Described as “unsurpassed” by the Washington Post, one of the greatest love stories of all times, the only book penned by Margaret Mitchell, this monumental epic remains the most revered American saga, even after more than 50 years of its initial publication.
Being a romantic drama with the background of war, Mitchell aptly plays with the emotions and feelings of various characters. She makes the reader see what she is showing and feel what she wants her characters to feel. The book shows a considerable amount of historical research and gives a vivid description of the fall of Atlanta in the American Civil War (1861-1865), and the devastation afterwards.
Set in South America, the story begins with a description of a charming 16 year old girl, Scarlett O’Hara, who is one of the leading protagonists. The story follows 12 years of Scarlett’s life and her experiences with her family, friends, lovers and enemies, before, during, and after the war, and of course, her various encounters and experiences with the leading man, Rhett Butler.
Scarlett goes through various phases which life offers; love, jealousy, contempt, marriage, motherhood, widowhood, poverty, remarriage, then again, motherhood, widowhood and remarriage, aided in each and every phase by Rhett. When she falls in love with someone else, Rhett becomes a witness. When she becomes a widow and longs for her old social life, he helps her break the norms and live life on her own terms. When she is poor, he tries to help her when he can. When she once again loses the safety of matrimony, he supports her by marrying her. He does everything in his power to make her happy, though he never admits he loves her. Scarlett, meanwhile, thinks she hates him and whatever he does; he does it for a reason, with an evil intention.
Mitchell also emphasizes on the value of land, as is shown by this statement made by the protagonist’s father: “The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts”. She seems to know the value that land holds in the heart of a planter. Together, they defy the society and its old rules, but hardly does she realize that they are so alike. She knows he is the only person with whom she can be brutally honest, and completely herself, yet she does not understand him. He constantly looks at her and searches for some deep emotion hidden within, but being unable to find it, gives up at last.
The writer has examined the effects of War on the old guard of the South and has very efficiently described the culture and traditions of those times. It not only gives the story the exact background it requires, but also lets the reader travel back in the 1800’s and experience life as it was then lived.
Margaret Mitchell leaves the impact of the story not on the reader’s mind, but on their hearts as well. She has firmly proved that Scarlett and Rhett are the two most unusual lovers in the world, if there ever can be; and if you want to know what happens to their unusual love story, you’ll have to grab a copy of the book and read it.