Margaret Mitchell’s only novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937, and is still going strong. In 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide.
But it is not universally loved. Many are outraged by the presentation of slavery, the often racist language, and the Southern-centric depiction of the Civil War. African- and Irish-American readers will find insults and disparaging portrayals plentiful among its pages. A careful consideration of historical context may dull the edge of the most inflammatory passages.
As a romantic novel, some reviewers find the book lacking in the usual distinctions of the genre. While the character of Rhett Butler is among the most dashing of literary suitors, there is no “happily ever after” ending; Mitchell leaves that hope open to speculation. In an interview, she once said, “For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult.”
The character of Scarlett, on the other hand, will find many modern readers happy with her self-determined feminism and rejection of traditional women’s roles.
Regardless of the reader’s politics, the story is captivating. In the book’s description, Amazon says “This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia.”