Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gone With the Wind Readalong Part II

We are now into Part II of the Heroine's Bookshelf Gone With the Wind Readalong and the action has moved to Atlanta, where Scarlett has gone to stay with her dead husband's sister Melanie and his Aunt Pittypat.

I enjoy the description of the bustling young city of Atlanta, with its comparisons to the young widow Scarlett. Both are young and vibrant, and once Scarlett sees the excitement of the big city, she has no interest in going back to quiet, rural Tara. I found it interesting that the Atlanta of today is similar to the Atlanta of those days: a place that draws many people from other places in the South, the hub of activity. I liked the description of how the railroad lines grew out of Atlanta to connect the south outward.

We get to see more of Melanie, one of my favorite characters in the novel. At first, Scarlett sees Melanie as meek and mousy, but in Atlanta Scarlett sees another side to Melanie; she is unfailingly kind to everyone, and "always saw the best in everyone and remarked kindly upon it."

But we also see Melanie's strong moral sense of right and wrong. She is angry with the men who are more than able to serve in the army, but choose not to. She takes up for Rhett Butler, and when no one in Atlanta society will allow him in their homes, Melanie invites him to hers because he returned her wedding ring to her.

Her relationship with Rhett is one of the most interesting ones in the novel, and I think it is because they are two of the most honest characters; what you see is what you get, as opposed to Scarlett and Ashley, who try to hide their true selves, even from themselves.

The bazaar scene is fascinating. I felt like I was dropped into the scene and was eavesdropping. Mitchell does an incredible job placing the reader in this world. The descriptions of the clothes, the food, the music, the dancing- it all springs to life off the page.

I found what Rhett said about empires intriguing- "There's good money in empire building. But, there's more in empire wrecking." I think many people and corporations (Haliburton, anyone?) would agree. Some things never change.

The war has started to take its toll on the South. The scene at the telegraph office, where the lists of the dead are read is heartbreaking for many families, and it carries an emotional punch. I was particularly saddened by the deaths of the Tarleton brothers; how awful to lose them all.

When Ashley is taken prisoner during the war, he is given an opportunity to be released. If he renounces the Confederacy and goes to fight the Indians out west, he will be released. Scarlett does not understand why he won't do it and Melanie furiously turns on Scarlett saying that she would never be able to look at Ashley if he did that. Scarlett asks Rhett if he would do it and he says "of course". This scene really sets up how the character of these four people will influence what happens after the war.

Onward to Part III....

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