I continue to be very impressed. Mitchell is positively painterly in her descriptions of people and places. I love the people, and the clothing, the best. I’m not usually all that interested in clothes but the finery of Atlanta’s Civil War era society scene is awfully colorful, elaborate, and foreign to me. This second part of the book has closed in a little bit, I feel, to relatively few characters: Scarlett, Melanie, Miss Pittypat, and Rhett Butler being the features. Scarlett continues to be a character who is not likeable, exactly (I wouldn’t want to be her friend; not that she’d want to be mine!), but is fascinating and I have to say sympathetic – in the sense that I sympathize with her frustrations, even her desire for simplicity, joy, pleasure, attention. She’s human; I understand her. Melanie is less human because she’s so innocent and trusting; it almost stretches one’s credulity, although I guess Southern ladies were trained to be just that, so maybe it’s historically accurate. Miss Pittypat is definitely a caricature, but a well-formed one.
Captain Rhett Butler I find intriguing. I never did understand Scarlett’s passion for Ashley; he seems to be a pretty face and a romantic ideal, and little else. Pardon me for parroting Gerald, but they’re certainly not suited for one another. Rhett, though, should be just up Scarlett’s alley. He’s got spunk and attitude, not to mention he’s also handsome (several mentions of how BIG he is, too) and has plenty of money. Maybe they’re too much alike, with too much irreverence. Certainly he’s not ready to pay her the kind of attention, flattery, compliments, and silliness that she wants. But I find the prospect of Rhett for Scarlett to be much more exciting than the prospect of Ashley.
We’ve moved a little bit away from the slave characters, too, although we did get a brief sketch of “Uncle” Peter and his control over the household. My memory of Mammy dims, but I’m still bothered by a feeling that she (and many of the slaves depicted as loyal and content in their lot) are painted with a political perspective we no longer find appropriate.
Gone with the Wind continues to be a feat: of beautiful, evocative, fine writing and literary descriptions; of character sketches; of historical fiction with all the details; and of suspenseful drama that keeps me turning the pages. I have lots of other reading to do, so I’m putting this one down til the next readalong date (we discuss part 3 on Sept. 5), but with great difficulty! I am grateful that this readalong finally got me reading this classic. Its fine reputation is deserving.
As usual, don’t forget to stop by The Heroine’s Bookshelf for discussion of part 2, and please do join us if you can!