For Christmas Jeff gave me a copy of the book Gone with the Wind. I've seen the movie probably three or four times. Even so, once I started reading the book it was hard to put it down. There is something about a book that gives you more of an inside look at the characters. You get inside their thoughts and understand what truly motivates them and makes them who they are.
It's no wonder this book is a classic. Margaret Mitchell does a superb job with characterization and of telling the tragic story of the fall of the old south. Scarlett O'Hara is incredibly spoiled, self-focused and strong-willed. She has no qualms about marrying a young man she doesn't love in order to make the man she thinks she truly loves, Ashley Wilkes, jealous. But this proves to be a poor plan and the marriage only lasts a month before Charles, her first husband dies.
One of the most riveting parts of the story is the struggle for survival after the war. The Yankees have destroyed and taken everything. The once idealistic life of the plantation owners is leveled. Survivors have no food, and no resources to live on. In a time when women didn't hold jobs and their only recourse was to marry, Scarlett, whose mother has died from typhoid and whose father has been mentally incapacitated due to grief over her death, finds herself shouldering the burden of trying to feed her family and Ashley's family as well. Mitchell makes Scarlett's character very sympathetic and she instills in her the drive to never be hungry again. It is this factor that makes the reader sympathetic and forgiving--to a point of Scarlett.
This pivital time becomes her driving force. All of the morals and social mores taught to her by her mother, Ellen, eventually dissipate. She becomes a conniving, hardhearted and amoral person. Scarlett turns out to actually have a head for business, unfortunately its during a time when any sign of independence and superior intelligence in a woman was socially unacceptable. Scarlett, like Rhett, ignores what proper society thinks and does what she feels is necessary to reach her goal--to be financially wealthy so she will never have to face hunger again. Fear of hunger drives her more than anything else. Any man who Scarlett sees as an asset is pulled into her schemes and used, often with disastrous results. Even Rhett, who bears some parallel's to Ashley and Scarlett isn't immune. By the end of the book we are left with two people, Scarlett and Rhett, who might have been incredibly happy with one another had they ever been able to truly set aside their cynicism and maliciousness--a self-protective device--long enough to see what lay beneath the surface.
Mitchell's epic romance doesn't end with a happy ending--unheard of. Had she written it today the book probably would not have been published for that reason. She's left the door open enough that we hope Scarlett--who we know has the capacity to get whatever she sets her sight on--will go after brokenhearted Rhett. She finally recognizes that Rhett, not Ashely--is her fiery, kindred spirit. Should they ever be able to drop their protective facades they may be able to repair their deep wounds and find the deep passion that will unite them for all time.
Teena Stewart is a published author. Her most recent book is The Treasure Seeker: Finding Love and Value in the Arms of Your Loving Heavenly Father. Visit http://www.teenastewart.com.