i’ll think about it tomorrow

26 Dec

so, i finally read margaret mitchell’s “gone with the wind.”

i’ve enjoyed the movie for a while now, finally became obsessed with it this year and decided it was time to see what the book had to offer.

i took my time reading it, absorbing every page, detail, word. it’s officially one of my favorites now. i loved the way mitchell blended fact with fiction, weaving history in with a very personal story of a Southern woman.

this book taught me a lot, definitely made me think and challenged my own views. as i read it, i’d flag each section/line/phrase i liked/learned from/wanted to remember, so now, my book – a hardback copy from 1964 i bought at a used book store (yes, it’s pictured) – is colorful with those little plastic place-keepers. it already looked pretty snazzy anyway, with my homemade brown paper bag/pink duct tape/electrical tape book cover.

so, here are my thoughts on “gone with the wind,” both in general and through those many little place-keepers…

ps. this post may change over time. i can’t think straight right now because i’m sick and dependent on cold medicine, so ignore any weird wordage. i’ll clear it all up soon enough.

really, “gone with the wind” kind of bothers me more than it does anything else, and for two reasons: 1) i relate to scarlett a little too much sometimes, and 2) the idea of war fought on your own front yard, and what that means for you, your family and your entire way of life, is terrifying.

ok, no. 1 first. scarlett is incredibly selfish, but incredibly strong. i hate to admit i see myself in scarlett’s selfishness, in her immaturity and in her ability to, at times, never see what’s right in front of her. but i love her strength, her tenacity, her fire. she always gets what she wants…but of course, she often realizes she didn’t want what she thought she did.

she’s hands-down one of the most realistic characters i’ve ever encountered. for so many tales, the main characters are so one-sided: the hero is obviously the hero and always makes good, moral choices; the bad guy is always in the wrong, and is out to get everyone. but scarlett is such a delicious mix of good and bad – she seems so real. she’s smart, but painfully oblivious; she takes care of her family but is a horrible mother. you can’t help but love her…and hate her.

all of the social rules, especially ones regarding women, were so outrageous. it’s amazing to think about how the world would work nowadays if such insane rules were still in place.

and two. here in the south, the civil war is so romanticized – oh, the strong, brave Confederate, leaving his family to fight for The Great Cause. but “gone with the wind” is frank about how hellish that war and its aftermath was. it literally must’ve been hell on earth, not just for the soldiers (on both sides) but for their families, and for those in the South who lost everything. maybe they had it coming. maybe they didn’t. but this book has definitely made me terrified of another civil war breaking out here, now – don’t think it couldn’t happen – and the consequences we’d all have to face.

speaking on those political terms, you can’t talk about “gone with the wind” and not talk slavery. i’m assuming the book was as real-to-life as it could be, but really i don’t know. it was devastating to read, early on in the book, the thoughtless way the o’haras talked about their own slaves (the price of prissy, for example), but then later the way scarlett would defend or take up for them, calling them members of her family. the book definitely made you understand the south’s take on slavery, but obviously not agree with it. i didn’t like the way mitchell wrote the dialogue for the slave characters, and i thought it was interesting that the use of the N-word increased dramatically during reconstruction.
the book shows, too, that there was so much paranoid hatred, from all sides (southerners and yankees), aimed directly at african-americans. really, it was a very simple hatred. what’s sad is, that hatred’s still there, but it’s spread, for different reasons, in different ways, but really, it’s all still a simple paranoid hatred.
the book shows how much times have changed – in some ways, it’s a totally different world, but in some ways, it’s still exactly the same.

i don’t know why this book (or movie)  is called a romance. i didn’t find anything about it romantic at all. scarlett and rhett really don’t have this amazing relationship; her heart is true to ashley throughout the book, and she doesn’t realize how much rhett loves her until he leaves her. but what kind of love does he have for her? he basically treats her like a child, more or less raping her, often threatening to beat her. he has his charming moments, but really, i finished the book fearing rhett, not finding him sexy or dashing the way i did with the movie.

this book, at its core, is about change. they’re called “growing pains” for a reason. it’s about how an entire society was brought to its knees, and rightly, painfully, so. it’s just being seen through one woman’s eyes.

and now: there were so many interesting lines/sections, so i put a place-keeper at almost all of them. here are some of my favorites, and,  if you’re following along at home, the page numbers (from my book, anyway)…

(26) describing ashley: “…born of a line of men who used their leisure for thinking, not doing, for spinning brightly colored dreams that had in them no touch of reality. he moved in an inner world that was more beautiful than georgia and came back to reality with reluctance. he looked on people, and he neither liked nor disliked them. he looked on life and was neither heartened or saddened. he accepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music and books and his better world.”
right there with you, ashley.

(35) gerald o’hara: “no wife has ever changed a husband one whit, and don’t you be forgetting that. and as for changing a wilkes – god’s nightgown, daughter!  the whole family is that way, and they’ve always been that way. and probably always will. i tell you they’re born queer. look at the way they go tearing up to new york and boston to hear operas and see oil paintings. and ordering french and german books by the crate from the yankees!…”
well, mr. o’hara was right about the first thing – no wife ever changed a husband.
and two, i love how the wilkes are considered so odd because they love literature, music and art. nice to know how i would’ve fit in in the old south.

(40) on ellen o’hara: “…was thirty-two years old, and, according to the standards of her way, she was a middle-aged woman, one who had borne six children and buried three.”
another reason i’m really glad i live now, not then.

(79) scarlett asks the most brilliant question, “why is it a girl has to be so silly to catch a husband?”
and mammy replies, because men don’t know what they want, but they think they want “mousy lil gals” with no sense, because he won’t want to marry a girl with more sense than he has.
some things never change.

(132) “in due time, charles’ son was born and, because it was fashionable to name boys after their fathers’ commanding officers, he was called Wade Hampton Hamilton.”
really?

(239) rhett: “why, scarlett! you must have been reading a newspaper! i’m surprised at you! don’t do it again. it addles woman’s brains.”
good to know.

(244) ellen’s advice to scarlett: “candy and flowers, dear, and perhaps a book of poetry or an album or a small bottle of Florida water are the only things a lady may accept from a gentleman. never, never any expensive gift, even from your fiance. and never any gift of jewelry or wearing apparel, not even gloves or handkerchiefs. should you accept such gifts, men would know you were no lady and would try to take liberties.”
three things:
1) guess i’m no lady.
2) liberties?
3) florida water?

(271) scarlett’s advice to ashley: “don’t forget to put a newspaper across your chest under your shirt. it keeps out the wind so well.”
hey, that’s not a bad idea.

(301) “…mrs. merriweather’s carriage was at aunt pitty’s house at the unheard-of hour of seven in the morning…”
i just love that 7 a.m. is “unheard-of.” maybe i’d do alright in the old south after all.

(409) scarlett: “babies, babies, babies. why did god make so many babies? but no, god didn’t make them. stupid people made them.”
AMEN.

(452) grandma fontaine: “it’s a very bad thing for a woman to face the worst than can happen to her, because after she’s faced the worst she can’t ever really fear anything again. and it’s very bad for a woman not to be afraid of something.”

(568) “dancing earrings always attracted a man and gave a girl such a spirited air.”
well we know what i did with that one…

(600-601) i love the scene in which scarlett asks mammy to buy her a “pot of rouge.” mammy doesn’t know what it is but is horrified when she finds out it’s “face paint.” she swears she won’t buy it for her, saying she’s never been so scandalized and that scarlett’s mother would be rolling in her grave. scarlett tries to send her back to tara, but as mammy says, “ah is free.”

(616) mr. kennedy learns just how smart his scarlett is: “now he saw that she understood entirely too well and he felt the usual masculine indignation at the duplicity of women. added to it was the masculine disillusionment in discovering that a woman has a brain.”
men are so stupid.

(620) scarlett: “i believe woman could manage everything in the world without men’s help – except having babies, and god knows, no woman in her right mind would have babies if she could help it.”
see? we’re just alike.

(628) i love the way rhett describes ashley and his family: “you’ll never make a farm hand out of a wilkes – or anything that’s useful. that breed is purely ornamental.”
purely ornamental. genius.

(668) scarlett: “death and taxes and childbirth! there’s never a convenient time for any of them!”
she reads my mind.

(678) rhett to scarlett: “all you’ve done is to be different from other women and you’ve made a little success at it. as i’ve told you before, that is the one unforgivable sin in any society. be different and be damned!”
some things never change.

(717) i enjoyed the way grandma fontaine talked about the difference between ripe wheat and buckwheat, and how it stays strong in the wind.

(720) i love a phrase in this: “scarlett’s eyes met those of Grandma. there was a wicked sparkle in the old eyes that found an answer in her own.”
wicked sparkle. love it.

(732) i love the way she describes melanie’s eyes: “…like two good deeds in a naughty world. yes, they were like candles, candles shielded from every wind, two soft lights glowing with happiness at being home again among her friends.”

(826) on kindred spirits: “sometimes, she thought that all the people she had ever known were strangers except rhett.”

(846) rhett: “it’s always annoying to the godly when the ungodly flourish like the green bay tree.”

(940) see, they could’ve worked… “for the first time in her life, she had met someone, something stronger than she, someone she could neither bully or break, someone who was bullying and breaking her.”

(947) “with one of the few adult emotions scarlett had ever had, she realized that to unburden her own tortured heart would be the purest selfishness.”

(1016) i am so guilty of this: “i loved something i made up, something that’s just as dead as melly is. i made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it. and when ashley came riding along, so handsome, so different, i put that suit on him and made him wear it whether it fitted him or not. and i wouldn’t see what he really was. i kept on loving the pretty clothes – and not him at all.”

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