I finished “Gone with the Wind” last week, for the fourth time. A marvelous masterpiece that stands firm as my favourite novel of all time.
“Scarlet O’Hara is not beautiful. But men seldom realise it when caught by her charm.”
There was no other book whose first sentence would be stamped in my mind so vividly. And I was caught by its charm from the very first line till the last, for more than 1000 pages. Beautiful prose and lively characters that spark in minutely detailed settings. Such a wonder of work. Each time, with age, experience and maturity, I found out more and more about the mastery display of profound knowledge of human psychology. I lived through the American Civil War, and through the life of each character.
At the first read, I was Melly. I was sweet and gentle, loved and protected by everyone around me. I never experienced meanness or cruelty of either life or people. Such an innocent and pure heart. I still remember in college, during one class, a lecturer said that there was a school of thought that men were born inherently devil, I couldn’t believe in my ears, I couldn’t understand it. How come can it be? I could see the good in everyone and if they did bad things, there were always reasons, always circumstances that led to it. No, I need to believe that this world is a beautiful place, that people are kind and well-intentioned, that way I can continue to breathe because then it’s still worth fighting for.
Growing up, I finally realised that inside I shared a good part of me with Scarlet. Both in a positive and negative sense of it. Spoiled, jealous, petulant when angered. And rational, commonsense, pragmatic, cool-headed in other times. The thing is, I gradually understood her and her conducts, as well as her way of thinking and viewing the world. I came to secretly admire her spirits as everyone else and still hated her to the core, like I used to hate and deny a part of darkness inside me.
Then life threw tantrum and I became Ashley. Ashley the one whose only wish was to immerse himself in music and books and paintings. Ashley, the impractical, the coward, the dreamer who wanted nothing but to go back to the carefree golden days. The noble old soul lost in the struggle to fit in a new world of chaos and materialism. When battered by life, I just wanted run far, far away, back to childhood, to withdraw inside my fortress of books and dreams, where I’m safe and sheltered from any hardship or brutality of the adult world that I was thrown into without warnings.
But I’d never thought I’d be Rhett, that I’d one day stand in his shoe, watching the ardent, burning, soulful love withering, as expected, to my own despair in the desperate effort to save it. Had I not seen it coming and still tried every possible way to salvage it, I wouldn’t know how he must have felt. “Some loves wear out. Mine did.” Those words, calm and collected, pierce like a glass splinter into my heart. There was nothing left to say. Explanations became excuses. Words became meaningless. The heart was flooded with emotions, with excitement, with mellow tenderness and pent-up passion, and suddenly it went barren, like the desert under the blazing sun, so swiftly that no one could even imagine there was once a river of fresh, sparkling water running through. I was too tired, too pained, to hold on. In a blink of the eye, I let go of my hot tea cup. It fell and shattered into pieces on the ground. For months, I was strangely cool and distant, indifferent at best. I became dangerous as I saw through it all, for I’d seen it all. Nothing hurt. Nothing meant anything.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give it a damn.”
Rhett has lost his fight for Scarlet’s love, and he doesn’t care. It doesn’t even matter if the feelings had ever existed in the first place.
This is the book that I have and will read and re-read times and again, not just to admire it in its entire grandeur but more precisely to learn and reflect on myself, on my interactions and relationship with others, and on my journey in the world within and without in its painstaking yet glorious twists and turns.