Friday, June 13, 2014

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell // Do You Have Gumption?

I finished Gone With the Wind yesterday, and goodness, that is some book! I know it was a reread, but I got ever so much more out of it than I did at 11.

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?



  1. Self-reflection is defeinitely a good sign. I love your thoughts here on Melanie and her "gentle gumption." I've always felt I'm most like Ashley, among the four. But a part of me thinks I could be Scarlett... if I had to. I'm not sure I could be Melanie, but I'd want to be.

    1. I glad you liked my post! :-)
      My mom believes that I could be like Melanie if it came down to it, but then again, she is my mother. I hope that I ultimately never have to find out.

  2. GWTW commands numerous rereads, in my case, because it is too large to wrap my little brain around. I read it once, but it will require rereads definitely. As you said, you got more out of it the second time around.

    I identified with Scarlet mostly b/c of my rebellious side. However, she was much more courageous than I think I would ever be; and if ever my world crumbled, I foresee myself falling apart. But one never knows until they are in that situation.

    1. Oh I know I'm going to end up reading it at least a third time at some point in my life. My aunt reread it so many times that her copy fell apart at the seams and my cousins had to buy her a new one!

      I have a feeling that we all probably have more fortitude than we think we do...

  3. I wonder if Scarlett and Melanie are the two extremes of gumption...and that most of us fall somewhere in the middle :-)

  4. I read "Gone" back in high school, when I was quite the southern romantic and obsessed with all things Civil War. I remember being scandalized by all of Scarlett's husbands and children; she was not born for family life, that's for sure! I think it's been 12, 13 years now since I last read it. Since I'm embarking on a survey of classics in American literature, I may have to incorporate it!

    1. Ooooh definitely do! It's one of the greats :-)

  5. I feel like I'm missing out. I've never read Gone with the Wind, but Scarlett and Rhett are always mentioned. I like this Melanie character I've never heard of and I like the way the book has made you reflect. Definitely a sign of a good book.

    I read Alias Grace for the Spin. While she didn't make me reflect on myself, she had me thinking.


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