Max Steiner’s iconic theme to Gone With The Wind has never lost its appeal. The poignancy and the passion of the music draw those same qualities to the surface in the listener. The music defines, at a level beyond words, the love, the courage, the conflict, and the tragedy of the Civil War and its toll on the lives of all who lived through it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that war lately — and about the book Gone With The Wind — about how incredible it is that one author, Margaret Mitchell, could bring to life that unique kaleidoscope of personalities, emotions, and events of that epic era in such a realistic manner. Some have scoffed at Mitchell’s book. I had a college professor who did so. But he had missed — as have all the other scoffers — the power of the creative gift in Margaret Mitchell. Very few authors have created characters so powerfully developed and presented as to impact generation after generation of readers and movie-goers. Her characters are raw and real with the passions of their time and their tragedy. And they force those who read and watch their passage through that story to feel what they feel.
Many have criticized the book in recent decades because they say it does not portray a realistic picture of the South during the pre-war period. But Mitchell was not trying to portray a picture of her homeland from an objective or “politically correct” point of view. She was trying to make readers see what generations of southerners believed and felt — how they saw their lives and what they longed for in their future — and how they lost it all and barely survived the further tragedy of the Reconstruction.
She was endeavoring to tell a story — and one that was based in reality as she and her southern kinsmen saw it. And in that effort, her gift as a writer shines. Readers and movie goers have identified with her characters for generation after generation, and it has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with a writer being able to bring raw, real human qualities and emotions to life in simple black ink on white paper.
There are a few other authors with this same gift, but they are rare indeed — especially in our current time, when so many who write are everlastingly conscious of “political correctness.” Margaret Mitchell was, most definitely, not politically correct. But she was committed and faithful to tell a powerful and successful story of how those people lived, loved, longed for better lives, and languished in their defeat. Every once in a while I like to just sit back and breathe in the beauty of that kind of talent when I find it.