Arguably the greatest American novel was written by a woman:
Gone With the Wind.
Though the Selznick film version of the late 30s is a cinematic triumph in its own right, it scarcely resembles the book. What Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett utterly misses in my estimation is the whole reason the book is such a masterpiece of moral torment:
Scarlett O’Hara may be the heroine, but she is no saint. Her own tortured self-loathing is the heart of the narrative: she spends her life envying the women she pretends to try the hardest not to emulate, primarily her own mother Ellen and her best friend/worst enemy Melanie. And she hardly makes any secret of how she loathes the men who fawn over her, even as she is making merciless use of what they have to offer her. And despising the men and herself both for the general lack of self-respect in the equation, and longing throughout to be the things her mother was that Scarlett never quite learns to be: kind, generous and honorable.
And from the pen of a woman comes the most magnificent, and most misinterpreted, proclamation of the price a man must pay to be at long last his own man, and not bowled over by chivalrous pity to become the pet of an ambitious and merciless woman:
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Too bad, that so very few men ever got the message Mitchell went to the epic trouble of trying to tell us: that women with their minds made up can and do get and have whatever they think they want. And, that any self-respecting man had better not try too hard to help them have it.