red805 wrote:Finished Gone With The Wind at last. I'm trying to finish reading the logo books up at the top of this website! Only one more to go on this view, although I know there are 4 others that rotate in. Hadn't read GWTW since high school. Either I had forgotten a lot, or I wasn't attuned to it then, but as great & memorable as the story is, the racism of the author just smacked me in the face & shadowed the whole reading experience for me. Mitchell was obviously a product of her time & Southern birth, but I didn't realize the movie had toned down the non-dialogue portions so much. You expect the characters to voice racist thoughts, but the narrative actually is more racist than the dialogue. So many times the slaves, or freed slaves were described as apes, children, ignorant, etc. that it just became frustrating. After reading Grant by Ron Chernow, which gave me basically the non-fictionalized opposite view of the post-Civil War time, & learning of the Southern terrorism inflicted on Mitchell's "carpetbaggers & scallawags" & the former slaves, Mitchell's lack of even a pinch of even-handedness was, again, frustrating. In GWTW all Southerners believe in the Cause, the slaves don't want to be freed, & the Yankees are killing, looting rapists. Rhett, Scarlett, Melanie, & Ashley were as vivid characters as I'd remembered, & the atmosphere created by Mitchell was so well-drawn, but at the end of the book I was very ready to be done with them all.
Yes, it reads very differently when viewed from the current perspective. But it's a good example of portraying the emotional state of the characters in their times. I don't ascribe to Mitchell quite as much racism as she gave her characters--after all, she was writing people she knew, Southerners of the beginning of the last century, so of course she wrote them as they were, But she gave regularly--and, considering her income, sacrificially-- to a scholarship fund for black medical students. That knowledge helps me see her writing choices for just that--choices.
The book could have used a counterpoint from a black character who wasn't childlike or manipulating. Although you DO see the loyalty and intelligence in Mammy and Pork.
Another aspect that made my stomach churn was Rhett's relationship with Scarlett. Do you realize that he was actually a contemporary of Scarlett's mother Ellen? From the same town, even. And what an alcoholic!
But if the measure of fiction is its ability to stir emotion in the reader through vicarious attachment to the characters, GWTW is still in the top rank.