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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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Michy
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Post by Michy » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 5:07 am

Tonight I read the scene where Scarlett and Ashley are caught "embracing" -- I had forgotten the details of that scene. Yes, that is the turning point at which Scarlett begins to change, both in her feelings for Ashley and in her attitude towards Melanie. She is starting to have a little self-awareness, and is even able to recognize the irony that the one time she and Ashley are caught is the one time when she felt no passion for him, only gentle friendship. At one point she actually wants to tell Melanie, "Don't fight for me! I'm not worth it!" That is an amazing change for Scarlett, and even more so her decision not to tell Melanie because she realizes it would hurt her. I am actually starting to like Scarlett. :)

I had forgotten that she started changing so much well before Melanie's death; what a shame that it is all coming too late. And that she and Rhett are still continually crossing each other........ For the reader it creates so much anxious tension to see how closely they pass but miss, like ships in the night. If only Scarlett would not have stopped herself from crying out for Rhett when she was ill, because she didn't want him to know she wanted him...... If only Melanie would have told Scarlett of Rhett's confession of his love..... If only Scarlett could have let Rhett know that she really wanted the baby....

MM has created some wonderful dynamics in these final scenes and they are riveting: sad and tragic, but riveting.
Last edited by Michy on Fri April 22nd, 2011, 5:32 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 1:11 pm

[quote=""Michy""]MM has created some wonderful dynamics in these final scenes and they are riveting: sad and tragic, but riveting.[/quote]

It really is riveting, but I did want to shake them many times. Another one of those if moments, is if Rhett had stayed instead of running away after that night of passion. Rhett and Scarlett were never able to meet each other half way. But I'm not sure even that would have saved them given how fundamental their problems were. Rhett may have loved Scarlett in his own warped way, but he never respected her and never trusted her. I don't think he was capable of allowing himself to become emotionally vulnerable to her. Scarlett, on the other hand, did give him reasons for his mistrust. But she was young and given that he often knew her mind better than she did, it's very tragic and sad the way their marriage spirals out of control.

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wendy
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Post by wendy » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 2:19 pm

It is a wonderful novel - one of my all-time favorites. I understood nothing about the human side of the Civil War until I read it. And the book is so much better than the movie!
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)
http://www.wendyperriman.com
http://www.FireOnDarkWater.com

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 2:20 pm

I finished it last night and I've got a question for everyone else to take up once they've also finished.

Do you think Scarlett actually could have won Rhett back eventually?

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Post by Ash » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 2:27 pm

Oh, probably. They needed each other, in a rather codependent way, I think. But then it might just be my romantic younger self talking!

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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 3:27 pm

I think their relationship was too damaged to ever recover, but I think the romantic in all of us would like to fantasize they can overcome it somehow. Realistically, I don't think so, and I think the tragedy of that is what gives the book its power. I don't think I want to know how the story would have continued because it would be pretty hard to pull off without undermining the themes of the original.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 4:43 pm

We do a lot of marriage counseling. And the answer is, yes and no.
As long as a person is still breathing, there is hope for change. Even coma patients can hear and think, and it all happens in the head.

If they kept on as portrayed, then no.

But if the writer (MM or a sequel writer such as those hired by the estate) has both characters make a decision to turn and start heading the other way, then a reconciliation is possible. Both Scarlett and Rhett have been given momentous personal incidents at the end of the book: the death of Melanie for Scarlett, and the end of Rhett's youth.

Even then, it would take a LOT of convincing for a careful reader of the first book to buy it. I read Scarlett, but wasn't impressed, and quite frankly, my dear, didn't buy the characters as being the same characters from GWTW, even though they all had the same names.

Here are some scenarios:
Scarlett could go the AA route and connect to a higher power. Without that, she's surely on the road to being a chronic drunk, and that doesn't cause change for the better. A road that both MM and her second husband were well underway to at the time of her death. I've worked recovery enough to know that the only way to get free of addictions is a complete moral change, starting with not putting yourself first. Given Scarlett's Catholic upbringing, that would most likely take the form of her returning to the church in a very big way. If she turned her special business and practical talents into making the kind of ideals she so admired in her mother, then she would return to Tara and work on helping the people born there--including the slaves. I can see Scarlett doing very well administering social justice in a hard-fisted way through a sharecropping system.

If she was writing Rhett regularly, while giving his space, she might actually learn to put her feelings down on paper. And if she took Wade and Beau on the Grand Tour of Europe that she promised Melanie, maybe as an adult she would find classical culture more interesting, if for no other reason than to have something to write Rhett about.

But there's less hope for Rhett, since he is much older and the end wasn't such a wrench for him. He really is pigheaded.

Or the bitter scenario:
Rhett could die (he lives in a risky time, and he's well into the male age for heart attacks) and Scarlett would be stuck with Ashley, because she promised Melanie to take care of him.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 7:29 pm

I don't think Scarlett would have married Ashley even given her promise to take care of him. And marrying him would have given credence to all the rumors about the two of them, which she wouldn't have done. She might have married him off to someone else just to shut up the people of Atlanta.

I also don't think Rhett is too old. Granted change would be much harder for him, but I think he was just burned out emotionally and could maybe fall in love with a changed Scarlett after some healing time away from her.

Rhett said he would return often enough to keep the gossip down, so he would have a chance to see the new Scarlett if she did make changes.

Scarlett the sequel largely sucked. Though not as badly as the TV movie version of it did. That was a real stinker. There were elements in the book that were nice, but overall it was too far-fetched for me.

It's occurred to me today that Scarlett was going to coordinate all of the arrangements for Melanie's funeral but when Rhett told her he was leaving she forgot all about that and decided to go to Tara the next day. With her new-found awareness do you think she would have stayed and handled the funeral first (as soon as she remembered), or just skipped town and let Mrs. Merriweather or some other stout matron handle things?

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Fri April 22nd, 2011, 9:51 pm

I just finished this afternoon (I ended up having more reading time this month that I expected to :) ).

All I can say is, wow, what a ride. Even 30 years after I first read it, GWTW still stands head and shoulders above any other work of fiction I've read.

My feelings for all of the characters are basically unchanged from the previous times I've read it (other than this time I felt such pity for Rhett and Scarlett, which I didn't feel as a younger person). What changed for me this time was the overall feeling of the book; it seemed far, far less romantic and so much more tragic and sad. What I noticed this time is how unhappy both Scarlett and Rhett are thoughout the entire book, even long before they marry; their heavy drinking is evidence of that.

Also this time around, what I appreciated more was the background story and the seamless way MM worked it into her narrative. The lush and descriptive way she describes the physical setting, the way she describes the effects of war on Southern society, but most of all the effects of Reconstruction. She really brings it home how Reconstruction was destructive to the South, as much or more than the war itself. The war destroyed physical structures and lives, but Reconstruction destroyed the morale and much of the soul of the South. MM manages to depict this effectively, without ever sounding bitter or angry. I wonder how differently things would have gone if Lincoln had lived? I think the North wouldn't have been allowed to be so vindictive, and so I think the damage wouldn't have gone so deep or been so long-lasting.

Also this time I was able to appreciate MM's technical skills as a writer. It is her verbosity that makes the book so wonderful, as it allows her to create characters of such complexity and depth. Also what I noticed is how modern her language sounded. Other than Scarlett's occasional "Fiddle-dee-dee" and the almost unintelligible dialogue of the blacks, GWTW reads like something written by a modern writer. MM uses language that is direct and forthright, never complex, lofty or flowery, and that makes the book so readable and timeless.

However, given that the book felt so overwhelmingly tragic and sad to me this time, it will be a very long time before I read it again, if ever.


[quote=""Ludmilla""]
I meant to ask and forgot, but did anyone think Rhett's ward in New Orleans was Belle's son? [/quote] MM didn't develop this element enough for me to draw any definite conclusions. She only mentions this "mystery boy" a couple of times and I wonder why she even put it in the story; just to add another element of interest to Rhett, I guess. I do think that Rhett's ward in NO and Belle's son in NO are the same boy; however, I doubt that Rhett is the father. Why would he have kept the boy a secret? He loved kids and he certainly didn't care what polite society thought of him. If it had been his son then I think that, once he married Scarlett and had an established home, he would have brought the boy to live with them. I think it is more likely that the father of the boy is unknown, and Rhett took him under his wing as a favor to Belle because he liked her.

[quote=""LoveHistory""]I finished it last night and I've got a question for everyone else to take up once they've also finished.

Do you think Scarlett actually could have won Rhett back eventually?[/quote] When I read GWTW back in my teens and 20s, I ended feeling Scarlett had a 50-50 chance of getting Rhett back. Now, as a more cynical middle-ager, I think her chances are far less than that. If Rhett even still felt bitter towards her I think her chances would be better. But at the book's end he is indifferent and, although Scarlett has changed, she is basically still Scarlett and I don't know that she'll be able to break through that. However, I don't think Rhett's feelings for her are completely dead (just on serous life support), regardless of what he says; in that final scene there is a mention of a brief light in his eyes, and also a flicker of admiration for her that she didn't make a scene when he told her he was leaving, but responded very quietly and un-Scarlett-like. And he mentioned that he would come back every once in a while to keep still the gossip; I think if he had completely lost all feeling for Scarlett he wouldn't care what anyone thought and would stay away forever, or perhaps even get a divorce. So I think there is still a tiny faltering flicker of feeling left in him for Scarlett, and perhaps she will eventually be able to re-ignite it. The only thing certain is that, being Scarlett, she will never give up but will spend the rest of her life trying.

I wonder if MM couldn't feel that Scarlett would get Rhett back, and if that's one of the reasons she refused to write a sequel? Because the public would never have accepted anything less than a reconciliation.

[quote=""LoveHistory""]I don't think Scarlett would have married Ashley even given her promise to take care of him. [/quote] No, I don't think so either. Ashley has no appeal for her now; he doesn't have money, she finally sees him as weak and ineffectual, and she finally realizes that he never loved her but only lusted for her. What would she have to gain by marrying Ashley?
Scarlett the sequel largely sucked.
I never read Scarlett, but I did recently read a synopsis of it, and that was enough to tell me it would have been a wall-banger. The author has Scarlett behaving totally out of character. Going to Ireland? Never. Scarlett may have gone to Savannah or even Charleston, but never Ireland. Her world was too centralized in the region where she had lived.
With her new-found awareness do you think she would have stayed and handled the funeral first (as soon as she remembered), or just skipped town and let Mrs. Merriweather or some other stout matron handle things?
I think she would have stayed for the funeral and then left for Tara. Good catch; I didn't even notice that discrepancy. :)

This was been a great BOTM experience; I have immensely enjoyed discussing the book with you all. :)
Last edited by Michy on Fri April 22nd, 2011, 10:18 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Sat April 23rd, 2011, 1:08 am

I don't recall Belle saying where her son was at school, just that it wasn't in Atlanta. He may not have been in New Orleans. But I did figure on him being Rhett's ward. I don't think Rhett was his father either. Seems to me that if he had an illegitimate son he would have been delighted to scandalize people by flaunting that little bit of information about himself.

Though...it's possible (maybe not likely) that the boy is his but Belle never told him.

I've had fun discussing this too.

In my reread I found Scarlett more sympathetic and less horrible about her children, or at least about Wade. Disliked Ashley more than last time, I think. Loved Melanie and Mammy. Wanted to hit Suellen with a 2 by 4. Really liked Will; shame he didn't make it into the movie.

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