I read this book a decade or so ago when the sequel came out. I never really thought about reading the book as I had seen the movie multiple times. Well, I should have remembered that most books and movies don’t mesh well. The book was so different. Reading the book gives you a closer look into the lives of the people instead of just the romance.
This is a story set back in the times of the Civil War in the Atlanta, Georgia area. It centers around a young woman whose family owns a very large plantation. She is obsessed over one man who she thinks loves her in return. Her hopes are dashed as she hears he is to wed another. Foolishly, she marries on impulse to another suitor and finds that she has to live with her actions. During all this, she is pursued by a worldy man who does not hide his desire for her, but she refuses to let him in as she might not be the one in control. She fights her own desires, her love and hatred for her first love and his wife, and that of the Yankees coming to destroy her home.
There are many themes found within this book. Three of the biggest are listed below. These are the strong threads that run throughout the story.
You cannot say that Scarlett or Rhett didn’t have perseverance. They went through a lot when it came to emotional, physical, and social challenges that were put before them. They persevered through heartache, war, and their own emotional issues that kept them apart.
This is an indisputable theme in the story. Rhett is obsessed with Scarlett who is obsessed with Ashley as well as her home, Tara. It is their obsessions that drive the story along. If Rhett wasn’t so obsessed with Scarlett, she never would have risen above temper tantrums and become a woman. If Scarlett hadn’t been obsessed with Ashley, she would not have made so many foolish decisions and rushed into things without thinking of the consequences.
She has become an iconic literary figure known mainly for her tantrums and foolish decisions. She is an immature woman who is fawned over by all but the one man she thinks she is in love with. When a mature man lets her know that he will have her, she turns even more petulant and fights him until he is the only way for her to survive. Then she gives in as long as she still gets something out of the arrangement. Losing that, she tosses their love aside and seeks her own way in life. Selfish to the very end, she turns back to her family’s plantation and is determined to make a life of her own without the need of a man.
I have yet to decide if this is the most patient man in the world or the biggest fool. The more I see the movie and when I read the book, I came to the conclusion that he is a fool. This man chose the most petulant woman in the world to chase after. She didn’t even want the man until he gave the appearance of not wanting her.
This is another man who is extremely foolish. I wanted to brain him as I watched him blindly go about his life as though he couldn’t see what everyone else saw in Scarlett’s obsession with him. He sees her as a sweet little sister and not the manipulative stalker that she really was.
Melanie Hamilton Wilkes
Here was the bane of Scarlett’s existence. She is the love of Ashley’s life which means she is the reason Ashley isn’t in love with Scarlett. Yet Melanie wants to be Scarlett’s best friend. She sees the childish woman as a sister. Scarlett can’t help but admire the woman and reluctantly loves her back enough to risk everything to save the woman and the child she carries that belongs to Ashley.
This is a character you learn to have pity for as well as respect. She puts up with the real Scarlet and still loves the woman. She has been with the young woman her entire life and knows her better than probably Scarlet’s own mother. Frustration fills her as she deals with Scarlet’s impetuousness. Despite the fact that Mammy is a slave, Scarlet defers to her most times at least to her face.
This character is a young slave girl who ends up helping Scarlet through many trials including escape from a burning Atlanta and help delivering Melanie’s baby. She is naive and slightly ignorant. In fact, she is mostly a child at least in mind and maturity.
Initially, the controversies surrounding this book was the language and blunt subject matter discussed. While we might see those as very mild, for its day, it was rather scandalous. Now, the book is usually attacked due to the slavery represented. Some feel that it does not show the harsh reality of it, but you can’t mix the book and movie up here. They are two different things.
If you have only seen the movie, I challenge you to read the book. It is an interesting read and opens your eyes to the war. It also gives a glimpse into the lives of the people.