Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I read this very well known and loved, Gone with the Wind - published in 1936, for the very first time just recently and I am glad I did - all 1,000 plus pages of it. It is a very exciting story , very well written backed by incredible research and based around personal background knowledge. It is peopled by several memorable characters , with a mighty setting around a great historical event which all makes for a tale on a grand scale. For me however the most outstanding and enthralling aspect of it all is the fictionalised historical background to the Amrerican Civil War from the point of the view of the South and in particular the aftermath Reconstruction period and its affect on Southern society. This was a part of this terrible war history that I was ignorant about . I am sure we are getting a very Southern view of this period from Margaret Mitchell , a proud and biased Southener, nevertheless it is fascinating one and has made me more aware of the background and some of the differences, sensibilities and perceptions in US Society even today.

Margaret Mitchell obviously knew this society so well - and even though she was writing about an earlier generation -it reads , in some ways, like a personal account of these happenings. The background detail of the society is incredibly strong . The desciptions and insights into Plantation life and the City of Atlanta are engrossing. All the prejudices about race, the impossible ideal of the southern white belle , the southern white male who must bear arms and fight to defend his and his family's honour against lesser mortals and northeners at any time , the fearful Ku Klux Klan - are so clearly and powerfully displayed in this story. The film was very good , followed the story quite well but it didnt really bring out the points about Reconstruction, Racism and and the Society mores near as well as in the book. Apparently this was a deliberate decision by Director Selznick- the racism and Southern bias was just too mush for his and Hollywood's sensibilities - the film came out in 1939 and was an instant success as was the book. We know Margaret Mitchell took 10 years to write it and that she published no other novels. The sales and the film made her very wealthy.

Re the characters one could go on and on about them - Could someone like Ashley really exist outside Scarlet's imagination ? Is Melanie too good for words? I understand that most young American women of the 50s and 60s considered Melanie was the main heroine to be admired and emulated whereas recent surveying in US schools has young women choosing Scarlett as their favourite and most admired character in the book. Margaret Mitchell is said to have thought Melanie was the main heroine - the perfect example of Southern womanhood - but I suspect Scarlett developed a life of her own for the author. For me, some of the very best minor characters are the white older dowager Women of Atlanta society - they are drawn affectionately by Mitchell - warts and all and are essential to the "feel" of the place. The sad racism means that none of the black characters can be believed - charicature and stereotyping are the norm .

My main thought is that one can enjoy and read this for the excitment and grandeur of the story and the clever writing however a current day reader gets most from it as as a major social and historical novel giving special insight into the regional mindset of some folks in the Southern (Dixieland) States of America. I think it is well worth reading. I would be delighted to hear from others about their experiences of reading it recently or years ago.