Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
'Gone with the Wind' is an epic romance saga, set in the backdrop of the American Civil War and the subsequent period of reconstruction. The story follows the life of Scarlett O'Hara, a rich, carefree and coquettish young lady, who is thrown into poverty and despair due to the aftermath of war, and her strong resolve to survive and combat every adversity that comes her way.The title 'Gone with the Wind', refers to the enticing light of the bygone days, the carefree and innocuous past of the war-torn South, which, in Scarlett's words, is 'gone with the wind which has swept through Georgia'. It refers to the nostalgia of the ‘Old Guard’ South, and their incorrigible tendency to bask in their past glory, and unwillingness to accept any change.
‘Futility of War’ is the central theme of the novel. It is because of war, that the once rich and prosperous South is thrown into poverty, destitution and endless suffering. It is interesting to note, that both Scarlett and Rhett have the opinion that war is futile. They both realize that the so called patriotism is a form of insanity, which forces innocent lives to face the infernal war. As Rhett observes, ‘All wars in reality are money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it. Their ears are too full of bugles and drums and fine words from stay-at-home orators.’
‘Survival’ is another important theme of the novel. Scarlett, when she found Tara devastated by war and burdened by taxes, resolved that she would survive through all of this and adopted all possible means to revive Tara, be it marrying her sister’s beau, or running a saw mill, or befriending Yankee officers to further her business. As they say, ‘The fittest will survive’, Scarlett and Rhett survive, because they know how to adapt to changes brought about by war, and how to benefit from it. Ashley, on the other hand, is left completely broken and dispirited at the end of the war, because he continues to dwell in the past and is unable to adapt to his present lifestyle.
‘Love’, as depicted in the novel, is both elusive and powerful. Scarlett’s love for Tara provides her strength to fight obstacles. On the other hand, Scarlett incessantly pines for Ashley’s love, and is oblivious of the love which Rhett showers on her. Love eludes Scarlett throughout the novel, and she realizes it in the end, only to lose it.
‘Slavery’ has been shown in a very different light in the novel. Slaves are treated as family members, and are nursed and taken care of. The slaves are loyal and faithful to their masters, and often exert a certain level of authority over them. Mammy was a motherly figure, and would pamper as well as reprimand Scarlett when needed, as any caring guardian would do. Big Sam was loyal to Scarlett, and had come to her rescue when she had been assaulted by thugs at a shanty town. As Scarlett reflects, ‘There were qualities of loyalty and tirelessness and love in them that no strain could break, no money could buy’.
Lastly, the novel speaks about the ever-shining hope in the face of despair. Scarlett never loses hope amidst the stark adversities of life, and it is hope which helps her survive and pull through every obstacle that comes her way. Even after she realizes that Rhett was the man she had loved all along, and when he leaves her to seek solace in the ‘genial grace of days that are gone’, Scarlett realizes that she still has Tara, and ‘tomorrow is another day’, when she would think of some way to win Rhett back. Hence, although the star-crossed lovers do not re-unite in the end, the novel ends in an optimistic note.
‘Gone with the Wind’, with its fabulous plot, plethora of depth and array of strong characters, would always remain a timeless classic and would continue to shine as a literary marvel. This novel is highly recommended.