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April 2011 BOTM: Gone with the Wind

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 9:01 pm

[quote=""LoveHistory""]I say with one or two exceptions, if it's used in the book it can be used in the discussion. Though obviously we should try to use the quote function or quotation marks when we can so that it's clear which wording is our own and which is in the story.

Trying to be 100% PC in this discussion would be a hoot.[/quote]

It's almost tempting to try and see if we can discuss this in PC fashion ;)

Agree about the quotation marks, and only using words mentioned in the book. "N" word is OK too, I know its a hard one, even when quoted.
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Brenna
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Post by Brenna » Sat April 2nd, 2011, 10:56 pm

[quote=""Vanessa""]The word 'frankly' wasn't in the book, just 'My dear, I don't give a damn.' I think 'frankly' was used in the film to take the emphasis off the word 'damn' as it wasn't thought very appropriate in 1936. Or something like that.[/quote]

Thanks for the catch Vanessa! I feel like a cheeseball now :p
Brenna

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Sun April 3rd, 2011, 2:57 am

[quote=""Ludmilla""]So is anyone else reading this? Or are most folks going to rely on memory from their previous reading? I finished last weekend and really appreciated it more this time than when I read it as a young teen.

[/quote] I'm curious if you responded differently to the book this time than you did as a teen. I've read it 3 times, but each time was fairly close together (my teens, my early 20s and my mid-20s) so each time my response to the book and the characters was pretty much the same. But a couple of weeks ago I picked my copy off the shelf and read a couple of scenes: where Rhett proposes to Scarlett, and their honeymoon. And I found myself feeling pity for them. :eek: Just wondering if you experienced a similar reaction reading the book so many years later.

I really want to re-read the entire thing, since it's been about 20 years for me. Am hoping to read it this summer....

[quote=""Vanessa""]The word 'frankly' wasn't in the book, just 'My dear, I don't give a damn.' I think 'frankly' was used in the film to take the emphasis off the word 'damn' as it wasn't thought very appropriate in 1936. Or something like that.[/quote]

Actually, in 1939 "damn" was considered more than just inappropriate -- it was banned in the movies. The producer had to get special permission from the Hayes office to use the word, and even then still had to pay a significant fine.

I read somewhere that they added the word "frankly" to give a colder feeling to Rhett's final parting shot.

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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Mon April 4th, 2011, 1:02 pm

[quote=""Michy""]I'm curious if you responded differently to the book this time than you did as a teen. I've read it 3 times, but each time was fairly close together (my teens, my early 20s and my mid-20s) so each time my response to the book and the characters was pretty much the same. But a couple of weeks ago I picked my copy off the shelf and read a couple of scenes: where Rhett proposes to Scarlett, and their honeymoon. And I found myself feeling pity for them. :eek: Just wondering if you experienced a similar reaction reading the book so many years later.
[/quote]

When I was young I was much more likely to read a book simply for the story. Of course, I would pick up on major themes, but they probably didn’t resonate with me the way they do now. This time around, the Scarlett-Rhett relationship seems much more sad and tragic and far less romantic. Melanie was the only woman Rhett ever respected. He and Scarlett may have been a lot alike, but it’s too difficult for a relationship to really succeed without respect (and I think they had important differences that people often don’t bother to recognize). Rhett never respected Scarlett. Add to that the death of a child and the emotional damage they inflicted on one another. I don’t see how a couple can overcome that. (Guess you can figure out what I think about whether Scarlett was ever able to get Rhett back.)

I also felt much more critical of both Ashley and Melanie this time. My younger self mostly blamed Scarlett for her stubborn refusal to let go of the image she had of Ashley. My older self sees so much more clearly how unself-aware Scarlett was. It’s almost a double-edged sword that Scarlett can dust herself off from tragedy and go on, but the cost is to ignore valuable lessons learned and to always look forward without looking back. I can easily see why the survival themes would have struck a chord with readers who had struggled through the Great Depression.

This time around, I also really enjoyed some of the characters from the County that I had completely forgotten about, such as Grandma Fontaine and the recovering soldier, Will Benteen, who decides to stay on. I grew up in a small town and largely rural area, so many of those County residents were people I recognized. I knew people just like them. One of my favorite passages in the book is Grandma Fontaine—another survivor like Scarlett—sharing her secret of survival:
We bow to the inevitable. We’re not wheat, we’re buckwheat! When a storm comes along it flattens ripe wheat because it’s dry and can’t bend with the wind. But ripe buckwheat’s got sap in it and it bends. And when the wind has passed, it springs up almost as straight and strong as before. We aren’t a stiff-necked tribe. We’re mighty limber when a hard wind’s blowing, because we know it pays to be limber. When trouble comes we bow to the inevitable without any mouthing, and we work and we smile and we bide our time. And we play along with lesser folks and we take what we can get from them. And when we’re strong enough, we kick the folks whose necks we’ve climbed over. That, my child, is the secret of the survival.

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Post by Ash » Mon April 4th, 2011, 1:26 pm

I also felt much more critical of both Ashley and Melanie this time.

How so? I never faulted Melanie, but I did think Ashley was spineless when it came to her, unable to totally defend Melanie or to tell Scarlett to back off, and probably as much at fault with Scarletts vision as she wasn.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon April 4th, 2011, 1:48 pm

I too found Ashley wanting. He wasn't much of a man, and his ideals stopped when it came to his own convenience. From the first he was dallying with the young Scarlett in a way he knew he shouldn't have been -- all those one-on-one rides when he knew that he and Melanie had an agreement. And then not doing more to disengage. Basically he was using both women.

His lowest moment was when he influenced Scarlett not to sleep with her husband. That was the action of a total creep.

Melanie is less to blame, but she did engage in some very childish 'magical thinking' -- meaning that if she refused to acknowledge a situation, it didn't exist. At the end, when she confessed Ashley wasn't very 'practical'. And in refusing to believe Rhett's confession about what had started the argument that led to Scarlett falling down the stairs.

Her one selfish moment was when she blocked Ashley's single attempt to break free of the immaturity that kept him bound to a time and place where he no longer fitted.

I loved Gone with the Wind as a teenager -- must have read it five times. But when my daughter was 12 and picked it up, I decided to re-read it first. The upshot was that I gave her more positive things to read until she was older. We were in the middle of running a transition home for abused women and children at the time, and all the relationships in the book were such a stellar example of people 'shaping' each other to their detriment that I didn't want her going over and over the story and thinking Rhett or Ashley's behavior was 'romantic' as I did.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Mon April 4th, 2011, 6:38 pm

That was the action of a total creep.
Yes, a jealous creep. For all that he didn't love Scarlett in a safe and meaningful way, he never stopped desperately wanting her and giving her mixed signals. At the end even Scarlett can see what a waste that was. I've always thought of Ashley as sort of a sap (not in Grandma Fontaine's definition though). That probably came partly because of the movie. Leslie Howard wasn't really a good choice.

Rhett's words were sometimes romantic, but I agree his actions weren't. He is really much more complex than many people give him credit for being. His anger and mockery of the south and all of the traditions and institutions of it are proof that he still cares and feels wounded by the rejection, however much he may say he doesn't care. Further proof of this is after Bonnie is born and he changes his tune for her sake. All the things he was raised to believe became important when he had a child of his own, and her future to consider.

Melanie I can excuse because I've actually known people who were so good that they did not see the evil around them. She was raised in a completely safe and loving environment and it simply wasn't in her makeup to believe any bad thing she heard. She was a social optimist. Like Jane Bennet she has the ability (or deficiency) to take the good of everybody's character and make it still better and see nothing of the bad in them.

Scarlett is full of contrasts and is a good example of the problem of letting other people raise your children. Ellen was so busy running things that she never really got to know her daughters. If she'd known Scarlett's mind and heart she might have been able to counteract the bad parts of her character. Not having an analytical mind, and no one who could teach her to acquire the skill, Scarlett didn't have a chance of internalizing any of the lessons of her childhood. Part of her believed in the traditions/religion, but she rarely put that belief into action.

Then the war went and screwed everyone up.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon April 4th, 2011, 7:34 pm

I never warmed up to Ashley, though I appreciated the theme about romanticizing someone and fixating on winning their love even though one doesn't really know who they are at all. He struck me as wishy-washy from the beginning, someone who had trouble saying either no or yes to people, or to life in general. Though Scarlett is a deeply flawed person, she does seem admirable to me in the way that she plunges ahead and acts rather than hanging back and letting doubt keep her from really participating in life; it means she makes a lot of mistakes, but if she were better at learning from her mistakes, it would also mean she would have a better chance of maturing. It's a problem for Scarlett, I think, that she so idolizes passive people like her mother and Ashley and Melanie. It means that she can't recognize her best quality as an asset. Perhaps it's this that stands in the way of her being able to learn from her mistakes, because it feels too shaming to her to look back and recognize that she did make mistakes. If she could accept her specific choices as mistakes, maybe she would be able to accept her ability to act as a strength.

It seems as though Margaret Mitchell herself romanticized people like Melanie and Scarlett's mother, even though she recognized Ashley's passivity and indecisiveness as a flaw. As a reader, I felt like I was meant to admire Melanie and Scarlett's mother for their supposed strength in bearing up under adversity and accepting circumstances as they were without getting angry or impatient. But accepting a brutal system is not a virtue, and they were both slave-owners. While they may have spoken politely to their slaves and didn't beat or starve them, they closed their eyes to what was an inherently brutal system.

The one section of the book I always hated to read was the one where Scarlett hires convict labor. It seems as though Margaret Mitchell may have intended by that to show there were systems even worse than slavery, and that being a ladylike manager of slave labor on a plantation was a kinder, more graceful and Christian way of life than hiring convict labor in the Yankee-based capitalist system. One of the pro-slavery arguments was that people took care of their slaves because they were valuable property, whereas hired labor could be mistreated because they were expendable; if they sickened and died, you didn't lose any money or property, because you just hired someone else. While I didn't like Scarlett at all in that section of the novel, at least she was directly confronted with the brutality of the convict labor system, whereas the ladies of the plantations had been essentially acting as enablers to keep the brutality of the Southern slave economy covered over and hidden.
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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Mon April 4th, 2011, 7:46 pm

MLE expressed what bugged me most about Ashley and Melanie.
LoveHistory said: He [Rhett] is really much more complex than many people give him credit for being.
I think both Rhett and Scarlett, the forces that contribute to the shaping of their characters, are more complex than a lot of modern readers will give them credit for.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Mon April 4th, 2011, 7:57 pm

Yes, a jealous creep. For all that he didn't love Scarlett in a safe and meaningful way, he never stopped desperately wanting her and giving her mixed signals. At the end even Scarlett can see what a waste that was. I've always thought of Ashley as sort of a sap (not in Grandma Fontaine's definition though). That probably came partly because of the movie. Leslie Howard wasn't really a good choice.
I didn't care for Ashley either, especially reading this as a grown up adult. He was a man, older and supposedly more experienced in the ways of the world. He really should have just bellied up to the bar and faced the music and told Scarlett he loved Melanie and let her get on with life. I wanted to strangle him at times.
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