Visiting the Margaret Mitchell house in Atlanta inspired me to reread, and I’m so glad I did because I got a completely different and much deeper reading experience the second time round. I feel like I only skimmed the surface of the book the first time and missed out on so much of what is wonderful about it. So rather than providing a synopsis or a typical review, I wanted to write about what extra I got out of it on the reread.
I found that it was almost impossible to pin down what Margaret Mitchell actually thought about a range of issues. Like Rhett, she both mocks and romanticises the old Southern society, making her true feelings hard to work out. This is also true of the main character Scarlett; Mitchell both builds her up and tears her down, at some points applauding her for breaking out of the prim world of women and at others mocking her for her greed and lack of morals.
One question I thought about was – can a book be racist if it is only portraying the ideas of people living at the time? The patronising way Scarlett and other Southern characters talked about their slaves did grate on me after a while, but maybe that was the point? Although I do have to admit the way Mitchell wrote about the Ku Klux Klan as merely disgruntled Southern gentlemen making a point against oppressive Northern rule, almost as if it has nothing to do with race, was hard to swallow.
Another question– can a woman like Scarlett be called a strong women if she sometimes gets her way by fluttering her eyelashes and relying on the men?
I enjoyed how there are no simple answers to any of these questions in the book, just as in real life it’s not easy to point out right vs. wrong. Mitchell did a good job of showing how complex the Civil War and reconstruction was, and how difficult life was at that time for everyone caught up in it. If you haven’t read it yet, I would highly recommend it.
Score: 5 out of 5