Gone With the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind was first published in May, 1936, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937; the novel linearly chronicles the enchanting and lyrical Old South, the brutal ravages of the Civil War upon the South and the subsequent struggle for reconstruction. Moreover, Gone With the Wind tells the tale of the strong-willed, crafty and determined, Katie “Scarlett” O’Hara; one of the most famous female characters in literature (and film - due to the 1939 movie of the same name).

The book is a significant read, it was originally published at 1037 pages and now finishes at 1024. But it is well-worth the effort to pour your heart and time into this romantic, courageous and historical novel. If in doubt, consider the fact that it sold $176,000 copies within the first few weeks (at an unprecedented $3 apiece), and has gone on to sell over 30 million copies. Scarlett is considered by many to be the most intriguing female character ever written, and the novel typically tops the “Most Romantic” books lists. It took author, Margaret Mitchell, over seven years to write the story and it is the only book she ever published.

The story is set in Atlanta, Georgia. Scarlett, the daughter of a wealthy Irish plantation owner, has made up her mind that she is in love with the charming and chivalrous Ashley Wilkes. However, Ashley has committed to marrying his gracious and even-tempered cousin, Melanie Hamilton. Their marriage puts high-minded Scarlett into a lifelong tailspin of ill-fated marriages and emotional conflict. In the meantime, she has the roguish, handsome and financially secure Rhett Butler in the wings for most of the story and eventually marries him but this proves equally tumultuous and ruinous for both of them.

This is not a straight-forward love story; rather it is a assortment box of every type of human love imaginable. There is love for one’s heritage (the Old South), land (the great Tara Plantation), children (she has four pregnancies), parents (who die), spouses (she has three) lovers, friends, and foes. This is also the story of strength, struggle, and self-realization. It is only at the end of the novel that Scarlett is finally able to distinguish and reconcile the difference between real love and starry-eyed infatuation.

The spirited and intrepid Scarlett gives this epic novel wings to soar for over a thousand pages. She is a plucky character who approaches life with the resilience of a determined adventurer. Her intelligent, hard-working, go-getter attitude gives the story backbone, but it is her loves, longings and grievous losses that give it substance. Ultimately, it is her uncompromising ability to fight for herself, and for those she loves, that makes her the heroine of the novel and of the hearts of those who read it.