In 1936, Margaret Mitchell was asked what her novel was about. This is her response:
"If the novel has a theme, it is that of survival. What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong, and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; other don't. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn't."The split between those with gumption and those without is pretty clear in the novel. Scarlett has gumption, that's for certain, and so does Rhett. Ashley doesn't, and neither does Mr. O'Hara, despite all his bombast. And then we come to Melanie. Does Melanie have gumption? You wouldn't think so, in the beginning. But as we progress further into the novel, we, along with Scarlet, discover things about Melanie that we would never have expected. She has her own kind of hidden, gentle gumption, almost more powerful than Scarlett's because it isn't obvious at first.
Scarlett has gumption and she knows it. She knows that it has helped her get where she is, and she is proud of it.
Melanie has no clue of her own strength and does not realize how many people depend on her.
I think that's the ultimate contrast in the book - Scarlett vs. Melanie, selfishness vs. selflessness, pride vs. humility. Everything Scarlett does is for herself and to further her own goals - everything Melanie does is for others.
I'm not at all like Scarlett - I can't just GO DO THINGS, and suddenly make friends with my enemies because that'll help me get where I want to be. I'd like to think that I'm rather like Melanie, but part of me is nervous that I'm actually more similar to Ashley. I haven't been tested yet.
If my world was completely torn apart, and nothing was as it used to be - what would I do? If nearly everyone I loved was gone, and I couldn't depend on anyone except myself, would I break down like Mr. O'Hara? Would I push it to the back of my mind to think about tomorrow and move ahead like Scarlett? Would I sit there wishing for the good old days to come back like Ashley? I'd like to think that I'd just go along calmly and loyally like Melanie, but a small part of me thinks that I might not be strong enough. I can see myself turning into the nostalgic, scared Ashley, who can't deal in a new, harsh world.
It sort of scares me. I'm living in a sort of perfect bubble right now, really, and I really don't want to have it popped. My grandmother and great grandmother had their bubbles popped, when World War II came to their small town in Ukraine. My great-grandma had Scarlett-like gumption, with a bit more selflessness. My grandma is very much like Melanie, to this day.Their gumption is what brought them here and what helped them survive. Would I have been able to do the same?
This post is turning into more of a self-reflection than a book commentary. But I suppose that's a good sign - excellent books make you reflect on your own soul. And Gone With the Wind is certainly an excellent book.
Have you read Gone With the Wind? What do you think of it? And how do you think you would fare if the-world-as-you-know-it crumbled around you?