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Old 02-26-2010, 02:15 PM   #31
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Although the two characters are nothing alike, when I think of Scarlett's strength, I am reminded of another strong female character, Erle Stanley Gardner's Della Street from the Perry Mason books. I remember one scene in particular (although the book's title escapes me) where Perry and Della walk straight up to a door guarded by a ferocious dog. Because neither Perry nor Della showed fear, and because they boldly walked past the canine caretaker as if they owned the place, the dog accepted their alpha status did not molest them.

I'd be afraid to test how well that would work outside of novels, but I do remember that the pit bull we once owned got loose one day and ran up behind a woman who was walking down the street and began to bark. The woman spun around and pointed her finger in his face. I was too far away to have any idea of what she said, but Cain's response was clear. He shut his mouth, tucked in his tail, and plainly said in doggie-body language, "Yes ma'am. Sorry, ma'am. Won't happen again, ma'am."

Then again, Cain always was all bark and no bite ... fortunately!
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Old 02-27-2010, 08:11 AM   #32
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105 pages in and I give up. I just can't get past the characters - although colourful described I dislike them. And I just can't be bothered reading this book again when I dislike the characters so much.

I will however follow the discussion as I am interested as to why everyone thinks this book is so great.

Soz, total failure here
I've just started Gone With the Wind and I've gotten to about the same page. I'll finish it. It might take awhile. But I don't much care for the world Mitchell creates in the novel. You've got the upper classes with Scarlett's family and friends, the Negroes and beneath the Negroes (because even they need someone to look down on), the Poor White Trash, who are so barely human they might as well be in an. H. G. Wells novel.

I want the North to come in and wipe these people out, which obviously isn't the author's intended reader response.

I'm finding Mitchell's attitudes on race and class sort of repulsive but the novel's entertaining and readable enough I'll keep going and also because if I commit to reading a 1000 page novel, then I'm gonna do what I can to finish it.
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Old 02-27-2010, 08:21 AM   #33
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To her credit, the characters created by Margaret Mitchell, black and white, are for the most part fully drawn and three-dimensional. I don’t see intentional malice in her characterizations, and there are instances in the book where the slaves are shown to have better sense than their owners, but still I see a lot of bias. I’m not trying to judge her, but rather understand her and the times in which she wrote. As a veteran, I know how the ravages of war can color our political outlook, and the ravages and horrors of this war were particularly devastating to Southerners for generations after the fact.
Every author is of course a product of the society in which he or she grew up, and we certainly shouldn't blame them for having attitudes which different from our own. In the words of Leslie Hartley:

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Old 02-27-2010, 08:31 AM   #34
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Slavery is such an emotion-laden topic that I don't know if we'll ever get an unbiased picture of what life was like under the American system. Furthermore, if we are ever presented with such a picture, how would we recognize it?

The horrors spoken of in Uncle Tom's cabin were all real. There really were people who used whips, chains, and dogs on slaves. The only question is how widespread these horrors were. Even in Harriet Beecher Stowe's book many slaveholders were depicted as kind and caring.
You may like to read Dickens' "American Notes", which is a record of a journey he made through America in 1842. He has a lot to say about slavery in that book, seeing it as an "outside observer".
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Old 02-27-2010, 09:24 AM   #35
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Every author is of course a product of the society in which he or she grew up, and we certainly shouldn't blame them for having attitudes which different from our own. In the words of Leslie Hartley:
Well said, Harry.

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You may like to read Dickens' "American Notes", which is a record of a journey he made through America in 1842. He has a lot to say about slavery in that book, seeing it as an "outside observer".
Thanks for the recommendation. It sounds interesting.

Life under the slavery system life was uncertain and a slave's power of choice was extremely limited. As a slave, you had to please the master if you didn't want to end up being sold off and separated from your family and loved ones. Even under the best of masters, your life could be devastated by a downturn in your master's fortunes that forced unpleasant financial decisions upon them. That being said, many slaveholders seemed to hold paternalistic attitudes toward their slaves and believed, or at least sold themselves on the belief that slavery was best of all possible worlds for blacks as well as whites.

Human beings have always been adept at rationalizations, and I don't wish to judge too harshly those in whose shoes I've never walked. As for the institution of slavery, that's another thing altogether, and I have no reservations about labeling it with a blanket condemnation.

I believe our third president—himself a slaveholder—had it right when he said, "The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting depotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other...."

Further words on that topic (from that same document) seemed absolutely prophetic:

"Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."

— Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), “Notes on the State of Virginia” (1781-1785).

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Old 02-27-2010, 08:50 PM   #36
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I've just started Gone With the Wind and I've gotten to about the same page. I'll finish it. It might take awhile. But I don't much care for the world Mitchell creates in the novel. You've got the upper classes with Scarlett's family and friends, the Negroes and beneath the Negroes (because even they need someone to look down on), the Poor White Trash, who are so barely human they might as well be in an. H. G. Wells novel.

I want the North to come in and wipe these people out, which obviously isn't the author's intended reader response.

I'm finding Mitchell's attitudes on race and class sort of repulsive but the novel's entertaining and readable enough I'll keep going and also because if I commit to reading a 1000 page novel, then I'm gonna do what I can to finish it.
Good on you for finishing it. I just don't enjoy the book. I can see where she is going with it and that it is a good description of what the south was (apparently). I just dislike Scarlett too much - and why read a book I don't enjoy. So I concede on this one quite happily. I tried and didn't like it. Would be interested to know what you think at the end of it.
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Old 02-27-2010, 10:41 PM   #37
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I can understand how people can be put off by the politics of Gone With the Wind, but in my humble opinion the storytelling is excellent and the characters are as fully drawn and interesting. I guess I'll just have to file this under everyone has different tastes; but for the life of me, I don't see how anyone can not be drawn into this story.

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Old 02-28-2010, 08:20 AM   #38
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I can understand how people can be put off by the politics of Gone With the Wind, but in my humble opinion the storytelling is excellent and the characters are as fully drawn and interesting. I guess I'll just have to file this under everyone has different tastes; but for the life of me, I don't see how anyone can not be drawn into this story.
I can't explain it either - just everytime I started reading the book again it was like a chore. I got no enjoyment out of it at all. And it's not as if the story reveals anything new - there are other books about that area. I just dislike it. Couldn't explain it for the life of me appart from a thorough dislike for the characters.
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Old 02-28-2010, 09:44 AM   #39
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I can understand how people can be put off by the politics of Gone With the Wind, but in my humble opinion the storytelling is excellent and the characters are as fully drawn and interesting. I guess I'll just have to file this under everyone has different tastes; but for the life of me, I don't see how anyone can not be drawn into this story.
I'm drawn into the story. Mitchell does an amazing job of describing that world and that era. I live in the Charleston area so on that local level, it's fascinating reading because what Mitchell is writing about is still relevant today. So I'm not finding it difficult to read. It's just I'm finding Scarlett so unsympathetic--maybe she grows but right now she's insensitive and solipstic almost to the point of being mentally disturbed; she doesn't even care that her husband died--and Mitchell's politics so dubious that I'm reading Gone With the Wind at a distance, almost feeling a bit queasy at times, like I'd be better off reading Dickens or something.
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Old 02-28-2010, 11:56 AM   #40
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I'm drawn into the story. Mitchell does an amazing job of describing that world and that era. I live in the Charleston area so on that local level, it's fascinating reading because what Mitchell is writing about is still relevant today. So I'm not finding it difficult to read. It's just I'm finding Scarlett so unsympathetic--maybe she grows but right now she's insensitive and solipstic almost to the point of being mentally disturbed; she doesn't even care that her husband died...
GWTW taught me a lot about the origins and aftermath of the American Civil War, maybe that helped make it a more appealing book to me than to those who already had a good knowledge of it.
What particularly surprised me was how funny parts of the first third of the book were. Scarlett's self-centredness provided a rich vein for humour.

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...Mitchell's politics so dubious that I'm reading Gone With the Wind at a distance, almost feeling a bit queasy at times, like I'd be better off reading Dickens or something.
Now you mention him I think, in encompassing practically the whole range of human emotions and experiences against an epic backdrop, Mitchell achieved something Dickens himself would have been proud of.
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Old 02-28-2010, 02:10 PM   #41
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One thing I find redeeming about Scarlet is that when the chips were down, she could be depended upon. It took a lot of courage to stick with Melanie when she was having her baby as the Yankees were ravaging the town. It would have been so much easier to flee with the rest of the people, but she stayed there in the midst of intense danger. It could be said that her motives weren't pure--that she was only doing it for her love of Melanie's husband Ashley--but the fact remains that she stayed by her at great risk to her own life.

Likewise, all those folks at Tara and elsewhere who depended on her for financial support could always count on her to come through. She never let them down.

Yes, she was self-centered, vain, and self-serving, and what she said to Rhett after Bonnie's death was unforgivable; but she also had some admirable qualities, and possessed a great deal of inner strength.

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Old 03-01-2010, 04:23 AM   #42
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One thing I find redeeming about Scarlet is that when the chips were down, she could be depended upon...
But she did desert her post at the hospital; and at the end of the book she runs away after the death of Melanie.
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Old 03-01-2010, 07:34 AM   #43
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But she did desert her post at the hospital; and at the end of the book she runs away after the death of Melanie.
She never realized until it was too late how much she depended upon Malanie's inner strength. Perhaps subconsciously this was another reason why she stood by Melanie under fire.

All I was trying to show was that she was a complicated character. Like Rhett, she had major character flaws, but she wasn't all bad.

Speaking of Rhett Butler, I think the best thing about him was his love for his daughter Bonnie. Certainly a daughter could ask for no better parent than he was to her. The other thing I liked about Rhett was his radical honesty. He always called it like he saw it and let the chips fall where they may.

The worst thing about Rhett Butler? War profiteering and killing a newly freed slave for no greater offense than being "uppity" to a white woman. Mr. Butler could be very inhumane.

Best Rhett Butler line? If not “My dear, I don’t give a damn,” then certainly it was "That's your misfortune," after Scarlet finally declared her love for him. Ouch! I could feel that from my house!
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Old 03-01-2010, 07:46 AM   #44
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The worst thing about Rhett Butler? War profiteering and killing a newly freed slave for no greater offense than being "uppity" to a white woman. Mr. Butler could be very inhumane.
I thought 'uppity' was a euphemism for some sort of assualt that couldn't be specified in polite society. Freed slaves were quite often described as behaving insolently towards women, without being murdered for it.

Melanie's second pregnancy is a bit of a puzzle to me; I struggle to believe Ashley would have got her pregnant, or that Melanie would have risked leaving Beau motherless.

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Old 03-01-2010, 08:08 AM   #45
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I thought 'uppity' was a euphemism for some sort of assualt that couldn't be specified in polite society. Freed slaves were quite often described as behaving insolently towards women, without being murdered for it.

Melanie's second pregnancy is a bit of a puzzle to me; I struggle to believe Ashley would have got her pregnant, or that Melanie would have risked leaving Beau motherless.
I'm from the South and in my childhood segregation by law of schools, restaurants, water fountains, bathrooms, et cetera was the rule. In those days, whenever someone spoke of an "uppity negro", it invariably referred to a insolent black person who "didn't know their place." I've never known it to be used as a euphemism for anything worse. That isn't to say that there couldn't have been different connotations for the word in the late 1800s.

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