We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Gone with the Wind Part 1

It is the spring of 1861. Scarlett O’Hara, a pretty Southern belle, lives on Tara, a large plantation in Georgia. She concerns herself only with her numerous suitors and her desire to marry Ashley Wilkes. One day she hears that Ashley is engaged to Melanie Hamilton, his frail, plain cousin from Atlanta. At a barbecue at the Wilkes plantation the next day, Scarlett confesses her feelings to Ashley. He tells her that he does love her but that he is marrying Melanie because she is similar to him, whereas he and Scarlett are very different. Scarlett slaps Ashley and he leaves the room. Suddenly Scarlett realizes that she is not alone. Rhett Butler, a scandalous but dashing adventurer, has been watching the whole scene, and he compliments Scarlett on being unladylike.

The Civil War begins. Charles Hamilton, Melanie’s timid, dull brother, proposes to Scarlett. She spitefully agrees to marry him, hoping to hurt Ashley. Over the course of two months, Scarlett and Charles marry, Charles joins the army and dies of the measles, and Scarlett learns that she is pregnant. After Scarlett gives birth to a son, Wade, she becomes bored and unhappy.

This is a brief summary -taken from Sparknotes- of what you will read in Part 1 of Gone with the Wind. Now for my thoughts:

When I first picked up Gone with the Wind, I was a bit sceptical - I thought it would be a book that I was going to have to trudge my way through. Halfway through page one I realised how silly it was to think that because the story just sucks you in, and you feel as though you are really there, observing the antics of the characters in Gone with the Wind.

The only things I knew about Gone with the Wind before reading it, is that it has a movie based on this book, one that my best friend Shaun and I did not finish, because the 238 minutes run time was a bit much for a casual Wednesday afternoon, and also because a few minutes in the credits were still rolling at the intro to the movie. And of course I knew that it was an epic love tale, with the most famous line, "Frankly my dear, I couldn't give a damn".

So when I looked at my copy, all 1042 pages of it, I was intimidated by the classic. Scared that it would turn out to be one of those books that you want to say you have read but could just not make your way through it. I was pleasantly surprised! We immediately meet Scarlett, who possesses the learned qualities of the perfect Southern Belle, we see that she can be charming as she has the Tarleton twins wrapped around her finger. This is magnificently written, one feels transported to Tara and the Old South - you can see Scarlett sitting with Brent and Stuart on that evening at the beginning of Gone with the Wind.

When Scarlett learns that Ashley is planning on announcing his engagement to Melanie Hamilton she is quite upset - thinking that Ashley is better suited to her and that he will change his mind and marry her instead when she tells him that she loves him. This shows us great insight into the character of Scarlet O'Hara - she wants what she wants and she wants it NOW. But we also see that aside from the selfishness, Scarlett is still very naive - but what would you expect from a 16 year old?

When Scarlett cannot get Ashley she spites herself - thinking that she is spiting Ashley - by marrying Charles Hamilton. Scarlett cannot stand the man that she has married, and luckily for her the Civil War starts and she does not have to put up with him for long, but sadly she is left pregnant and widowed.

And of course there is the infamous Mr Rhett Butler - that Scarlett sees looking at her strangely, and is the witness to Scarlett's embarrassment when she tells Ashley that she loves him. Knowing what we do from the detail that the author gives us, we see that Scarlett and Rhett have similar characteristics, so if you did not know much about the ending you would think that this would let them gravitate toward one another.

Well these are my thoughts so far on Gone with the Wind part 1, I will most likely post on parts 2-5 once I am done with my exams. Have you read Gone with the Wind? What are your thoughts on this Southern novel?

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