I am taking part with the Gone With The Wind readalong organised by The Heroine's Bookshelf
I have read it before, and have been meaning to re-read it for some time.
We enter the world of the wealthy plantation owners of pre Civil War Georgia. It seems on the surface to be an easy comfortable life, but we see as the story progresses that there is a cost. We meet Scarlett O'Hara, not conventionally beautiful but possessed of great charm and vivacity. Her head is filled with parties and boys. The young men flock round her, not realising that they are being manipulated, the young women mistrust and dislike her. Scarlett's shallowness is not entirely her own fault however. She lives in a society which expects girls to be passive and docile and to defer to men. The main object of their lives is to get married. Once married they have more freedom to express themselves, though they will of course be tied down by husband and children. Scarlett is frustrated by this system but lacks the imagination to see a way out of it.
It is an insular world where the same families marry each other generation after generation. They have little idea of the realities of the outside world. The men long for the war which is inevitably coming. They believe that it will be over in a month and that they will thrash the Yankees. Even Rhett Butler's words of warning doesn't dampen their war fever;
Has any one of you gentlemen ever thought that there's not a cannon factory south of the Mason-Dixon Line? Or how few iron foundries there are in the South?......Have you thought that we would not have a single warship and that the Yankee fleet could bottle up our harbours in a week so that we could not sell our cotton abroad?
Margaret Mitchell paints a picture of a group of people who are almost child-like in their innocence of reality, who are drifting towards what the reader knows is catastophe.
Scarlett's carefree life ends with her marriage to Charles Hamilton. She doesn't love him but has married him to spite Ashley Wilkes, the man she is really in love with. She is soon widowed with a baby and the feeling that her life is over before it even got started.