With so many reviews, discussion sites, a movie and a sequel devoted to this classic you may wonder what more I can contribute to the understanding and appreciation for this novel. First I will tell you that if you only know the story based on watching the film, then you only know half the story.
Much of the novel takes place after the end of the war during Reconstruction. It is during this period that the conflict between the main characters escalates. Scarlett is willing to sell herself to Rhett for $300 yet instead she betrays her sister by marrying her sister’s fiancé. Meanwhile Georgia’s politicians and landowners betray each other in an effort to, at first to survive, and later to thrive. Curiously this is foretold and accepted by Rhett when he explains to Scarlet that people make money when civilizations are created and some make money when civilizations fall.
As a backdrop to the struggles of the main characters Ms Mitchell takes her time explaining the disastrous federal Reconstruction policy designed to punish the south. Time and again Ms Mitchell points out the northern do-gooders who know better. It is this theme that is timely today. Washington DC, even today, is filled with elite do-gooders who have it all figured out for the rest of us. We just need give in or become more enlightened like them.
Like the novel’s carpetbaggers, scalawags, and profiteers the current Washington elites pick their winners; unions, mortgage holders, bankers, insurance companies, because they know better than the common folk about what needs to be done. Those who made bad home loans get at pass, while others who made their payment faithfully pay the bill. Reconstruction levied burdensome taxes on some, but not others. It froze wages at levels that made economic growth all but impossible. We are seeing the same thing today among private and public unions.
In 1937 “Gone with the Wind” won the Pulitzer Prize. Was the irony lost on anyone that at the same time, during the Great Depression, American would fall into a recession as a result of the misguided economic policies of the progressive elite who had, like Reconstructionists of 1865, frozen prices and wages and dictated production levels. By 1938, the United States, in the middle of the Great Depression went into a “double dip” recession, the same thing being reported today on the news. Art indeed mirrors life and quite often history repeats itself if we fail to learn from it. As summer comes to a close, consider reading or re-reading this timeless classic and while you do compare it the here and now.