Love it or Hate it: Gone With the Wind by Mitchell
Have you ever noticed how some books seem to drive a wedge between people? You check the reviews and find almost no middle-of-the-road ratings. Instead people either seem to love it or hate it. Well, welcome to the Love it or Hate it post category! Each month, we’ll pick one book to review and two contributors will battle it out to convince you to pick it up or throw it out. Last month we discussed The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and for the first time we ended up with a tie. Many thanks to Nicole D and Charisma for their wonderful reviews.
This month we will be discussing: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The names of our two contributors will be revealed after voting closes! Please make sure to vote for this month’s book even if you haven’t read the book! The poll is at the bottom of this post.
Synopsis (modified from Amazon.com): Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. It vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage.
HATE IT: Reviewer A:
In the year since I read this book my loathing for it has only deepened.
Slavery has been described as America’s original sin. If so, we fought a brutal and bloody civil war to redeem ourselves of that sin and, in Lincoln’s immortal words, “every drop of blood drawn with the lash [was] paid by another drawn with the sword.” But “as a dog returns to its vomit, [we repeated our] folly” and the Republic that declared that ”all men are created equal” instituted Jim Crow codes to legally mandate that some men are less equal than others. This is the context in which Gone with the Wind was written.
Context matters. So when I read a book about the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, I expect, if it’s any good, that it will reflect the racism inherent in that society. That can be appropriate. But this is not Harper Lee or Mark Twain using the language of racism to condemn the immorality of racism and slavery. This is the racism of the Antebellum and Reconstruction South cushioned in a bed of racism from 1930s Georgia. This is the language of racism used not to condemn slavery, but to excuse it; not to condemn the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, but to excuse it. It is a story of how the slaves were really better off under slavery because they were taken care of by benevolent owners and they really weren’t abused that badly because they were valuable property and at Tara they never whipped their slaves, well, not unless they deserved it, they’re so like children, don’t ya know. And then those evil Yankees, why they turned the slaves free and of course proud Southerners had to protect their women. . . . It is, simply, inexcusable.
It is historical fiction, not history, so certain liberties are to be expected; but the big things need to be right. Mitchell’s view of the Civil War, however, is completely imbued with The Glorious Cause, the misbegotten idea that the South could have would have won the Civil War with just one more great victory. Perhaps Mitchell can be excused for this as it was in the air not only in the South but in the country generally. But this is and always was wrong. The American Civil War appears to be the only war in history in which the losers wrote the history. But it was the first truly industrial war and the South had no significant industrial base. Nor did it have a sufficient population base. It was always going to lose eventually. More importantly, the cause – the perpetuation and expansion of slavery – was not glorious. It was evil. The evil of the cause was revealed nowhere as thoroughly as at Andersonville. Mitchell seeks to excuse and ignore Andersonville. This is, as far as I am concerned, similar to a German today writing a romance set in WWII that seeks to excuse Dachau by claiming the United States had internment camps that were worse and the German camps were only as bad as they were because the Germans were losing the war and were short on resources. In short, it is a damnable lie.
“But, don’t you know, it’s a beautiful romance with unforgettable characters,” I can hear the objections now. But that’s the sugar that makes the poison easier to take. And frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
LOVE IT: Reviewer B
Set against the back drop of the American civil war, this epic romance just blew me away.
Most people with a pulse will recognize the names Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara even if its only because they have seen the movie. What I would say is if you have seen and loved the movie, but not read the book, read it! The movie leaves so much out, and if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, grab your copy now and prepare to lose yourself in Georgia and the Southern States.
This is the story of the epic romance between spoilt southern belle Scarlet O’Hara and bad boy Rhett Butler, but it is far more than that. It is a story of characters and how people can change. I hated Scarlet for most of the novel until a key turning point when I thought “you go girl, you show them and you get what you want.”
Mitchell describes how the war affects the people and the country in almost poetic language and I shared in the heartbreak of watching Atlanta burn.
This novel is often criticized for romanticizing slavery and being historically inaccurate, however I think those who make that criticism are underestimating the reader. I loved this book, yet I still understand that slavery and the treatment of the black population even following emancipation was wrong. In fact it inspired me to read more books about the civil war from the other point of view. This is a book written from the Southern point of view so of course it is a tragedy to the characters that slavery was abolished and that the North won the war. If you accept that as your premise and just go along for the ride, it is a wonderful epic love story. And as for being historically accurate who cares, this is Rhett and Scarlet we are talking about!!!
Those of you like me with an emotion disposition be warned the ending of this book is so sad it had me sobbing so hard that hubbie really concerned asked me what was wrong. I managed to sob out “Booook…. snivel snivel, saaaaad” at which point all concern left him
So, for those of you who haven’t read the book, did either of the reviewers convince you? If you have read the book, did you love it or hate it? Vote in our poll below!
And if you want to try it for yourself, you can find the book here: Gone with the Wind