aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Creating a flawed but sympathetic character

72 years ago today, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind was published and was an immediate success. I read the book once or twice as a teen. Over the years, the character of Scarlett has stuck with me, because Mitchell did such a brilliant job creating a flawed but sympathetic character. Scarlett steals her sister's boyfriend, lies, and even murders. She cares for very little outside herself. Yet you still find yourself rooting for her.

Scott Turow managed to do the same thing in the book Personal Injuries. The main character lies, cheats, and steals, yet there is something about him you fundamentally like. It's a rare skill to be able to create such a character, and I'm not there yet and don't know if I ever will be.

For the last few months, once or twice a week I've read to Teen from Gone with the Wind at night before bed. There's much to admire about the book. It has a strong feminist sensibility (although all-knowing Rhett trumps even that). There are some great plot twists. The pacing is rather languid and the POV is hard to pin down - omniscient, perhaps? But all in all, the book still gives me a lot of pleasure.

But the racist attitudes! It's much more than the use of the "n" word, which I sometimes skip over or change to "Negro." In the book, to be black is to be some kind of a cross between a petulant child and a loyal dog. It's harder to make snap decisions while reading about what to do about these passages, which sometimes contain crucial information. I'm afraid it's coloring (inadvertent pun) my perception and Teen's perception of what is otherwise a wonderful book.

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