Today my friends, we are going to be taking a look at a classic. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind has been one of my favorite books since I first read it when I was in 9th grade. I will not lie to you– it’s super problematic in a lot of different ways. However, I do believe that we can like something and still be able to be critical of it. That is something that has to be learned, and it took me a long time to realize that.
I did a book review over this during my sophomore year in college and the first thing the professor did was point out to me that I was defending a very controversial book in full. And since I was young and inexperienced, all I had to say back was, “Yeah, it’s a really good book.” I cringe to think that I used to be like that, but thankfully I had AMAZING teachers and peers that were willing to sit down with me and show me exactly why the book was controversial and problematic in the first place. They gave me the tools with which to think critically, and I now see that it is very important to be aware of problematic elements in literature. However, that does not mean that we have to completely dismiss the book.
First of all, the book was originally published in 1936. I will be the first one to tell you that that doesn’t excuse the problems with the book, but society as a whole was unfortunately more tolerant of racist depictions back in the day. The world view was different. I do not believe that this book would have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting published today, nor do I think it should. It’s a book about the American Civil War in the South, so of course, there are going to be slave characters. However, the slaves, with maybe the exception of Mammy, are written as very one dimensional characters. They’re written more as caricatures than as people with wants and needs of their own. Mammy doesn’t even get a name– they call her what her role in the house is. There are many scholars who have strong opinions on these problematic elements, and I strongly suggest taking a look at their work.
I was 15 when I first read the book, so I didn’t really pick up on any of that. What drew me in and made me fall in love with the book was the love story between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Basically what every 15 year old girl dreams about. Now that I’m older, I definitely see the problems in their relationship, but as a kid the whole book just seemed very fluffy and romantic.
Basically, I think you need to read this book because not only is it a classic, but it’s a good story. And after you’re done enjoying the good story, you get to go at it with a chainsaw and examine it with all the critical lenses. And if you can’t pick apart a book you love and admit that there are definite flaws in it, then what are you even doing as a reader?
Like something, but admit there are problems with it.
Kill your darlings.