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Notes on Gone with the Wind (1)

gonewind1Like any long epic novel of a daunting size, it takes determination and courage to make that first step. The rainy day really did me a favor by confining me indoor. I did not intend to read 155 pages on the first day of the read-along but the I was just indifferent to time’s passing. I know the novel is set against Civil War, but Margaret Mitchell doesn’t give an exact time. It wasn’t until Ellen O’Hara, believing Scarlett to be pining away from a broken heart, sends her to Atlanta to Charles’ elderly aunt Aunt Pittypat and Melanie in an attempt to raise her spirits—Part Two of the novel.

Going back to re-read the opening, at Tara, the O’Hara plantation in Georgia, with Scarlett O’Hara flirting idly with Brent and Stuart Tarleton, the twin brothers do talk about the upcoming war which has no interest to Scarlett. According to the twins, the Yankees had already been shelled out of Fort Sumter “the day before yesterday” (which occurred on April 13, 1861), leaving the impression that the date of the opening is probably April 15, 1861.

The point is that before a clear perception of the timeline, Mitchell has jumped into painting Scarlett’s character. She is not the usual girl who grows up to be some man’s husband and remains at ease. She simply doesn’t succumb to any means used to raise her to be a typical Southern woman, neither to her mother’s soft-voiced admonition nor the constant carping of Mammy, Scarlett’s nurse from birth.

“No girl in the County, with the possible exception of the empty-headed Cathleen Calvert, really liked Scarlett.” [101]

“To Mammy’s indignation, her [Scarlett] preferred playmates were not her demure sisters or the well-brought-up Wilkes girls but the negro children on the plantation and the boys of the neighborhood, and she could climb a tree or throw a rock as well as any of them.” [75]

The most unforgettable scene is, of course, the confrontation between Scarlett and Ashely, when she pulls him into the library and confesses her love. The best is yet to come. The unreceived Rhett Butler, resting on a couch during the emotional scene, sees Scarlett throw a bowl across the room in anger after Ashley leaves. Surprised by his presence, Scarlett tells Rhett that he is no gentleman, and Rhett responds by telling her that she is no lady.

“It is bad enough to have an afternoon nap disturbed by such a passage as I’ve been forced to hear, but why should my life be endangered?” [131]

Rhett is impressed by her fire, thus cementing the saga that soon will unfold. I’m dying to know what will make of this potential odd couple. In the next post, I’ll talk more about Scarlett and this “feminized world” that she hates. What about you? What hits you during your reading?

27 Responses

  1. I’m living voraciously through your reading–I love Rhett and Scarlett and their headbutting romance!

  2. I’m on chapter 3, but one thing that struck me right away was how young everyone is! Scarlett is only 16 at the beginning of the book, and her mother is “middle-aged” at 32!

  3. Matt, this is a wonderful post about the first part of this book. I actually got a tingly feeling when I picked it back up. The anticipation of March got to me. I can just lose myself in this book, but I’m not letting it happen just yet. I need to finish False Colours first. What really caught me thus far is Gerald’s love for Scarlett. Could she have been the woman she was without him? Most of all, I just love this book. The library scene is one of the best scenes in the entire book and I love the quote that you pulled out. I can’t wait to get there – along with the fun of Scarlett getting ready for the party in first place. I’m glad that you are enjoying it thus far.

  4. I’m still waiting to get my copy, as they didn’t have one at my library branch–in Atlanta! I thought it must be a law that every branch have at least one copy!

  5. I remember being amused by the ridiculousness of a lot of the characters, especially when Scarlett would start whining. And yet I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. It really is a memorable, fun book. And it’s almost impossible to put down… I actually never really thought about the timeline, but that’s an interesting point. In general, this is making me really want to reread “Gone With the Wind”…

  6. I’m on page 63 and just getting into the whole painting of Scarlett’s character. I’ve already read this book once and I’ve watched the movie many, many times. I’m trying NOT to let that color my reading this time. The fun part is that the characters for me have faces from the movie…can’t wait to get to the library scene…I forgot all about that!!

  7. Meg are you living voraciously or vicariously? (I love the idea of voracious living though 🙂 )

    I hadn’t planned to read this book but now I might just have to, thanks Matt. I think I have a battered paperback copy somewhere, will have to scour the shelves to see if I can spot it!

  8. Great post! I loved this book.

  9. I am in the part where Scarlett is “visiting” Atlanta and she is there already more than SIX months.

    Before the war started, all the white people are soo relaxed. Since they did not work in their homes and fields, they did have a lot of time to party.

    I wonder whether there will be any observations about the lives of the slaves.

    Scarlett is self-centered. But, since she is still a teen, I can understand.

  10. Matt! I haven’t caught up yet! I think I am up to page 80 or so. Interestingly, my daughter was home sick yesterday, so we sat and watched the movie in one sitting. This may muck up my head, but oh well. It is such a fabulous movie…even my 11 year old loved it. One thing I have noticed so far is that Scarlett is alot more whiny in the movie than in the book. She is actually more introspective, and giving so much deference to her parents in the book. One section of the book that I loved is how, when she was praying, she was actually participating in the “adoration” of her mother, not the Virgin Mary. It is obvious that her parents were perhaps the only people on earth she felt so deeply about (even Ashley).

  11. Meg:
    Their “drama” is very addictive! 🙂

  12. Valerie:
    I’m not convinced that with all her principles and principles Ellen O’Hara is only 32. She’s older than me! 🙂

  13. Jennifer:
    You’ve brought up a great point. I get the sense that Scarlett is more influenced by Gerald than by her mother and Mammy. Scarlett resents the “feminized world” in which she has been raised. She is aggrieved that she cannot attend the bazaar, not because she is in mourning.

  14. Priscilla:
    I’m with you. I think everyone should read this book at least once. 🙂

  15. Biblibio:
    I think the beauty of Scarlett is that she has this internal force in her that makes her very magnetic. She might be self-centered and whining, but she refuses to compromise with the social convention for a woman.

  16. Staci:
    The library scene is a landmark one so far. From time to time I go back and re-read that passage, especially when they’re agruing with each other.

  17. CW:
    I’m glad you’re joining me to read the book. I have enjoyed it a great deal so far. 🙂

  18. Yvonne:
    I don’t know why this book has passed me by over the years! 🙂

  19. Isabel:
    At the beginning Mitchell goes into details the life of the nurse, Mammy, who is a slave. What I’m a bit surprised is how little she tells us about Scarlett’s son Wade.

  20. Sandy:
    She is inwardly resentful of the ways her mother has raised her. I feel like she’s more influenced by her father Gerald.

  21. Matt, little is mentioned of Wade, Scarlett’s son, because Scarlett didn’t have any maternal feelings toward him. She wasn’t in love with Wade’s father (Charlie Hamilton).

  22. Valerie:
    I thought so, but at least she should have fulfilled her matron responsibility. Maybe this is why I don’t like Scarlett as much as I should.

  23. Matt, I’ve finally finished part 1 and have only now read this post of yours. I resisted reading your post until I was also done reading it. Now, for my thoughts, they’re here. I’m excited to move on to the next part!

  24. Claire:
    I’ll head over there to read your thoughts. I’m glad everyone is enjoying the book. 🙂

  25. […] Notes on Gone with the Wind, Part 1 Notes on Gone with the Wind, Part […]

  26. […] on Gone with the Wind (4) Posted on March 18, 2009 by Matthew Part 1 Part 2 Part […]

  27. For all you Margaret Mitchell and GWTW fans:
    The Margaret Mitchell House-birthplace of the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel- in Midtown Atlanta is having a FREE July 4 Weekend from noon to 5 PM on July 4 and 5, 2009! It sounds fun for the whole family- there will be free admission, new exhibitions, games, crafts, and more. Check out: MargaretMitchellHouse.com to find out all of the details!

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