After finishing C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, four days late for our small group meeting last Friday, I picked up a perennial favorite, Gone With The Wind.
We’ve hosted a meeting at our home for years that discusses such topics as Darwinism, Artificial Intelligence, Philosophy, and how they impact our Christian worldview perspective.
This semester, the group selected the topic of dystopia (“A society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease and overcrowding.”) and discussed those we’d previously read:
Brave New World
G. Wells’ writings
Jules Verne’s writings.
But decided to read books no everyone had read before, and these are those we’ve looked at, so far:
We (by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the novel which influenced Huxley and Orwell)
Stand on Zanzibar (by John Brunner – honestly we “girls” didn’t read this.)
Blade Runner (by Nourse – not the movie…he sold the name to the movie producer.)
Forbidden (by Ted Dekker)
That Hideous Strength (by C. S. Lewis)
The Lathe of Heaven (by Ursula K. LeGuin)
Sixteen years ago, I married a Yankee who grew up in New York and didn’t, until after our wedding, reveal his belief that no one south of the Mason Dixon during the Civil War was a Christian. In all fairness, I hadn’t thought to tell him about my Gone With The Wind fascination or the antebellum era spoon in my collection. We’ve spent hours debating the one-hundred-fifty-year-old questions that all begin with “why?”
When I was young, my mother introduced me to GWTW. I’ve read it once a decade or so since. Each time, I see a theme I’d never noticed.
Perhaps it’s our small group’s focus on dystopia that made me look at GWTW differently. Is it possible it falls in the same category as other dystopias? Here are my reasons for believing this:
- Obviously, the story shows a society has been destroyed.
- “Reconstruction”, unfortunately, is managed by unscrupulous people instead of those of integrity, like Abraham Lincoln, and they made life miserable for most people.
- No one gets what he or she wants at the book’s end.
First, when Scarlett, finally realizes she’s not actually in love with Ashley, events take everything else she loved from her.
Melanie, sees things as they are but rarely is uncouth enough to state the obvious. No matter, she cannot have the one thing she craves…a houseful of children.
Mammy, jumped out at me in a fresh way, she might have been portrayed as the comic relief in the movie, but the book shows more complexity. Although her emancipation isn’t mentioned, she was freed about twenty-five percent of the way through, and she’s pragmatic enough to know that leaving would deprive her of power.
Ellen, Scarlett’s mother, realized as a teen she couldn’t marry the man she loved and chose to make everyone’s (Including the lower-class people who ultimately cause her death) lives good, without acknowledging her own pain.
Belle Watling? We don’t know her entire story, except hints that she and Rhett may have a son in a New Orleans boarding school. She’s willing to risk her livelihood to please him, but that doesn’t bring his love.
Speaking of Rhett, a man who does whatever he wants, never gets what he wants most…Scarlett’s love.
Ashley, the man Scarlett thinks she loves is not the wimpy character the movie shows…in the book he’s a strong, confident, attractive man who planned to free all his slaves when he took over Seven Oaks as the CEO of a billion-dollar corporation. He returns from the war with a broken body, spirit, and soul. (Coincidentally, Leslie Howard, the man who played this character in the movie died a war hero in WWII when the plane in which he rode with a man was shot down.)
As I thought about this, I discovered the book Ruth’s Journey: The Authorized Novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind is set to be released today, October 14, 2014. Ruth’s Journey pre-release is praised by The New York Times, which leads me to believe it will give politically correct worldview, not authentic to the era. I cynically assume I’ll be as disappointed by Ruth’s Journey, as I was by Scarlett in the 1990s. I doubt our small group would be interested in reading GWTW but stay tuned for my critique of Ruth’s Journey…but in the meantime, tell me who you think the true hero/heroine of GWTW is.
Is it cheating if I say I vote for Margaret Mitchell, the author whose writing eighty-two years later, makes us see the reality of the very un-politically correct era of Reconstruction and the only name in the book whose story ends happily?