Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Update – Gone With The Wind

on September 24, 2012

Even though I am still plowing through this massive novel, I thought it might be worthwhile to give an update on how it's going and my general impressions so far.

I just began part IV of the novel at the beginning of the week. I began reading the saga of Scarlett while on vacation in late July with the plan to be done by early November (in time for Mitchell's birthday celebration). Reading became non-existent for a few weeks as I battled illness and began a new semester of teaching. I'm not as far into the novel as I had hoped to be by now, but I think I'm still on target for finishing up by my deadline. I have experienced times of needing to lay the book aside and read something else, mainly because I felt as though I was reading a synopsis of a bad soap opera. Honestly, how many times do I really need a description of Scarlett's dresses? Enough is enough!

My reaction to the novel so far has been mixed. On one hand, I find myself enthralled with the descriptions of the grandeur of the South and mesmerized by the characterizations presented. However, I must admit that much of the book seems a bit generic. Of course Scarlett is not able to have the man she truly loves! Anything else would be too contemporary for the American society that birthed Gone with the Wind.

One trend that has truly surprised me has been the portrayal of the men in the novel. Has anyone else noticed that every man in the novel is essentially weak and flawed? I have not found an exception to this rule yet. Each of Scarlett's beaux are easily manipulated by her charms. Gerald completely falls apart at the death of Ellen. Male slaves are dominated by the wills of the dominating cooks. Men who are presented as self-confident and powerful are viewed as ogres throughout the novel. I suppose I never realized what a strong feminist thread ran through the work. These characterizations may also explain why I am having a largely negative response to the novel as a whole.

I also struggle with calling Gone with the Wind a great American novel. While I value its historical place, I don't find it speaking to universal themes. Neither does it make a significant statement about important issues facing our society. When I think of great American novels, I am looking for something on the level of To Kill a Mockingbird's stance against prejudice or Huck Finn's pursuit of freedom and self-identity on the waters of the mighty Mississippi. Scarlett O'Hara's life raises many issues, but the novel fails to rise above the depravity of her self-indulgence.

I'm hoping that my opinion of the novel changes when I reach the final page. For now, I continue reading in order to say that I HAVE read the book and to laugh at the utter ignorance that Scarlett displays while the world around her is truly in despair.

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2 responses to “Update – Gone With The Wind

  1. Fanda says:

    Kennith, first of all, may I add your post in the Update posts page? I think your perspective might interest others too.

    About ‘synopsis of a bad soap opera’, I felt the same thing, I even called this book (at least for the first 2 chapters) as a chicklit with literary taste. Until now (halfway through Part 4), I can’t imagine why this book is ever called classic. As a historical fiction it’s very interesting, with Mitchell’s detail exploration on the spirit change of the Southern, but other than that, GWTW just did not offer anything remarkable.

    What annoyed me most is why Mitchell must create such annoying selfish-greedy-immoral characters like Scarlett and Rhett as the main characters? What was she trying to say? That you must be greedy & selfish in order to survive in the ‘new world’ ? I hope I can get the answers in the last part, but for now, GWTW is very disappointing.

  2. Fanda, thanks for your feedback. I would be honored to have you add my post to the page.

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who is struggling with GWTW. Because of it’s history, I continued to wonder if I was missing something crucial in my reading. It’s been a while since I’ve read a classic and old fears of not approaching the literature in the “right” way resurfaced.

    I’m with you: I’m finding GWTW quite disappointing.

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