Frankly, I have had little interest in reading fictions for decades. However, I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with a person just as beautiful as Vivien Leigh.
Now, who could motivate me to read Gone with the Wind -from cover to cover--better than Vivien Leigh, who came back to life once again?
The magnificent story of survival and love has touched the hearts of millions. However, talking about Gone with the Wind in 2017--a story from a time of crisis, the age of division-- is going to be inevitably controversial. Why talk about a novel, full of characters expressing sympathy for the Confederacy? What good there is talking about unsavory characters like Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, who are outright selfish and cruel?
Perhaps it's because Gone with the Wind is a story of gumption and love that is unconditional, self-sacrificial.
Like Rhett says, hardship either "makes people or breaks people." You either change and adapt, or perish. Some manage to stay alive. However, they are more interested in remembering "the good old days" than improving their situation.
Unlike others, Scarlett accept that the world has changed. She gets back on their feet and live on. She breaks golden rules and even puts herself in danger for doing so. Past no longer matters to her. For there always will be a chance that things will improve, and an opportunity to make up for the losses.
Scarlett's ordeal continues throughout the novel. She has suffered greatly, and lost many loved ones. Worse yet, her lover leaves her. But even with all the grief and sorrow, she gets back on her feet.
Her eyes are full of tears. Yet she tells herself, "After all, tomorrow's another day."
A review of Gone with the Wind cannot possibly omit discussion on love. The novel can be easily mistaken as a rosy love story of two lovers, tied together by a deep affection for one another, and overcoming many challenges together.
But in truth, the two protagonists--Scarlett and Rhett-- are nothing like that. What they do to others, to themselves, and to each other are often cold, nasty, and brutal. They do everything to protect what's theirs. They are both ruthless in getting what they want.
Some may find difficult to condone Scarlett or Rhett's actions. They certainly are not people of noble character, striving to do good in hard times. Throughout the novel, she never grieves her first husband's death. Young Scarlett only grieves because she is doomed to live as a grieving widow for the rest of her life. She is also cold to her children and exploits convict labor.
Rhett is no better. He has killed a man--more than few times. He refuses to marry a woman that he spent a night together and kills her brother in a duel. He uses war as an opportunity to become rich. He frequently visits Atlanta's most luxurious brothel. What's more, he openly flirts with Scarlett, a young, desperate widow.
But if Scarlett is truly heartless and selfish, why bother tending her nemesis Melanie during her delivery, while everyone was busy fleeing Atlanta? If Rhett was truly a "rascal" like Scarlett claims, why would he risk his safety for stealing a horse and helping Scarlett and others escape the city under siege?
Scarlett holds a grudge against Melanie for marrying Ashley, her true lover. Ironically, she keeps her promise to Ashley and looks after Melanie. For she has sworn her eternal lover to look after his wife and his child. Come hell or high water, she does not break her promise.
The relationship between Scarlett and Rhett is toxic, flirty, and erotic. From the surface, it does not look anything close to a self-sacrificial love. Both seem more interested in enjoying intimacy, or the excitement. But looking at closely, it becomes clear that he devotes his life to her. He is fully aware that Scarlett is longing for a chance to become Ashley's lover. He endures Scarlett's harsh words and unkindness. He continues to provide her everything she desires. Turns out all he ever wanted was her heart.
Like Scarlett and Rhett, there are people who provide everything to the ones who they love--even if their efforts are unappreciated. They sometimes get into nasty troubles for doing that. Such a foolhardy love, some may say. But such love commits people to do good. Perhaps a love of such character is what keeps the world going--especially in hard times.
Besides the stories of gumption, inspired by the real lives of war survivors, an epic portrayal of unconditional, self-sacrificial love is why millions love Gone with the Wind. The novel has a magical power to help distressed souls to get back on their feet and face the challenge head-on.
Follow Elliot M. Cho on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Emcho_25