Home » A Novel » Gone With the Wind // by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind // by Margaret Mitchell

Wow, I was doing SO well on catching up on reviews, but then apple season hit and I have been absolutely slammed!!!  But I’m feeling like trying to catch up a bit again, so here’s a review I partially wrote in August (lol) and decided to finish up this morning.  I may even go write a few minireviews after this to be published tomorrow!!!

//published 1936//

Despite finishing this back in June, I still don’t even know how to organize my thoughts on this crazy story.  I had a complete love/hate relationship with this book – mostly hate, if I’m honest, but the writing was strong and compelling, and even though I genuinely couldn’t stand Scarlett (when has a heroine ever been so self-absorbed or self-sabotaging??) I also did want to finish this book and find out what happened to everyone.  I went in mostly blind, having never even watched the movie, so many aspects of the story were a complete surprise to me.

In the end, I found this book worthwhile and valuable for the look it gave at a perspective now almost completely ignored – the view from the losers.  What was done in the South during and after the Civil War was absolutely reprehensible, and it was a good for me to read this and be reminded of exactly what our government is capable of doing to its own citizens “for their own good,” including putting them under martial law, seizing all their assets, refusing to allow them to work unless they subscribe to a specific set of beliefs, imprisoning them for saying the wrong thing, raising taxes to force people out of their homes and/or starve them into submission, etc.

It was also interesting to see the perspective of the slaveowners who believed that they were actually doing good things for the people they were enslaving.  Obviously, I’m not agreeing with that position, but many people at the time believed that black people were incapable of caring for themselves.  I thought the later portions of the books, where various northerners are now living in Georgia, handing out judgment, quite fascinating as it’s revealed how little respect they had for the former slaves, despite claiming that that was what the war was all about.  At one point, Scarlet is driving through town with one of her former slaves who has stayed with the family even after the war and pauses to talk with a few northern acquaintances.  During the conversation, that woman says she is having trouble finding someone to help with her children. Scarlett says it shouldn’t be that hard to find a former slave to take the position –

“Do you think I’d trust my babies to a black nigger?” cried the Maine woman.  “I want a good Irish girl.”

“I’m afraid you’ll find no Irish servants in Atlanta,” answered Scarlett, coolness in her voice [considering she’s Irish lol].  “Personally, I’ve never seen a white servant and I shouldn’t care to have one in my house.  And,” she could not keep a slight note of sarcasm from her words, “I assure you that darkies aren’t cannibals and are quite trustworthy.”

“Goodness, no!  I wouldn’t have one in my house!  The idea!”

“I wouldn’t trust them any farther than I could see them and as for letting them handle my babies…!”

Scarlett thought of the kind, gnarled hands of Mammy worn rough in Ellen’s service and hers and Wade’s.  What did these strangers know of black hands, how dear and comforting they could be, how unerringly they knew how to soothe, to pat, to fondle?  She laughed shortly.

“It’s strange you should feel that way when it was you all who freed them.”

“Lor’!  Not I, dearie,” laughed the Maine woman.  “I never saw a nigger till I came South last month and I don’t care if I never see another.  They give me the creeps.  I wouldn’t trust one of them – ”

For some moments Scarlett had been conscious that Uncle Peter [former slave] was breathing hard and sitting up very straight as he stared steadily at the horse’s ears.  Her attention was called to him more forcibly when the Maine woman broke off suddenly with a laugh and pointed him out to her companions.

“Look at that old nigger swell up like a toad,” she giggled.  “I’ll bet he’s an old pet of yours, isn’t he?  You Southerners don’t know how to treat niggers.  You spoil them to death.”

Peter sucked in his breath and his wrinkled brow showed deep furrows but he kept his eyes straight ahead.  He had never had the term “nigger” applied to him by a white person in all his life.  By other negroes, yes.  But never by a white person.  And to be called untrustworthy and an “old pet,” he, Peter, who had been the dignified mainstay of the Hamilton family for years!

Scarlett felt, rather than saw, the black chin begin to shake with hurt pride, and a killing rage swept over her.

I’ve quoted this rather lengthy passage because I think it illustrates so well the complete conflict of ideas and ideals that were going on at the time.  While obviously the Southerners underestimated the actual humanity of the slaves they owned, at the same time there was still a type of respect and an understanding of the responsibilities that they, the slave-owners, had towards their slaves.  The North didn’t ride in as an amazing hero – they literally needed more manpower and freeing the slaves was a great way to make it happen.  Yes, slavery was one of the core aspects of the conflict, but it was not the only one by any means, and the attitudes concerning the humanity, intelligence, and potential of black people was just as incorrect in the North as it was in the South.

In the end, I would absolutely never read this book again, but I’m glad to have read it once.  I’m from Lancaster, Ohio, birthplace of General William T. Sherman, so I’ve grown up in a community that takes some pride in the part it played in the Civil War.  It was good to be reminded that every story has more than one side, and that the looting and pillaging that took place during the war was reprehensible, as was the treatment of the Southerners after the war ended.  My biggest takeaway from this book was honestly that the government can and will do whatever it takes to keep you in line, even if that means revoking your constitutional rights.

The Civil War was a huge and complicated conflict that can never been simplified to one issue.  Repercussions are still felt 150 years later.  I absolutely hated Scarlett and spent most of this book wanting to strangle her, yet still found her story to be strangely compelling and a worthwhile read.


One thought on “Gone With the Wind // by Margaret Mitchell

  1. Pingback: Rearview Mirror // June 2022 | The Aroma of Books

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