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Notes on Gone with the Wind (4)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

gonewind1I won’t comment on anything that is beyond this week’s mark, page 616. So far I still cannot say I cotton up to Scarlett, who although has helped her family survive Civil War, is quite a capricious personality. To the eyes of people she makes money in a very unladylike, unsavory manner and therefore she meets cold shoulders everywhere she goes. Out of monetary convenience she marries Frank Kennedy who would help pay taxes for Tara and buy the sawmill. I give her credit for being so engrossed with the job of making Tata produce

What about Melanie? She doesn’t do much nor does she complain about the troubles of the war. In a way, Melanie is able both to appreciate the pragmatism of Scarlett O’Hara in the wake of the war and to appreciate the tenuous, absolutist hold her husband, Ashley Wilkes, keeps on the South’s chivalric code of honor. Part Four is a transition in regard to shedding light on the Ashley Wilkes that Scarlett does not know before.

‘It’s a curse—this not wanting to look on naked realities. Until the war, life was never more real to me than a shadow show on a curtain. And I preferred it so. I do not like the outlines of things to be too sharp. I like them gently blurred, a little hazy.’ [497]

‘I had sheltered myself from people all my life, I had carefully selected my few friends. But the war taught me I had created a world of my own with dream people in it. I taught me what people really are, but it didn’t teach me how to live with them. And I’m afraid I’ll never learn.’ [498]

‘My little inner world was gone, invaded by people whose thoughts were not my thoughts, whose actions were as alien as a Hottentot’s. They’d tramped through my world with slimy feet and there was no place left where I could take refuge when things became too bad to stand.’ [499]

I would not go as far to call Ashley Wilkes a coward. Ashley Wilkes is the foil to Rhett’s dark, realistic opportunism. He might live in a wrong time in which his talents and predilection don’t do him any good: he excels at hunting and riding, takes pleasure in the arts. Scarlett’s idealization of Ashley slowly fades as time goes on, after the end of Civil War, that she has outdone most the men in bravery and effort to sustain and subsist, she finally realizes that the Ashley she loves is not a real man but a man embellished and adorned by her imagination.

Whereas Rhett and Scarlett survive by sacrificing their commitment to tradition, Ashley cannot or will not allow himself to thrive in a changed society. He sinks even lower as he sacrifices his honor—the only thing he still values in himself—by accepting charity from Scarlett in the form of a share in her mill.

11 Responses

  1. You hit the nail on the head with Scarlett’s opinion of Ashley. I’m not sure if I’d call Ashley a coward, but I would call him weak. He’s pretty much a turnoff to me! Scarlett is what we would consider a hardcore business woman today. She takes emotion out of it, and does what she needs to do to get the job done. It certainly was against everything that was expected of women back then. Hell, she would have her enemies today.

  2. I think the issue with Scarlett is that once she sees something she wants – especially if she can’t have it – she won’t let go until it’s hers. That’s one explanation for why spineless yet honorable Ashley remains in her cross hairs. I think that there is something to do with her relationship with her mother as well. She would have found him to be a respectable husband, assuming that he wasn’t married to Melanie. Also, he’s completely unlike Scarlett in the way that her parents were opposites.

  3. This is so dead-on in regards to Scarlett. I think a lot of people considered her a fluff but she truly becomes a very sharp and manipulative business person, doing almost anything to keep Tara and using anyone that she can. Ashly is the foil to Rhett, great comparison. Ashley would’ve been better to have been born in the late 1700’s and to have lived in England or France!!

  4. Here’s my only post so far:

    http://booksandotherstuff.blogspot.com/2009/03/books-historical-notes-gone-with-wind.html

    And it’s a historical review.

    Right now, I am in the part where Scarlett is eating crawfish in New Orleans. I don’t think it’s historically correct. I will find out.

  5. Ashley and the other bunch are waiting for the return of the old Atlanta.

    I know people in New Orleans right now waiting for the return of the pre-Katrina New Orleans. It ain’t coming back, but they still can’t see it.

    I’ve been called alarmist for pointing out the new reality.

  6. I am falling way behind with my GWTW reading – will have to try and catch up this weekend.

  7. Hi Matt! Thought you might like to know that the Washington Post is running a piece next Saturday tentatively titled “Gone With the Wind Revisited.” Happy reading!

  8. It’s interesting that you consider Ashley as not fitting into the times; that his bookishness is not useful. Because I feel Scarlett does not fit into those times either; especially once she becomes a businesswoman and many find that unladylike. I just put up a post (spoilers there, however) on my thoughts of this section of the read-along.

    http://patchworkquiltlife.blogspot.com/2009/03/gone-with-wind-read-along-week-three.html

  9. It is interesting to note how extremely different the two pairs are. Rhett and Scarlett, brash and unmindful of honor, so long as they survive, and not just to exist but to live, against Melanie and Ashley, content to be.

    I think I might finish the book this weekend, instead of waiting another week. Don’t want to lose the momentum! My thoughts on part 4 are here.

  10. Hi Matt! Hope you will enjoy your spring break :-)!
    I’ve just done a posting on Week Four here:

    http://lifeisapatchworkquilt.com/blog/?p=241

    I’m finding it interesting that at this point things seem to be at “fast forward” compared to the rest of the book.

  11. […] Notes on Gone with the Wind Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part […]

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