Sunday, October 25, 2009


I have been a fan of the movie Gone With The Wind since the first time I saw it in the 1960s in Houston, Texas. It tells the story of the War For Southern Independence from a distinctly Southern point of view, and is a classic that is considered the all time ticket seller in movie history. As much as I love the movie, until recently I had never read the book upon which the movie was based, Margaret Mitchell's epic adventure first published by Scribner in 1936. The author won the Pulitzer Prize the next year and it has sold over 30 million copies since then. Even today it reportedly sells about 200,000 copies a year.

As good as the movie is, in my opinion, the book is even better. You get a lot more historical background in the book, more characters, a fuller explanation of the character's motivations than in the movie, and more detailed descriptions of the time and places depicted. The book is well written. Margaret Mitchell was obviously a master story-teller with the written word. A native of Atlanta, Ga. born in 1900, Mitchell knew one of her Confederate veteran gandfathers and heard numerous stories from other veterans and female members of her family that lived through the war. She had an excellent grasp on the history of the Atlanta campaign, around which of the book revolves. She died an untimely and tragic death in 1949 when struck by a car while crossing the street in Atlanta.

Mitchell tells the story from a woman's view point, which is both the civilian side of the war and reconstruction. I've always been most interested in the battles, generals, soldiers, etc., and haven't really read much about the war from a civilian view point. I learned a lot about the civilians and how they interacted with the armies by reading Gone With The Wind. The book tells that side of the war and reconstruction much better than does the movie. The agonizing hardships suffered by women, children and the elderly is heart-wrenching. It also shows just how dedicated the majority of the population of the South were to the cause of Southern Independence, and the lengths to which they were prepared to sacrifice for it. The soldiers of the South held Southern women in high esteem because they knew how much they had sacrificed, as well as the men in uniform.

I also appreciate what the book and movie do to make sure the traditional Southern view of the war are kept alive in popular culture, generation after generation. Political correctness has become so vile, poisonous and deceptive, lies about the South and the Confederacy are now accepted by many people as the truth, because they've heard only one side of the story -- and that is the biased Northern side.

But most of all this was just a very enjoyable book about engaging characters, exciting action and a dramatic story from one of nation's most important periods of history.

GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell; 1936, Scribner (Simon & Shuster) New York, N.Y.; 1048 pages; $28 hardback.

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