1. Why Scarlett?
Honestly, I can’t figure out why Scarlett is the main character of this story. Scarlett represents moral depravity and emptiness. On one hand, I can sympathize – sort of – with Scarlett. Wouldn’t I do the same things under similar circumstances? Isn’t survival the goal? But then the question is, at what cost will survival come? And just how much of yourself are you willing to lose? On the other hand, her stubborn refusal to change her ways and her animal will to survive, make her particularly unappealing to me. Perhaps because I see a little too much of myself in her.
So why Scarlett? Why not Melanie? Even Mitchell admitted that Melanie was intended to be the heroine of the story. Or Rhett? Rhett presents a vastly more fascinating character study than does Scarlett. Though extremely similar there is one fundamental difference between Rhett and Scarlett. Both are immoral, yes. But Rhett is aware of his own fallen-ness, while Scarlett goes around in complete oblivion to her own sins. This makes Rhett somehow much more appealing to me. Pretty much everything you know about Rhett is inferred. In fact, I have a great many questions about Rhett that would very much like answering. Mitchell could’ve written a whole book about his backstory and I wouldn’t have complained!
2. Two Different Kinds Of Strength
A recurring theme of Gone With The Wind is the contrast between people who fall into one of two categories. Though Ashley, Rhett, and Scarlett, by all appearances, would seem to be the strongest, it is they who are reduced to nothing more than frightened children in the face of circumstances beyond their own control. Melanie is the one whose strength the others seek out in their pain, the one they run to for safety and security.
Melanie – and also Scarlett’s mother, though only briefly – represents strength of a different sort in this story. Scarlett hates Melanie because she does not understand her. She senses that Melanie is stronger than herself, but cannot understand this because she sees that Melanie is sickly, weak, and unattractive. This demonstrates a perplexing contradiction. Those who appear weak, may if fact be the strongest among us. In their physical weakness they develop an inner strength few else ever achieve. While, on the other hand, those who seem strong are only so on the outside.
3. Pursuing Happiness
I think the most prevalent theme in Gone With The Wind is Scarlett’s continuing search for happiness and fulfillment in her life, and her complete inability to change this all-consuming desire to find it. Her famous quote about “tomorrow,” which, according to common opinion, represents her refusal to give in even under crushing circumstances, meant something entirely different to me. It showed that she had not changed and was almost… dare I say it? – incapable of change. Which is kind of scary, if you think about it. It shows her refusal to face the fact that she has become a monster in her desperate will to survive. It’s really kind of disappointing, because it almost seems like, at the very end there, that she has changed. She finally sees that Rhett has been there all along and that they were meant to be together… and then to close the book in such a way – ugh! Totally dashed all my hopes for redemption for Scarlett. That is her outlook, however. That she will change – tomorrow. Be a better person – tomorrow. Think about it – tomorrow. And so she continues in her cycle of simply trying to survive, trying to find happiness… but never does. Like in her recurring dream, happiness is ever-receding before her. She can never grasp it, because she is searching for happiness in all the wrong places, demanding it from other people who can’t find it in themselves to give her.
4. Religious Background
While Gone With The Wind is not by any means a Christian book there is a lot of religious content. I suppose because at that time, individuals were so steeped in religion, from childhood on, that to be historically acurate and to honestly capture the flavor of the time, religion could not be left out. Scarlett has this twisted view of God. She views Him as a God of judgment and fiery wrath. God is someone she is afraid of. This seems to be at least partially due to her Catholic upbringing, and her own admission that in some ways, she viewed her mother as God, and worshiped her as such.
Rhett, on the other hand, though he claims to be an atheist, is shockingly insightful. When Scarlett, in a moment of weakness, confides to Rhett that she is afraid she will go to hell for the awful things she has done, he gently points out that those things were done in a desperate attempt to survive very hard times and asks her why she thinks “the Lord” wouldn’t be capable of understanding why she did them. “The Lord” is rather a familiar, almost a caressing, term for someone who says he doesn’t believe in God, to use. But again, with Rhett, all we can do is assume.
5. How To Kill Your Characters
One thing I particularly admired about Gone With The Wind is that Mitchell did not kill off any of her main characters. It would have been easy to. All of the main characters encountered situations in which she very easily could have made the decision to pull their plug. But she chose not to. Writers know that killing your characters is really the easy way out of any kind of difficulty – coming especially in handy when dealing with romantic relationships. Don’t know which guy of the two to choose? Kill one! Somebody in the way? Kill ’em!
It seems admirable to those observing from the outside. “Aw, everybody dies… And, and, it’s just so sad.” But we who know understand the ulterior motive.
Instead of killing main characters, Mitchell kills off characters that you are not particularly fond of, but that the main characters are fond of. This is brilliantly played because it allows us to observe the main character’s grieving process.
Another situation in which this is artfully done is in Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. Neither Katniss, nor Gale, nor Peeta, die. And at least one could have been killed off by Collins without any real suspicion from the audience. Not to mention that it would’ve been convenient, as we have a love triangle here that could only benefit from one of the boys dying so that neither has to be heartbroken when Katniss doesn’t pick him. Instead, Collins chooses to kill off Prim, who Katniss loves fiercely, Finnick and Boggs, who she has grown to care about, Cinna, her only real friend in the Capitol, and nearly all the supporting casts in each of the three books.
Most of us are familiar with the story and it’s easy to get caught up with the book as merely an entertaining and classic romance with familiar characters and a captivating plotline. But if you look past the familiarity, there are some aspects of this story that really get you thinking. One downside is that I found Gone With The Wind to be rather boring, but overall I think it is worth a read.