We all know the jokes about mediocre (or worse) movie adaptations. You’ve heard the comments too, I’m sure. “Did you see that movie? It didn’t do the book justice! I have much better ideas about this than the director who is being paid for his years of success and expertise!” I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea; I’m guilty of it too, as you’ll see further down. People aren’t fond of them. This is the first post in a series on the subject that I hope to continue in future posts. Now, Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite movies of all time. I do not watch movies, and I especially do not watch four hour long ones but I’ll sit down and watch Gone With The Wind with a cup of coffee and my knitting needles without hesitation, at any time. It’s also in my top 5 favorite books, ever. All it took was one read-through when I was 13 and I was in love. I plowed through it for a book report and never looked back; to this day it’s one of my most common “comfort reads” when I’m patiently awaiting an Audible credit or when I just can’t make up my mind what to read. Here I’ll talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of the book vs the movie. Without further ado…
Wade and Ella
The children of Charles and Frank were obviously not in the movie and that’s something I wish they’d included. I know the movie was already long but I always felt like not only did Wade humanize Rhett for us early on, he also made an important point about the effects of war on children. I’m no psychologist but anyone can see that Wade had a mild form of PTSD following the war. Years after the siege that drove Scarlett, Melly, Beau, and Wade out of Atlanta, Wade would run and hide under tables and in closets anytime he heard a sudden, loud noise in addition to having nightmares. Ella wasn’t nearly as developed as a character as she was much younger, but I definitely think at least Wade should have been included in the movie as he was one of my favorite parts of the book.
I don’t know about any of you, but the military strategy during the war was one of my favorite pieces. In the movie, we seem a little disconnected from the actual war. It’s always very far away and seemingly irrelevant to the situation at hand, with the exception of the siege and the night Atlanta falls. Scarlett always has something else to worry about, albeit important, the war is always sort of kept at bay. In the book, we are constantly kept up to speed on the progress and current state of affairs connected with the fighting elsewhere, even if the characters are in the dark. Only during letters and the charity ball do we hear anything of the front lines or how the south is faring out there. (more about this further down)
Ashley and Melanie Wilkes
It’s not a secret that my favorite character is Melly and I sort of maybe despise Ashley. Even as a child, I didn’t really care for Ashley that much even if I wasn’t quite clear on why. Of course, now that I’ve read the book in its entirety multiple times and have had time to reflect on Ashley as a character, I know it’s because I think he’s childish, spineless and unable to adapt. Even after Melly’s death, when Scarlett and Ashley are alone she feels overwhelmed at just the idea of dealing with this child for the rest of her life that will need to be taken care of and protected and she longs for her estranged Rhett. That being said, he’s much more so in the book than in the movie. In the book, Ashley’s monologues about the world and his future or lack thereof are much longer, full of “woe is me” moments and just general whiny aristocratic nonsense while the rest of the south is fighting off starvation and extreme poverty, Reconstruction, military rule and all the other lovely aftereffects of a civil war. I will hand it to Ashley, he is very self-aware. He knows what kind of man he is and he is hyperaware of all of his faults.
Melanie is hands down my favorite character. She may actually be my favorite character in any book. I adore how much love she has and her loyalty, if sometimes misplaced, to the people that she holds dear. I looked up to Melly as an adolescent as some would look up to a favorite aunt or a close, older family friend. I always wanted to be like Melly, to have her patience and her grace. Her ladylike sensibilities were never imparted to me via osmosis, no matter how many hours I spent between the pages of this book, but one can only hope. That said, I identify with Melanie more than any other character, Having struggled and still struggling with possible infertility myself, I hurt for her when she longs for another baby and when she decides to risk her own life to give birth a second time, I understand her willingness to, even if I also understand the rest of her family’s reluctance to allow her to follow through with it. I can’t rave enough about Melanie, but I’ll stop there.
Rhett and Scarlett
The differences between Rhett and Scarlett in the book vs the film is what inspired me to write this post in the first place. It really isn’t so much about their relationship, even. I feel like the focus of the story was shifted when the movie was made. I challenge you to go ask someone you know who hasn’t seen the movie what it’s about. I’ll lay you ten to one that they say “romance” or “love” before they say “horrible war that came within a gnat’s ass of destroying the entire country.” This is what bothers me so much about the film. The war is pushed aside, into the background where Scarlett’s numerous marriages (and only one of her children) take the forefront. The entire movie becomes “This badly behaved woman and all the men she marries for spite, money and other wrong reasons.” Why is that? The book is about death and war and the effects of the general populace being goaded into hating each other by orators and politicians who seek to profit from the suffering of the American people. Gone With The Wind is a story of survival against all odds, of one woman doing everything in her power to keep the people she loves alive and in the space of just a few years, becoming a wife, mother, and widow twice and suddenly being responsible for an entire household that she never gave a second thought to before. It’s SO MUCH MORE than just another love story.
Tell me what you think! Drop your opinions in the comments, do you agree or disagree? What are some of your favorite or least favorite movie adaptations?