Monday, April 6, 2009

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Final Post!)

All I needed was two hours on a plane, and I got 'er done! I have thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I must thank Matt for inspiring me, but boy was I ever glad to see page 1024! And even though I've seen the movie, and I knew how the story ended, the momentum of the last 200 pages swept me away, and left me feeling breathless, devastated and even a bit sickened. Reading the book, even more than watching the movie, is like witnessing a full-scale natural disaster.

In this last installment, we start to glimpse small slivers of Scarlett's conscience. Frank's death literally flattens her with guilt, despite her lack of love for the man. She recognizes that she was not very nice to poor Frank, and feels that her irresponsible actions caused his death. Rhett thinks that her remorse is motivated by the fear of burning in hell...I tend to agree. But still, it is nice to see something stop her in her tracks!

It was so much fun to see Scarlett and Rhett finally get together, and for a brief moment in time, they are good together:

"Some mornings (Rhett) dismissed the maid and brought her the breakfast tray himself and fed her as though she were a child, took the hairbrush from her hand and brushed her long dark hair until it snapped and crackled. Yet other mornings she was torn rudely out of deep slumber when he snatched all the bed covers from her and tickled her bare feet."

The deterioration of their relationship, however, was hard to watch...squirm-worthy, really. Like watching a bad Dr. Phil show. We know they love each other (even though neither will admit it) which makes it worse. But fueled by pride, ego, and unfaithful emotions on both sides, these two would have made good candidates for intervention.

What we witness from here on out is an avalanche of epiphanies for Scarlett. Perhaps she is finally starting to grow up? It's like she was asleep or in a trance for the last decade and suddenly wakes up. When she is caught embracing Ashley and is the talk of the town, her only concern is Melanie's opinion. Despite her insistence that she hates Melanie, Scarlett depends on her and as she later acknowledges, is really her only true friend. It even seemed like Melanie, with her gentle, loving soul, replaced Ellen in Scarlett's life. She admits she cannot imagine life without her.

Scarlett also realizes that her love for Ashley was all a made-up fantasy in her mind. She sees Ashley for who he really is...a weakling, stuck in the past - someone who will never become a success, unless riding on someone else's coattails. Someone she has absolutely nothing in common with. We all knew that from the beginning, didn't we?

Scarlett is shocked to find that her children have no confidence or affection for her. In fact, they are scared of her. She knows she has not been a good mother, and has pissed their childhoods away while tending to her businesses.

I think most importantly, though, she learns that money does not buy happiness. This is the woman who found her sole motivation for living was to get rich and rub it in people's faces. However, as she watches her life crumble around her, she admits that she would give up every material possession she has for love.

That being said, I can't say that I completely forgave Scarlett for all she had done. I admired her for her scrappy, survivalist, butt-kicking tendencies. But beyond that, I kept thinking to myself "paybacks are hell, girl" and that bad karma is a dangerous thing. She got hers.

The ending begs for a sequel. I know that one came out not long ago titled "Scarlett", which I have no interest in reading. I prefer to leave the plot open and unresolved, as I am sure anything besides Ms. Mitchell's rendition would be unfulfilling. I did read that upon her death, Ms. Mitchell had all of her notes burned. The book, which consumed over 10 years of her life, put her over the edge, and was quoted to say that she "didn't give a damn" what happened to Rhett and Scarlett.


Unknown said...

Every so often someone in my book club suggests we read this book. When it comes up again, I think I'm going to say yes to it.

Reading all of your comments and those of the others who've been reading it has convinced me that there is more to GWTW than I thought.

ds said...

Yay! You finished it! Reading your commentary was like re-reading the book for me--I completely agree with your assessment of Scarlett's reaction to Frank's death, her lack of maternal "instinct," and that it is tough to forgive her in the end (I have always been partial to Melanie). Love your description of it as a "full-scale natural disaster"--so true. Mitchell achieved her end; any sequel (I think there were two) would just be superfluous.

Melody said...

I'm envious that you've read the book, Sandy! Now I wish I had joined the read-along with you guys... Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Sandy Nawrot said...

James - it would be a fabulous book for a club, providing they have long-distance stamina! I tried so hard, but could not finish it in a month!

ds - thanks for the kind comments!

Melody - it would have been great to have you along, but you definitely have to carve some time out of your schedule to do it! I'm sure there will be another opportunity at some point!

Beth F said...

Excellent description of Scarlett and the end of the book. Bravo!! It was fun to revisit the book through your eyes.

Matt said...

I'm not a bit surprised that Wade and Ella bore no affection toward her at the end of the novel. She should be lucky these kids didn't treat her like a stranger.

I somehow saw the ending coming. I don't blame Rhett because having personally experienced the same thing, I know even "deathless love can wear out."

Unknown said...

Congratulations! I'm avoiding reading your post and all the comments until I've finished it, but I just wanted to say well done for completing this book - I think it must be the longest one I've ever read - I'll be back when I've finished, to read and comment along with everyone else.

Anonymous said...

It takes a long time to read, doesn't it. It took me 1 month, but it's so worth it.

My dad doesn't read much but for some reason he wanted to read this one. He has been on the case since a month and he has only finished 1/3 of it. But I don't think he'll quit :)

Carrie K. said...

Congratulations on finishing!

Jenny said...

I've just finished GWTW myself (my first classic - i sure chose a short one :P)
At the moment i am debating over reading the sequel; one of my friends is offering to lend it while my mum says its best to leave things where they are. Personally i have enough faith in Rhett's character to believe him when he says he doesnt give a damn, making whatever attempts scarlett makes of winning him back pretty futile. Also scarlett's comments at the end of the book make me wonder if shes grown up at all. oh well. well done for reading :):) i think if i'd noticed how long it is i wouldnt have been brave enough to start in the beginning...

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jenny - I'm counting this as one of my four classics I signed up for as a should count as three!

The Bumbles said...

So - the book swept you away eh? Like - gone with the wind? haha ;0)

Glad you completed this classic masterpiece - I did love it too. Now read Andersonville and write a paper comparing those 2 (as well as Red Badge of Courage which was like a little leaflet) - that's what I did in high school. Yikes. No wonder I didn't have many dates back then - I spent half my time reading those huge ass novels!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Bumbles - you got a chuckle out of me on that one! That high school assignment doesn't sound like much fun. I bitch and moan about how I didn't get educated in the classics in high school, but maybe I should just shut up and be happy for my social life!

Unknown said...

I've finally finished!

I haven't seen the film before, so was totally shocked by the ending.

I thought it was appropriate though. It was nice that everything didn't end well for Scarlett. She deserved everything she got!

I'm the opposite to you though - I'd love to read the sequel. I'm really interested to find out what someone else thought would happen next.

I'm off to read some shorter books!

Anna said...

I knew you'd finish it! I read this book in high school and loved it. I bought the sequel, but didn't get very far because it didn't have the feel of the first book (obviously since it was written by a different author).

Diary of an Eccentric