“There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the old south. Here in this pretty world gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of knights and their ladies fair. Of master and of slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization gone with the wind.”
While the 19th-century American South may be a distant memory, the 1939 epic historical romance, Gone With the Wind, is still on the forefront of many viewers’ minds. If ever a film should be given the title of “timeless classic,” it is this one. The film received 10 Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress). And when inflation is accounted for, it is still the most successful film in box-office history.
Shall we attribute this film’s success to the fact that it was based on Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning novel, or to the fact that it absolutely sparkled thanks to excellent directing and an extremely talented cast? To ignore either point would be unfair.
Of course, I think the reason this film fared so well in the box office is that it hit on something much deeper than quality film-making. Something that is common to all mankind. It captured the strength of the human spirit, and the fragility of tomorrow.
The Strength of the Human Spirit
As far as self-centered, spoiled brats are concerned, Scarlett O’Hara is our absolute favorite. Brought to life so well by actress Vivien Leigh, Scarlett makes us smile as she pouts about not getting absolutely everything that she wants.
When tragedy strikes, however, this film shows that even a person as flawed as Scarlett can rise to the occasion. Adapting to the surroundings of war with remarkable determination and ingenuity, Scarlett lives to see another day. We cheer in admiration as she shakes an angry fist in the air and cries, “I’m going to live through this, and when it’s all over – I’ll never be hungry again!”
But that’s not the end of the story. By the end of the film Scarlett’s riches are restored, and she is just as selfish as ever. While part of us can’t believe she hasn’t learned her lesson, it’s also comforting to think that someone could endure so much hardship and suffering and emerge virtually intact. Scarlett O’Hara, then, becomes more than a silly Southern girl. She becomes a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
And we love her for it.
The Fragility of Tomorrow
I’ll never forget the first time I watched this film with my mother. The opening words etched themselves onto my memory, and have never really gone away – “A civilization… gone with the wind.”
One simple sentence, and yet it captures what we all know to be true about the dangerous world in which we live. No matter how safe we may feel, no matter how secure our situation appears to be, we know it could all turn on a dime. Japan could bomb Pearl Harbor, the stock market could crash, or a loved one could die unexpectedly.
The Bible alludes to this fact in Proverbs 27:1: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Our future is anything but certain.
So what do we do in the face of this harsh reality? Simply throw our hands up in despair?
We find the answer in Psalm 118:8, the very center verse in the Bible:
“It is better to trust in the LORD, than to put confidence in man.”
We don’t know what tomorrow may bring, but He does. And He is able to carry us through it all.
As long as our future is secure in Him, we don’t have to fear the changes life may bring. Entire civilizations may crumble, but we know that we’ve been promised a brighter tomorrow.
And as our dear Scarlett reminds us, “Tomorrow is another day.”
Photo Credit: Film Poster for Gone With the Wind, 1939. Public Domain.
This post was submitted as part of the A to Z Challenge, where participants agree to write an article that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet, posting every day of the month of April (except Sundays).
Here on The Artistic Christian, my theme for the month is The Classics. Each day I’ll examine a book, film, or work of art that has become a beloved classic and discuss what has made it such a success, and what eternal themes it contains that Christian artists can use as modern illustrations.
For daily reflections from my personal travels around the world, check out my companion blog, A Shepherd’s Reflections, where my theme for April is Reflections From Around the World.