I knew as soon as I read the first page of this book, that I would love it – the description of Scarlett O-Hara, in her billowing dress, talking and laughing with her friends as they lounged in the cool shade of the porch on her father’s plantation, Tara, was an image that swept me away. I was captivated by the characters, particularly Scarlett, and wondered how a book with so many pages could make you want to read about such an arrogant, self-obsessed, person as she! And after reading about Rhett Butler, I felt he wasn’t a very likeable character either, but as I read on, I found there was much more to this novel than I had even known existed.
My previous knowledge of the book was simply that it was about a whining girl in big dresses, in a big house, who had a relationship with a swarve and smarmy man, who eventually told her he didn’t give a damn. That was all I could remember of seeing the movie when I was young. I had no inkling that it was about the civil war and its aftermath, or that Scarlett was obsessed with another man she couldn’t have, all the way through the book. I didn’t realise it was about the depths of poverty, about losing everything and starting again, and I definitely didn’t know that it was about a woman so headstrong and determined to be rich and powerful, even if that came with loneliness and ostracism.
It is easy to be shocked by how awfully Scarlett and Rhett treat each other, mainly with contempt and disdain, and I guess we are shocked as readers to think that such characters might exist in real life. But the more I thought about it the more I realised how prevalent greed and un-Christian like values are in today’s society. Many people are like Rhett and Scarlett with their blatant arguing and put downs. While I admired what she called her ‘gumption’ to a degree, Scarlett was like a modern day diva in her demands and expectations. And Rhett, with his interests in underhanded dealings, prostitutes and gambling, would probably be a druglord or a pimp in modern times!
However, as unlikeable as they both were, there was something enticing in reading about their lives. Would they survive against all odds, how would they do it, would they change and redeem themselves? With the knowledge of the final lines from the movie, you anticipate that it doesn’t quite work out in the end, but the book certainly makes you realise that only kind and ethical people, like the character of Melanie, truly find happiness in their life, even though they endure many trials. The selfish and greedy will never find peace.
Gone with the Wind is a classic, must-read book. Don’t be put off by the size of it, as every page is worthwhile and a delight to read!