I saw the Gone with the Wind movie before I read the book by Margaret Mitchell. It’s one of the rare films that do justice to the book it’s based on and is worth watching on its own right. The casting is superb and every detail down to the smallest is carefully carried out; the underskirts had genuine lace in them, even though no one could see them. The music alone is memorable.
I therefore knew what to expect, plot-wise, when I picked up the book when I was maybe thirteen. Nonetheless, the experience was very different from watching the movie. There are details in the book that didn’t make into the movie – perhaps rightly so – but which conveyed the history of the period better. The characters came across differently too, though I tried to imagine Clark Gable as Rhett Butler throughout; the man in the book simply didn’t fit my notion of a suave rogue of Gable’s portrayal of the character. The drama is more dramatic too. Melanie’s deathbed and the events that led up to the final break-up of Scarlett and Rhett were more intense – perhaps also because I anticipated them.
Even though I knew it would happen, I was upset with the ending, just like countless readers before me. However, the book being more detailed, Rhett’s choice was perhaps more understandable. Besides, I had a vivid imagination and was perfectly able to imagine a happy ending for it.
I liked the book immensely. I remember giving a book presentation of it at school when we were asked to introduce our favourite books. Not exactly the best choice; the story is so complex that my narration was very rambling and much too long. I still remember the strained look on my teacher’s face when I went on and on with it.
Gone with the Wind is one of those books I should re-read as an adult. It has themes that I barely understood – slavery the most notable of them, but also the dynamics of Rhett’s and Scarlett’s very violent relationship, both watered down in the movie. Most likely the ending would make a better sense to me too.
There was a follow-up to the book, Scarlett, that was written by Alexandra Ripley and published in 1991. Scarlett and Rhett find their happily ever after, but the characters are pale imitations of the originals and utterly forgettable. To this day, I don’t remember how the two ended up together. I haven’t read the other sequels either.
Unhappy ending may be upsetting to readers, but it has ensured the book is one of the most memorable love stories of our time. Who knows, the next time I read the book, I may find the ending just as it ought to be. And if I don’t – well, I can always imagine it differently.
Here is a trailer for the movie for you. I think it captures the essence of the love story wonderfully.