Goodreads Review — Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Cover of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading & rereading near annually GWTW since 1996 – AAAAND (big sigh) although I’d argue this is a feminist piece (as women such as firecracker Scarlet, horse loving Mrs. Tarlton, & notorious prostitute Belle) are able to live their lives & earn a living in their own way (although Mrs. T never gets to ride her mare Nellie because she’s too busy taking care of the plantation) — this is an inherently racist book.

All Black characters are described in animalistic or child-like manners, and although Mitchell is careful to give the appearance of kind, benevolent relations between master & slave, this is clearly propaganda for a place that never was.

After the George Floyd riots & calls to remove historic statues celebrating the oppression of Black people, this becomes a book through which one must cautiously tread.

Scarlet, as a privileged white woman, is forced to overcome her socialized gender role expectations (of wealthy plantation daughter) and provide for a family who can no longer care for themselves. She gets here hands dirty, works her @ss off, and understands money is the only thing that will keep her safe. She does whatever it takes to provide that stability. All of this is admirable.

The uncritical depiction of slavery in the South is less so (Blacks depicted remain fiercely devoted to their oppressors) and one questions if Mitchell allows Scarlet to break her bonds, why not of the people she is dependent on as well?

Note: the review & rating is still pretty positive because overall, the book is well-structured, well-paced, and shows a complex array of (white) characters, especially as Scarlett takes on care of those dependent around her, and how she is literally dragged down by their incompetence and failure to adapt with the times. I found the change in Scarlett throughout the novel refreshing — a fall from grace, and reformation, and yet as so many others have mentioned, this novel retains it’s racist core, even in light of its publication (1936) between World Wars.

Margaret Mitchell, having lived on the cusp of racism and genocide for most of her life (born in 1900 to an affluent Southern family), in GWTW it feels like she sought escape from the discomfort of war that surrounded her in immediate life by creating a past that never was.

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