Walking Contradiction: An Introduction to Gone with the Wind

From Gone with the Wind Chapter Six:

She heard the soft muffled sound of his footsteps dying away down the long hall, and the complete enormity of her actions came over her. She had lost him forever. Now he would hate her and every time he looked at her he would remember how she threw herself at him when he had given her no encouragement at all… And the thought stung her to a new rage, rage at herself, at Ashley, at the world. Because she hated herself, she hated them all with the fury of the thwarted and humiliated love of sixteen. Only a little true tenderness had been mixed into her love. Mostly it had been compounded out of vanity and complacent confidence in her own charms. Now she had lost and, greater than her sense of loss, was the fear that she had made a public spectacle of herself… Was everyone laughing at her? She began to shake at the thought.

Her hand dropped to a little table beside her, fingering a tiny china rosebowl on which two china cherubs smirked… She picked up the bowl and hurled it viciously across the room to toward the fireplace. It barely cleared the tall back of the sofa and splintered with a little crash against the marble mantlepiece.

“This,” said a voice from the depths of the sofa, “is too much.”

Nothing had ever startled her or frightened her so much, and her mouth went too dry for her to utter a sound. She caught hold of the back of the chair, her knees going weak under her, as Rhett Butler rose from the sofa where he had been lying and made her a bow of exaggerated politeness…

“Sir, you should have made known your presence.”

“Indeed?” His white teeth gleamed and his bold dark eyes laughed at her…

Her temper was beginning to rise again at the thought that this rude and impertinent man had heard everything–heard things she now wished she had died before she ever uttered.

“Eavesdroppers–” she began furiously.

“Eavesdroppers often hear highly entertaining and instructive things,” he grinned. “From a long experience in eavesdropping, I–“

“”Sir,” she said, “you are no gentleman!”

“An apt observation,” he answered airily. “And, you, Miss, are no lady.”

This scene early in Gone with the Wind is one of my favorites in both the book and the movie. Not only do we get a great preview of what many of Rhett and Scarlett’s interactions are going to be like throughout the story, but we get a lot of insight into their characters.

I always enjoyed the movie Gone with the Wind–for nerdy reasons like history is one of my favorite subjects and that it is a groundbreaking example of epic filmmaking–but it was when I read the book for the first time that I really fell in love with the story. It is the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a complicated character, an anti-hero of sorts, full of contradictions and powerful emotions–at the same time driven by love and hate, selfish ambition and loyalty, the desire to be a great lady like her mother and the need to shirk old societal conventions in order to rebuild a life in the South destroyed by the Civil War. The book lets us read Scarlett’s thoughts and gives us insight into her motives that we can only get a glimpse of in the movie. Margaret Mitchell’s brilliant writing makes Scarlett a character you’ll find yourself rooting for as she drives you crazy at the same time.

Please Note: Like our last book, I have to issue a disclaimer about some of the language, but for different reasons. The word d@*n (if you catch my drift) is used by some of the characters, and because it’s set in Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction when it would have been a common term, there is use of the “n-word” as well. In my opinion, it doesn’t detract from the story or the novel as a whole, but I wanted to be sure no one has any surprises–especially for those of you who might be listening to the audiobook with kids around. 🙂

Gone with the Wind is a long book, but that’s why we’re taking two months to read it! You still have plenty of time, and it’s a great summer read. We’ll be meeting July 28 at Geist Park for a picnic. I really hope you all enjoy meeting Ashley, Melanie, Aunt Pittypat, Mammy, Rhett, and of course, Scarlett O’Hara.

Happy reading!

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