Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Sometimes tomorrow never comes… 


This is now the third post I’ve written about this book, though the other two will remain unpublished. The problem is that as soon as I start writing about the portrayal of the black characters, I feel I’ll be offending the many, many Americans who consider this a great novel. Clearly, American attitudes to race are quite different to mine, reflective of our different histories; and slaves and their descendants being depicted as devoted domestic pets seems to be a theme that runs through a great deal of American fiction hailed as “great”, even sometimes incomprehensibly (to me) cited as anti-racist. I doubt a smugly superior lecture from me will change anything, so why even try to explain just how distasteful I find it, in this, in Huckleberry Finn, yes, even to a much lesser degree in Mockingbird. It’s not as if we don’t have our own problems with racism here in the UK, albeit of a different style, and some of our own classic literature makes me feel equally queasy.

With unerring African instinct, the negroes had all discovered that Gerald had a loud bark and no bite at all, and they took shameless advantage of him.

It isn’t just the portrayal of race that led me to abandon the book at 15%, however. I bored rapidly with the endless, vapid descriptions of dresses and waist-sizes. Interesting once – not interesting after the first twenty times. I thought at one point I might actually escape from Scarlett’s tedious wardrobe to go to war with the men, but sadly not. A couple of paragraphs dispensed with a year of history, and back we were, trying on widows’ frocks.

The air was always thick with threats of selling slaves south and of direful whippings, but there had never been a slave sold from Tara and only one whipping, and that administered for not grooming down Gerald’s pet horse after a long day’s hunting.

(Am I alone in wishing Mammy had keep tightening till Scarlett croaked?)

I find it quite incomprehensible that this book is still rated as highly as it is. I admit I loved the film when I watched it nearly half a century ago, but times change, and the attitudes expressed in the book (by the author, not just by the characters) make it feel horribly outdated now. Even putting the race question to one side, though, I found the writing unremarkable, the characterisation shallow of the main characters and non-existent of the others, the over-padded length tedious, and the concentration on frocks and dances a total trivialisation of a subject that deserves so much more. Maybe the other 85% is brilliant, but I’m not willing to waste any more of my time on the off-chance. I’d rather be reading Toni Morrison. Heck, I’d rather be reading William Faulkner!!!

Prissy had never been more than a mile away from Twelve Oaks or Tara before, and the trip on the train plus her elevation to nurse was almost more than the brain in her little black skull could bear.

Since obviously this will not be achieving Great American Novel status in my quest, and given that it’s the latest in a lengthening line of GAN contenders that have left me with a bad taste, I’ve decided to ban all other books about slavery and race written by white Americans prior to, say, 1950 from my TBR. Goodbye, Uncle Tom! I fear that re-read will never happen now. I shall leave you decently buried in the long-ago, where I wish I’d left Gone with the Wind. Sadly my love affair with Rhett and Scarlett is officially over…

Book 26 of 90

* * * * *

To cheer us all up and remind us that some white people even back then had at least a little more insight about black lives…

90 thoughts on “Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

  1. It sounds awful! I was really hoping you’d convince me on this because it’s part of my Le Monde’s 100 Books reading challenge & I’ve been putting it off, but it looks like I’ll be delaying it a little longer…I’ve never made it through the film either!

    • I’m so sorry! But honestly, it beats me why people love this one so much. I think maybe it’s one that works best if you read it in your teens. However, it has over half a million five star reviews on Goodreads, so don’t take my word for it!! 😉

  2. Let me guess… Frankly my dear, you don’t give a damn!
    I last read GWTW as a teenager. I remember arguing with someone who said the book was about the Civil War and I said it wasn’t, because I’d read it as Scarlett’s big romance!

  3. Though I enjoyed this when I read it (more than a decade ago and when I was a teenager), even then I was unsettled by the attitudes towards black characters in this novel. Again I’m not coming from a US perspective and there is a very different history there. I certainly don’t buy the argument that it is anti-racist (though I do think it’s anti-slavery – overall I really think that the antebellum south comes across very poorly in the novel, though not until later in the book). I think there is eventually payoff, and it does eventually stop being about gowns and dances, but I don’t know if I would be able to persevere through it now to get to that point. I don’t think the author likes Scarlett, or Rhett, or really intends any character apart from maybe Melly to be likeable-but it ages for that to show through. I’ve been hesitant to pick it back up and revisit it as an adult, and your review has confirmed that choice for me.

    • I suspect I’d have enjoyed it as a teenager too – I certainly loved the film. A part of me would like to have finished it because I’d heard people say it starts slow and gets better, and I might have found the stuff about the reconstruction of the South interesting. But it was really the way Mitchell spoke about the slaves as if they weren’t fully human that put me off, plus Scarlett was so superficial and selfish. I don’t have to love a main character, but I don’t want to read 1000 pages about someone I don’t care about either. Oh well, tomorrow is another day, and there are plenty more books out there… 😉

  4. A wonderful ‘ripio’ argued with commendable and pointed reasoning. I don’t normally ‘like’ ripios, only because I have chosen to use my own blog to say ‘you must read……..’ but sometimes saying why a book cannot be ‘read this!’ is important.

    I did read this, many years ago but my own memory is cloudier and more superficial – it fell into the ‘romance’ category, not one which really drew me

    There are of course always problems in reading books from earlier times, and trying to read them without the sensibilities of THESE times

    • Thank you! I probably wouldn’t have reviewed this at all given that I’d abandoned it at an early stage, except that it was my Classics Club Spin pick. I suspect I might have enjoyed it well enough if I’d read it back around the age I watched and enjoyed the film, but I’m much more conscious of race issues now – aren’t we all, sadly?

      Yes, sometimes I can make allowances and other times not – I think it depends on the language the author uses, maybe, and Mitchell’s language is so demeaning…

      • One one level, I wonder whether we are more conscious of race issues now is not altogether a ‘sadly’ one (though of course there are DEFINITELY ‘sadly’ reasons for this. We have i think become more SELF-conscious, more SELF-questioning – something which we have been steered into being by those involved in various consciousness raising movements. I think ‘back in the day’ those of us of more liberal persuasion probably thought of legislation – something done ‘out there’ was the means to ensure a fairer society – but we may not have automatically realise that culture itself made us see the world in certain ways, that even if our hearts ‘were in the right place’ our hearts did not always realise the blind thinking we had absorbed. So, THAT part of a more conscious awareness is not a ‘sadly’ (if that makes sense

        • I agree to an extent, but I kinda fear that the consciousness raising movements have served to polarise opinion – sure, it’s made those of us on the more liberal side more aware of our own inconsistencies, but it’s also driven lots of people to feel they’re being constantly attacked as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., when they don’t feel they are – when they feel their own way of life and moral outlook is being ridiculed and denigrated. It all seems to have backfired a bit. I understand why everyone always wants total change NOW, but sometimes a more gradual change will be more permanent. Now all we seem to have are people on the extremes of both sides shouting at each other and the rest of us in the middle shaking our heads helplessly… pass the chocolate!

          • Unfortunately (almost) anything will fall into ‘the law of intended consequences’ NO action is without a backlash, a sting in the tail, and anything will have scratchy areas at the edges. NO consciousness raising, and the status quo would continue for ever.

            Next time, I am coming back as a tree. – a woodland burial should ensure it. Assuming it doesn’t get flattened to create a car park (cue Joni Mitchell) No, YOU pass the chocolate,!!!!! I’m almost out of the stash which has been slowly, slowly consumed since Christmas.

            • Yep! I think you have the right idea – I never ever saw an oak calling an elm names or tweeting insults about a sycamore! Plus the cats could climb us and sleep in our branches. Hmm… well, all I have is a massive box of Maltesers (special offer in Sainsbury’s) – you’re welcome, but they might feel a bit out of place among your posh chocs…

            • Oh GOOD move (the Maltesers – all yours, you know I only slaver over dark chocolate. They are all yours.

              Yes, trees (except for eucalypts ) are remarkably tolerant – eucalypt leaves poison the ground and prevent anything else growing under them. Very territorial! (though still, a lovely tree) But probably the tree most inclined to have voted for Brexit……………

              The oak, offering shelter to so many other species, lives in valued community (Remainer)

            • Oh, what a shame! I’d have loved to have shared them with you too! Oh well, I’ll think of you while I’m eating them instead…

              Hahaha – if even the trees start taking sides in the neverending Brexit saga, I’m off to live on a desert. I’d move to Canada except it’s too near America. Mars might be the only solution…

  5. It is disturbing, isn’t it, FIctionFan, to read those casually (and thus, even more disturbing) racist descriptions. I’m not surprised you found that so distasteful. I’ve never been a fan of the book, either, and not just because of that. I really appreciate your candor about your opinion, too. I wonder sometimes about some of the books that are placed among the ranks of ‘great books…’

    • You’re right – the casualness is what it makes it so disturbing. The built-in assumption that the reader will share the attitudes of the author. Sometimes I can make allowances for different times, but honestly some of the language Mitchell uses is so demeaning and dehumanising. Yes, sometimes even when I don’t like a book, I can see why it might be considered great, but I’m afraid with this one, I couldn’t at all. And there may have been a time when I’d have forced myself to read the other 850 pages, but… well, life is short, and my TBR is long… 😉

  6. Great review! I read this many years ago, but didn’t finish it for the same reason. I get that it is a classic book. But to each his own. However, I enjoyed the movie, though I saw it only once and wouldn’t see it again.

    • Thank you! Ah, I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t make it through! Yeah, I don’t get it with this one, but then lots of people no doubt hate books I love too. No accounting for taste, eh? I loved the movie when I was young, but after this experience with the book, I think I’ll leave my memories of the film as they are…

  7. I’ve begun to get rid of some of the more dated books in my tbr too, as I think I’d probably feel the same way, there’s things now you can’t even fathom that people could sit through and appreciate. Great review, so so honest!

    • Thank you! 😀 Yes, it’s odd – sometimes I can make allowances for the different time and other times I just can’t. I think it must depend on the language the author uses or something – in this one, I just felt Mitchell was so demeaning to the black characters, as if they weren’t really human. Oh well, there are plenty of great books out there without struggling through the ones that don’t appeal…

  8. I never understood the appeal of this story, either in written or cinematic form. I can’t identify with any of the characters, for example. The author was writing to a different audience who weren’t going to cringe at many of the attitudes that stand out to modern readers.

    • I loved the film as a teenager but really for the romance between Scarlett and Rhett – I don’t think I thought about it any more deeply than that back then, and certainly had no feel for the causes of the Civil War and so on. But I doubt if I would enjoy the film any more than the book now. Yes, I found it disappointing though that she was so confident people would still share her attitudes as late as the late 1930s. Hopefully we’ve moved on at least a bit now!

      • The bad girl bad boy romance is also what appealed to my teenage self when I lived in Spain. The come back from nothing too.
        I too am more into finding books written by the defeated parties, or the black men and women, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God. And though by a white woman, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is such a different view of the South and its problems.

        • Oh, I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God! And Beloved, of course, which is an amazing book. I haven’t read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but it’s on my Classics Club list, so I’m glad to hear you think well of it. I hadn’t actually realised it was about the South.

          • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is in my top 5 favorite books. It’s unforgettable. They call it Southern Gothic, -it’s small Southern town human drama, with all you can think of, -racism, coming of age, comunism, religion tension, sexual conflict, marriage conflict, families, poverty, violence, love, alcohol…her writing it’s pitch perfect. I will never forget the opening sentence: In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. (I read it 3 or 4 times as I started the book. It was magical. Now, as I type it, memories of the book flood my mind. I must reread this soon.)

            • It sounds great! It was originally on my Great American Novel Quest list but since I still hadn’t got around to it, I stuck it on the Classics Club list so it wouldn’t get forgotten. I shall see if I can fit it in soonish… 😀

  9. I actually remember when I read this which was when I was in my teens and as you say times were different then and perhaps I had an interest in dresses and waist sizes (love the caption under the picture of Scarlett by the way) although I was never tempted to reread it. I think that you are right to avoid all further books that touch on this subject – even given allowances for the changing times it is hard to get past the casual racism.

    • I suspect I’d have enjoyed it in my teens – I certainly enjoyed the film. But I have far less patience now and also am far more aware of the race issues which really hadn’t hit Glasgow at all back in my teen years. Haha – I did take a real dislike to Scarlett this time round! Yes, I’ve tried with these older American books about race and slavery, but I find them really distasteful – much more than good old British racism, which I guess I’m just used to! 😉

  10. I couldn’t read this when I tried lo! these many years ago, and I’ve never managed to watch the film. I doubt I could cope with them now, either.

    • I enjoyed the film way back in prehistoric times, but I doubt if I’d enjoy it any more than the book now. Though at least it probably doesn’t have the author’s voice showing through, and it was that that bothered me most – “little black skull” – ugh!

  11. I have to confess, I’ve always loved this book, but maybe it helps that I first read it when I was about fifteen and was just swept away by the story without really noticing the flaws. I completely understand why you didn’t like it and maybe I would have had a similar reaction if I’d been reading it for the first time as an adult. Anyway, you’ve still had a more successful Classics Spin than me, as I haven’t even started my book yet!

    • I think it depends very much what age we are when we first read these books – I’m pretty sure I’d have enjoyed it if I read it back at the same age as I watched and loved the film. But events of the last couple of years have made me even less able to make allowances for this kind of casual racism than I used to be, which is a pity in some ways. Maybe eventually things will settle properly and we’ll be able to view all these books as safely “in the past” and be able to enjoy them again. Haha – you better hurry up then, if you’re going to get your post done before bedtime… 😉

  12. I think some Americans read books like this and call them great so that they can then pat themselves on the back and say “Look how far we’ve come!”. I read this book about 20 years ago for the first, though I had seen the movie already, and it was just kind of “meh” for me. All that Southern pageantry is fun but it’s mostly just showing off. I am proud to be an American but we have deep flaws just like every other culture.

    • I think you’ve got a point there, and I suspect us Brits do that too with all our books about the “noble savages” in the Empire. It’s funny – British racism doesn’t seem to annoy me as much as American racism, I suspect just because I’m more used to it, so maybe don’t notice it so much. Which isn’t really a good thing! Yes, the nostalgia for the old South is understandable, but maybe unfortunate. We’re all nostalgic here in Scotland about the Jacobites fighting the English, quietly ignoring the fact that that wasn’t really what happened and anyway we’d probably have been on the other side in reality! Bah! History! It should be banned! 😉

  13. Well, times have changed since the time depicted in the book and since it was written. I think it’s a good historical novel because it depicts its time accurately and shows a point of view not often recognized in fiction, at least when it was written. The content involving the people of color is certainly racist, but that is a reflection of both the time it depicts and the time it was written. I have never liked Scarlett O’Hara, and I don’t get carried away by the romantic plot as some do. I just think it’s an interesting book about an unfortunate time in our history. I wouldn’t rule out Uncle Tom because of this book. It had a completely different purpose. It was written by an abolitionist to show the cruelties of slavery. GwtW was written 80 years later to explain the point of view of the South toward the war and Reconstruction.

    • Oddly, I wasn’t nearly as bothered by the attitudes of the characters as of the author. It was her use of language that got to me – all that ‘little black skull’ stuff and the slaves ‘taking advantage’ of the masters who whipped them. I found it totally demeaning and depressing. I was thinking as I was reading that I’d have preferred to be reading a book written more contemporaneously with the events when I’d have found it easier to make allowances, or better yet a book written today about those same events. I did read Uncle Tom when I was very young – probably too young to really understand the full context. Maybe one day I’ll re-read it, but not for a long while… 🙂

  14. My mother-in-law was obsessed by this book (I think she fancied herself as Scarlett) and for that reason I swore I would never read it. I’m so glad that I’ve not missed anything, it sounds awful.

    • Hahaha! I think I may have fancied myself as Scarlett myself back in my teens, but happily no longer! I did think it was awful, but so many people love it that clearly I’m missing something about it. The idea of reading another 850 pages of it to find out what somehow doesn’t appeal though… 😉

    • Hahaha – my pleasure! 😉 It’s a pity because I did love the film back in the day, but I doubt if I’d get on any better with it than the book now! Ah well, fortunately I have another few books to read…

  15. This was my favorite book for years, but I read it about 40 years ago and I’m not sure I’d still like it as much as I did earlier in my life. I read a Pulitzer Prize winning book from the 1940s last year for CC Spin and I had a similar revulsion to it as you did to this book. Culture changes and our awareness does, too. It is time to take those books off the pile. When I read Huck Finn, I LOVED it. And it has some similar themes, but Huck grows to view Tom as a person, not just a slave. So many people can’t get past the use of n-word. I think it just needs a strong teacher to help the readers with the historical aspects.

    I read Kindred by Octavia Butler which also deals with slavery, but in a time-travel book. Interesting concept. I’d be honored if you took a look at my Kindred Review

    • I suspect I’d have loved it too if I’d read it back in my teens, when I saw and loved the film. But times do change and what wouldn’t have bothered me then does now, and sometimes I just can’t get past it. Part of it is that I know I’d hate to be a black kid being made to read this at school, even if the teacher was doing a great job at putting it in context. Again I enjoyed Huck Finn when I was young and struggled with it on a recent re-read. It’s not really the language that bothers me, or even race hate when that appears – it’s when the author depicts black characters as kind of dumb animals – it just makes me queasy. I’m not one for banning books – I do think it’s important people get a sense of how things were in the past. But my reading these days is for pleasure, and these books don’t give me that…

      Thanks for the link – I’ll pop over shortly. I haven’t read any Octavia Butler but have heard her name… 😀

  16. Do tell it as you see it FF, no holding back there! 🤣😂😉 Seriously, bravo for voicing your views with authority. Not that I’d expect anything else from you, of course 🙂 I have read this; I seem to recall it being ok – I was of an age when what mattered most was being able to say that I’d read it. I read War & Peace around the same time with the same response. ‘Nuff said… I certainly have never felt the need to read this again – whilst I have every intention of reading W & P again – properly.

    Am I right in thinking that you’ve mentioned Heart of Darkness somewhere along the way? It was my equivalent to GwtW in terms of my response to Conrad’s approach to the ‘natives’. It’s on my Classic Club list; I read it some time back yet I’m still avoiding a review. One day! Meanwhile, I have yet to start on my spin book: The Bell Jar. Still waiting for it from the library. Who knew it would be so popular!

    • Hahaha – if you’d seen the two posts I didn’t post, you’d know I really was holding back! 😉 I reckon I’d have been fine with the race aspects years ago though the concentration on frocks might still have bothered me. But the last couple of years have been full of so much hideous racist stuff my nerves are all a-jangle over it. Ha – good for you! I made it through W&P once, and that was enough for one lifetime – maybe if I’m reincarnated…

      Yes, I’ll be reading Heart of Darkness soon. It’s funny – he seems to be held up as both racist and anti-racist. My brother and I were talking about him the other night, and he was saying that he felt Conrad was being anti-colonial rather than racist. I’m intrigued – it’s always interesting when a book attracts such wildly divergent views. I can’t wait to read it now… Haha! Yes, it does seem odd that there would be a sudden run on The Bell Jar… I wonder if they’re all in the Classics Club… 😉

    • I might have loved it ten years ago too – though I think the tedious frocks stuff would have bothered me then too. But the last few years have been so full of racist stuff of one kind and another, I’m much more sensitive about it than I used to be, when I naively thought the worst was over. Thanks for the link – I’ll pop over shortly. 😀

  17. When a writer friend asked recently about books I loved in my youth that I’d since come to understand as problematic, Gone with the Wind was the first book that that came to mind. I was obsessed and — I admit — enamoured of this book as a teenager. It was the first book I’d read that combined history and narrative and I enjoyed it for that, as well as for the romance. I also remember seeing the film for the first time and an audible female sigh going through the cinema when Clarke Gable appeared at the bottom of the staircase as Rhett Butler. Although I haven’t read the book for years, I re-watched the film recently and agree that it hasn’t aged well. I imagine I’d have a vastly different response to the book if I read it now, too.

    • I wish I had read it when I was younger – I know my sensitivity to racism in books has grown, especially with the events of the last couple of years. I used to be fine with making allowances for it because I happily and naively believed the worst was over, but now I’m not so sure about that. I certainly loved the film and watched it several times in my late teens. But I haven’t seen it for decades and now don’t want to watch it again – I’d rather just keep the memory of when I could love Rhett and Scarlett without feeling guilty!

  18. I’m sorry you couldn’t get into this one, FF. I grew up in “Yankeeland” but with parents who were dyed-in-the-wool Southerners, so perhaps reading this at a young age confirmed the romanticism of a South that neither they nor I lived in. As you know, this book was published in 1936 (and the film in 1939), long before the sweeping changes brought about by the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. We Americans are still trying to come to grips with all those changes, and sadly, some are stuck in an era they never experienced. While we can’t afford to sweep all “the bad stuff” under the rug, I hope we’re big enough to read books, watch films, and listen to music in the context those creative efforts were composed under. Poor Margaret couldn’t have envisioned an Atlanta where blacks and whites work together, eat together, and even marry!

    • I’m sure I’d have loved it when I was younger and was in general more romantically inclined – and was way less aware of how some of these attitudes have still lingered. I know I romanticise our history of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites – all of which wasn’t really romantic at all and was mainly about various forms of religious persecution amongst other unpleasant things. I used to be better at making allowances for outdated attitudes on race, but I think it’s because so much has happened in the last few years, I find it much harder to think of it as “in the past” as I used to… maybe one day, eh? 🙂

  19. I read it in my very early teens – 13-14, when I was just as shallow as Scarlett – and she does mature and grow wiser over the years, although biting and kicking all the while. So yes, I did like it, and drew all the frocks from the film while I was about it, but I read it as a romance rather than a definitive book about the Civil War. Far too much nostalgia for the South!

    • I wish I’d read it in my teens too – I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it more then. I think the film made me nostalgic for the South too back in the day – I know I didn’t give the slavery thing a thought back then. I’m glad I’ve developed a bit more sensitivity over the years, but it does stop me enjoying a lot of books…!

  20. I’ve tried to read this book multiple times in the past and never got past the first couple of chapters – more from boredom than any other reason. I’ve never watched the movie, either, so it’s possible that I’m just a bad American. 😉 However, I think you should at least consider ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ which is a book of an entirely different type, despite its age. To my mind, it’s a book with much of a historical impact than more frivolous novels like ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Huckleberry Finn’. Although it has been probably a decade since I last read it, so maybe my memory is hazier than I think it is… 😀

    • A few people had said it picks up later on, so I stuck it out for 150 pages, but I was soooo bored! I know my post doesn’t really give that impression but it was the boredom more than anything else that made me abandon it. Hmm… well, OK, I’ll consider Uncle Tom, but not for a while! I did read it as a child but I think I was too young to understand it really and I don’t remember much about it. And I’ve become wary of these early American books about slavery… 😉

      • I don’t blame you! And the more I think about it, the longer it’s been since I actually read Uncle Tom (sometimes I forget I’m old enough that reading something in high school was quite longer than ten years ago…) so I could be misremembering it. But at the time I remember thinking that it wasn’t a book that pretended like slaves were dogs who actually enjoyed/needed owners, so that’s something!

        • Ha – at least you don’t suddenly realise it’s been nearly half a century since you saw a film! I’m still recovering from that shock! 😉 Well, that’s good – once I’ve got over this experience, I might reconsider…

  21. Like others, I have read this book a long time ago, I think I was about 13. I LOVED the film as a child, we’d watch it regularly (I think it came on broadcast TV annually when I was little if I’m not mistaken.) Because I was swept away with the romance story, and thought so highly of Vivian Leigh’s performance, I carried that over to the book. And at 13, I was unaware of how toxic and pervasive America’s racism problem is. So if I reread this now, I would probably have feelings very similar to yours!

    • I wish I’d read the book at around the same age as I saw the film back in my teens – I’d probably have loved it then. But like you I’m far too aware now that the race problems haven’t gone away and so it’s hard to kinda make allowances for a different time the way you can with some outdated attitudes in books. I did love Vivian Leigh though… and Clark Gable!

  22. I enjoyed this. I have not read it, and I always feel I will not like it. To me, it’s the romance, -on top of all the other problems you mention. I, however, respect those who love it. I think they purge the faulty story. I don’t think that liking this or Uncle Tom’s (which I read eons ago) makes us racists, but I am, like you, at a different age and I probably would be rolling my eyes and feeling upset at the passages you have highlighted.
    So sad to realize how many of our old titles are becoming obsolete. The movie I liked as a young person, but now my vision has changed, I am going to give myself permission not to read it.

    • It was the romance aspect I loved in the film and back then the race aspect would have washed over me completely. But I fear I’ve grown out of romance novels now and got very tired of Scarlett’s shallowness, on top of my other problems with the book. But yes indeed! I think it’s perfectly possible to love books like this without being racist! I realised that I’m much more likely to notice casual racism in American books than British ones – I guess our homegrown racism seems ‘normal’ to me, so I don’t react the same way – and that’s not a good thing! On the whole I’d like to be able to make allowances and enjoy these old books, and sometimes I can – but other times it’s just too much.

      • I am 100 % with you here. As a Spaniard, I agree with you, it’s always easy to spot biases in different cultures.
        I am also very put off nowadays by romance, shallowness, not to mention racism.
        I guess I was just trying to say that what people see in books at different ages and stages, I respect. (I can’t stand non readers dismissing books because they have non politically correct ideas. I think you understand where I’m going with this. I know great readers who love this book for intelligent and non racist reasons. That’s not us, lol

        • Yes, I agree – the books I enjoyed when I was younger aren’t necessarily the ones that would appeal to me now, but that doesn’t mean I think they’ve become ‘bad’ – I think we’re attracted to books that reflect our current interests to some degree. And yes – political correctness can be taken far too far and become almost as offensive as the thing it’s being ‘correct’ about sometimes! 😉

  23. I took an African and African American film class in college, and I remember thinking Paul Robeson’s singing in Ol’ Man River was just gorgeous. Thanks for pointing out the hypocrisy of Americans who love the romance between the main characters and are willing to ignore the racist tropes depicted within the pages, especially the mammy character. Hattie McDaniel won an Academy Award for her portrayal, the first black woman to ever do so. However, even in the 2010s, black women are still winning Academy Awards for portraying maids/mammys, for instance, Octavia Spencer in The Help.

    I’ve not read Gone with the Wind, but it’s a movie Americans rave over. I have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and while some slaves emphasize the injustice of being owned as property, the title character loves his master more than he loves himself. Ugh. However, Abraham Lincoln reportedly said that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel helped him decide to emancipate the slaves.

    • I’m glad to hear Hattie McDaniel got an Oscar – that’s something at least! My memory of the film was that the black characters – well, Mammy – wasn’t as horribly stereotyped as in the book, though I think the little maid was. But it’s so long since I watched it. I must say it is a great film, although changing attitudes would mean I’d probably feel as uncomfortable about it as the book now – pity! My hope is that one day racism will be so far in the past we’ll be able to watch and read these things again as historical curiosities – like reading about witch-burnings, etc.

      I love Paul Robeson, both his singing and the political stance he took. I always remember that he said he loved the USSR because it was the only place where people treated him as a man, rather than as a black man.

  24. I haven’t read Gone with the Wind but have seen the film, I don’t really have anything to add to the discussion except that it’s a great review and I won’t be tempted!

    • Thank you! Haha – I certainly won’t be twisting your arm to read this one! I did love the film back in the day, but I suspect I might feel the same about it now too…

  25. Oh dear. You disliked it even more than I thought you might. I read it so long ago that I can’t remember any of the details, but I think one of the things I liked about it then was how long it was (which is probably something I wouldn’t like anymore). But I hated Scarlet (and enjoyed myself hating her), so you’re not the only one who would like to have seen Mammy keep pulling those strings!

    • I used to love getting lost in long books too, and I still do if they’re interesting enough. But this one just wasn’t my kind of subject matter even aside form my other problems with it. Haha – I loved Scarlett in the film back in the day. But not any more! 😉

  26. As you know, I’m one of those who did enjoy this book & with a reread. First read age 20 – I loved the sweeping epic structure of the story – the strong female protagonists. The racism does hurt the integrity of the story though. I understand that completely.

    My recent reread was more of a psychological challenge. I realised that Scarlett was a perfect literary example of someone with histronic personality disorder. I have some on the edge of my life with BPD so I found it a fascinating read simply because of that.

    I know I won’t change your mind, life’s to short to read a book that’s not right for you. And now you know which genre to avoid from here on in – that’s a good thing too.

    • I’m almost certain I’d have loved it if I’d read it when I was younger. In fact, I know it’s the events of the last couple of years in America that have increased my sensitivity to portrayals of race – for most of my life I happily though it was mostly in the past, so could make allowances, but now I can’t help feeling these books feed into it in some way. Oh, well – hopefully one day it really will be in the past and these books can come back into their own.

      Interesting! I didn’t really get far enough with it to see how Scarlett developed when she met with real adversity – she was still pretty much being a spoiled brat at the point I gave up. I was tempted to skip ahead and just read the second half, but decided I’d had enough. Pity, though – it was one I had been looking forward to despite my joking about it when it came up in the spin.

  27. I think one of my favorite things about reading fiction from the past is being able to imagine living in a culture different from my own — reading about the motives of the male characters for joining the Klan was interesting not because I like the Klan but because I can see the humanity and understand the (possibly irrational) fears of a ruling class now suddenly in free fall. It’s something I never thought of before having just read about Reconstruction from the Northern point of view. I think Mitchell gives us a more complex view of the times. I don’t need to agree with the slant of a book to enjoy it. But everyone has different reasons for reading fiction.

    Something about closing one’s mind to any writer based on their skin color unsettles me — but obviously it’s your right to do it. 🙂

    • I’m afraid when the writing is banal and what the book mainly talks about is frocks I don’t feel I’m getting much interesting insight. I know a lot of people say it improves further on, but frankly the idea of another 900 pages of her tedious clothes obsession and demeaning language portraying black people as, not uneducated, but downright stupid and more domestic pet than human was more insight into her psyche than I really wanted!

      Haha! To misquote a rather famous man, I’m not choosing to ignore them because of the colour of their skin but because of the content of their character… 😉

      • Haha! The content of their character–that’s a good point. Yes, Scarlett’s character definitely leaves a lot to be desired, but there are so many scenes that really do capture the horrors of war (though Scarlett only sees them through the lens of her selfishness).

        • It’s a pity it’s the book everyone points to about the Civil War – there’s plenty of room for better ones, I think. Hopefully ones that don’t sound quite so nostalgic for the good old days of slavery…

            • I think it’s because a significant number of Americans still seem to be suffering from misplaced nostalgia – like wanting to force the descendants of slaves to walk past statues of the men who fought to keep their forebears enslaved, because it’s part of their “heritage”. And I fear much of the early literature plays into that, so best wishes for trying to show a better side of America… 😀

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