by Margaret Mitchell
First sentence: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”
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Content: There’s mild swearing, and a LOT of the n-word. Take it for what you will. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.
I first read this when I was 15 or 16. I don’t remember why I picked it up, just that I did. I don’t remember what I thought of it, but it couldn’t have been much, since I really had no desire to ever visit it again. (I think I’ve seen bits of the movie.)
We picked this one for my in-person book group, partly because no one had read it in a long time, and partly because Samantha Ellis wrote about it in How to Be a Heroine. And so I began the slog.
Because it was a slog. It’s so sexist and racist, I couldn’t stand to read it for long periods of time. It really is Old South — and there’s still a lot of the Old South in the south — and that’s just hard for me to understand. Eventually, I took to looking at it as a sociological study: why was the Old South the way it was. Why couldn’t they shake their prejudices and adapt? Why were they still stuck in the Way Things Were and that’s they way They Always Should Be?
And Scarlett… on the one hand, she’s an incredibly feminist character: a person who is willing to do what needs to be done, in the face of the Patriarchy and Public Opinion; a person who flies in the face of convention. It’s amazing how modern she is.
But she’s also mean and cruel and opportunistic. And hung up on a fantasy that she needed to move past.
Maybe, though, that’s the point? That only the cruel people are successful? I don’t know.
In the end, I didn’t like it, not just because of the content, but because it was SO LONG. Seriously: knock 700 pages off of this book and maybe it’d be a decent story.
There will at least be a lot to discuss.