“The usual masculine disillusionment is in discovering
that a woman has a brain.”
It’s always fun to pick up some juicy tidbits about a classic book that’s beloved by readers the world over, but had a dicey delivery. Gone With the Wind certainly fills the bill. Its author, Margaret Mitchell, actually modeled Rhett Butler — certainly a man’s man if ever there was one — on her mother! Maybelle Mitchell was a feisty feminist and tough-talking suffragist and I have to believe that the immortal Scarlett got a generous dose of gumption from mom as well.
A former flapper who came of age in World War I, Margaret began writing her novel in 1926. She never intended it for publication. Written over a decade, her story, which she saw as a kind of ongoing five-finger exercise, mushroomed into a massive stack of papers. Margaret considered herself a poor writer and was very private about her work. On a visit to Atlanta in 1935, Harold Latham, an editor and friend of the family, persuaded her to let him take a look. Margaret bundled up her pile of handwritten pages and gave them to him.
Though Margaret instantly regretted her decision to show her work, Latham didn’t. The romantic saga, which weighed in at 1,000 pages, was published in 1936 and became an instant best seller. When asked about its enormous appeal, Margaret mused, “Despite its length and many details, Gone with the Wind is basically just a simple yarn of fairly simple people. There’s no fine writing; there are no grandiose thoughts; there are no hidden meanings, no symbolism, nothing sensational — nothing, nothing at all that have made other best sellers best sellers. Then how to explain its appeal from the five-year-old to the ninety-five-year old? I can’t figure it out.” Well, hey, she must have been doing something right! How about a great story, great characters, great setting, great passions?