I often jump to conclusions that are too easy, without properly thinking them through. But thank you! :”)

        Everything about Gerald makes sense, yes, especially in light of his own marriage to Ellen. But he seems to worship the ground she walks on, and was very distressed when she passed away? Am I too eager to name her the matriarch, like Mrs Tarleton? I suppose Gerald relied on her & depended on her but only as a commodity, as you said, as something that made his life comfortable and easy and safe. I think he did love her (and Scarlett), but maybe did not truly appreciate them from his privileged position.

        “She cloaks a lot of serious criticism behind light-hearted characterizations” — this is so true! I’m afraid I am in that phase you described where I accepted much of the novel at face value, prodding a little bit into the depths of its meaning but not enough to realize all the complexities. There are so many layers to it, I’m sure you can forgive me. 🙂

      • Also, I don’t mean to pester you! I’m only answering you because you’re answering me! There’s no need to worry about remarking back if you’re busy! I do understand!! x

      • That’s alright! I am really enjoying the conversation & I hope I’m not the one pressuring you to keep on writing. There’s usually free time, even if it takes a day or two to get back (sorry!).

      • Actually (here I am again!), I think I will back off now, because I feel like I may be insulting you or irritating you or worse ruining your first-read pleasure — not my intention at all! Please accept my apology if I did that, Maria! I get excited & share all my ideas and read responses on the book with a “yes, but what about” philosophy, when perhaps I should mind my own business. I’m no expert on the book, certainly, just a very eager reader still forming my own ideas. Lots of love to you! I hope you like Emma! I’ve only read that one once, so I don’t have any prejudices at all about it! Except that I liked it. 😀 xx

      • Nothing like that! Did I seem defensive? I assure you that is not the sentiment I was trying to convey! My mind needs to be poked & urged to think more critically, so I really appreciate everything you’ve written. No need to apologize, please 🙂 A constantly questioning mind is a great asset. I am really enjoying Emma so far, although I didn’t think I would like Emma herself — I do! 😉 Apparently Austen thought that she would be the only one to like her heroine, but Emma is quite a great character! Lots of love and best wishes back at you! ^^

      • Ah! I just properly read your “about me” page & comment policy — I’m so sorry for taking up your time! Of course you’re busy with real life to attend to silly inquiries. Now I feel guilty >< Please don't feel like you have to respond (unless you want to :P).

  2. I had a spoiler warning in there, but I don’t know where it went! Please feel free to edit one in on me! I wouldn’t have spilled over into spoilers without one. I guess I accidentally deleted it!

  3. Do I lecture too much above? Pardon me! I do come off like I know everything & am very smug on reread above. Ha! I don’t mean to sound that way! I’m just sharing my viewpoint with deepest respect for your own! I always forget to tagline my remarks with an “in my humble opinion” which is all my comments ever are. I just start talking, essay style, because I’m so accustomed to just cutting to the chase when it comes to books. Anyway, I’m really, really, really glad you read & loved it!! And I think it’s great that the nvovel looks so different as we turn & study it. Of course, we all see different things. 🙂 x

    • Not at all, dear! Your comment is great, so informed! It deserves its own entry. Don’t worry, this is a friendly exchange of opinion. I think there is so much in this novel we can discuss, even the smallest details, and always find something new to say. 🙂 I keep thinking about the way land & landscape figures in the novel; like the soldiers dying by the Atlanta railroad which is a source of solace for them even in these last moments (but that is a topic for a different post :P).

      • Yes, I read an article once which suggested that Ellen actually represented Mother Earth for Scarlett, & how that had something to do with her Irish heritage. I can’t now cite the article — I just read it in passing last year. But it’s one of the well-known critique’s of the book, fairly recent, & I believe it has “mother earth” in the title. On the way home from Atlanta after Sherman descends, before Scarlett discovers Tara still standing, she describes the earth (& the bodies of soldiers lain over it) as if it is her mother.

  4. Pardon me for writing down here! All the threads are making me dizzy! 🙂

    No, you didn’t seem defensive at all! I just have a fear of ruining books for people with my thrilled excitement, & had a sense that I was doing that: imprinting my own point of view like a footprint into your new reader excitement. I thought I should back off & let you build up your own literary criticism with a few more reads. I’m aware mine is still a point of view in progress, so I hate the idea of influencing yours beyond “this is what I get out of the book, & it could very well be off base. What do you think, though?” The playing field isn’t exactly fair for such a conversation, because I’m on a fifth read, and you’ve just had the most fun ever — a first read! Which is the best place to be — your conclusions about the book are completely unbiased and could go all sorts of interesting ways. I just hate to intrude on that. 🙂 Especially with Gone with the Wind, I get very excited and want to tell everyone my theories, & I haven’t worked out yet whether or not that’s a good thing. 🙂

    I am very busy right now, but I’ve LOVED this conversation and it hasn’t been an intrusion at all! Please don’t worry about that. 🙂 Once school starts (in a couple weeks), I’ll probably be far more scarce. I mostly wrote my About Page toward that end. I’ll be ridiculously busy then but may crave a space to journal. I just want to be able to journal and not explain myself or take up a discussion thread, once school starts. That’s why all the “I can’t answer you” remarks at my place. I think I would dread journaling in a few weeks, if I thought that every time I took a moment to journal, it would come with the responsibility of explaining what I lack the time to explain, or answering a lot of people. I’d close down the blog in dread! Yet, I think I may crave some journaling, & I love keeping one toe in the literary conversation. 🙂 Plus, when I comment at people’s blogs, I like to have a space they can visit to get a taste of my own viewpoint & progression in literature, so they can gauge my remarks. Anyway, please don’t worry: all is good, & I have LOVED this exchange. xx

    I consider you a very keen reader! I like the way you assess literature, and I definitely understand that this is your first read of Gone with the Wind. I’m grinning big to know you may read a few Peggy Mitchell books, as well as A Study of Scarlett at some point. I agree: that’s a really good one. 🙂

    Oh, and on Gerald: absolutely! I think he loved Ellen very much! I don’t think he loved her to begin with, and I don’t think he loved her for herself, if that makes sense. I think he made an idol out of her (the Southern lady up on her pedestal) and didn’t know what to do with life once that idol was shattered. Note that Scarlett never really knew Ellen either. For the O’Haras, Ellen was not a living woman; she was a piece of glass. Again, I feel Mitchell is making a point here about the untouchable quality of Southern womanhood, and what might happen to a patriarch (the Southern patriarchy) if that idol vanished, which of course had to happen when the South lost the war.

    Mammy knew Ellen, though. Mammy could see through all the theatrics. 🙂

    I am going to leave you alone on this now, but I’ll still be reading your blog (of course!) & may comment now & then! Cheers, Maria!! xx

    • You most certainly did not ruin the book for me, though I appreciate your concern. 🙂 Discussing/analyzing books makes them all the more enjoyable for me, so there! 😀 We can both continue working on our conclusions: you’ll probably be rereading next year. I’ll work through your recommendations, slowly but surely, and prepare for my second reading. 🙂

      Oh school, I cannot wait! I’m sure everybody will be understanding and respect your time. Your presence in the “blogosphere” is treasured, so I’m glad you decided to stay! ❤

      Thank you for all your kind words & take care, Jillian!

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