Monday, August 8, 2011

Gone with the Wind - Scarlett

 Note: I'm putting all sentences containing spoilers in this pale green color.  If you haven't read the book and you don't want to know what happens, DON'T READ the pale-green print.  Kay? If you're like me and you don't care what the spoilers are because you know you're going to forget them way before you read the book, then go ahead.  Just saying, proceed at your own risk. :p

There she is: Scarlett O' Hara, the coquettish, determined heroine of Gone with the Wind.  Everybody is fascinated by Scarlett.  It's funny, though, because she's hardly a likeable person.  She's selfish, controlling, mutinous, and little-liked by most of her fellow-characters - the female ones, at least.  (The men like her for her beauty, but nobody sane would base their opinion on the preferences of men, so that doesn't count.)
I think the reason that we don't totally hate Scarlett is that, even though she's essentially a brat, she's very, very human.  We can understand her, even though we disapprove of her.

     For me, the hardest thing to understand about Scarlett - and her worst flaw - is her selfishness.  How could she give it free reign the way she does?  She doesn't care that she's deceiving Charles Hamilton by marrying him only in order to spite Ashley Wilkes, and she's only sorry when he dies because his death makes her have to wear mourning and stay at home instead of going to parties.  She doesn't care that Frank Kennedy was engaged to her sister Suellen, either.  She shamelessly lies to him and gets him to marry her, just so she can have his little bit of money for Tara.  The thing (related to selfishness) that really drives me crazy is her indifference to her own children.  She hardly cares for them at all, and it really annoys me - I just can't understand how she can be a woman and be so indifferent to her own children.  

That brings me to another point.  Despite her flirting and interest in pretty clothes, Scarlett is really not very feminine.  She's all about money and business, and she hates the conventions and customs of her era.  She's quite headstrong, and she doesn't care what people think, so she just ignores a lot of things that women were supposed to do.  She's egged on in this, of course, by Rhett Butler...but that's another post. ;p

  She's "fast" (meaning she flirts unashamedly), she goes into business for herself, she consorts with Scallawags and Carpetbaggers, she drives places by herself, etc.  Also, she's not religious.  There is, if I'm not mistaken, only one scene in the book where she actually thinks about what the consequences of her actions could be, eternally speaking.  Other than that, she seems to be entirely without morals.  Scarlett has no respect for the sanctity of marriage, she has no qualms about loving another woman's husband, she doesn't care about the workers in her  sawmill, and she even plans to have an immoral relationship with Rhett in order to get money.  Rhett finds her penitent and ridicules her, which I find wrong, even though he was probably right about her lack of sincerity.  There is a scene in the beginning of the book where she prays the rosary with her family, but, far from concentrating on her prayers, she's busy thinking how to snare Ashley Wilkes into proposing to her.  Typical Scarlett.

The girl does have a few redeeming qualities, though they are tainted by the rest of her character - she's certainly determined, for one.  She devotes all her energy into saving Tara, knowing that if she can't get money, Jonas Wilkerson will get the property.  She fights for Tara with all she has.  Also, she will not give up loving Ashley - but that's not exactly a redeeming quality.  When Melanie's baby is being born, Scarlett stays and delivers him - mentally cursing Melanie the whole time, of course, but still, she does it, and she's nice to Melly during her labor.  Afterward, there is her almost heroic feat of taking a sick Melanie, a newborn baby, and a whining slave girl home to Tara through the war zone - she's on her own, she has a half-dead horse, and she's dodging Yankees the whole way.  That takes real determination and strength.

Scarlett's other good quality is that she doesn't care what people think.  This could be very valuable to her, if used for the right reasons.  Unfortunately, just like her determination, she uses this for the wrong things. 

Scarlett's training by her mother Ellen Robillard O'Hara and Mammy vanishes as soon as she's off on her own.  Her greatest dream, to be like her  mother, is left far behind.  The way Scarlett turns out is the exact opposite of her well-bred, charitable mother, who would be horrified by many of her daughter's actions.

Well, I hope my little (actually, rather long) post has inspired you, if you've read the book or seen the film, to investigate Scarlett's character for yourself.  If you haven't read the book or seen the film, I hope you are now encouraged to do so.  Cause it's an interesting story.  And exploring characters is fun.  (For geeky persons like myself, at least. :p)

So what do you think of Scarlett?

P.S - I found this really cute painting of Scarlett on Google images.  (By the way, be careful if you ever search for pictures that way.   Sometimes completely unrelated, very inappropriate things come up.)
Anyway, I liked this picture, so I'll close with it. :)

EDIT: sorry about the weird highlighting thing in the middle there.  It's driving me insane, but I can't get it off.  I don't even know how it got there...  *sigh*


  1. Interesting post!

    I think Scarlet, despite all her flaws, is a very hard character to hate. If anything, she has the ability to humble one in the respect that readers in some way can and will relate to her. Her flaws are so magnified and they're all showed to be wicked and consequently the reader hates her actions. All this being said, the reader can relate to Scarlet -- understand her. As you said, she's very human. Perhaps we can see something in us that we see in her, yet in the book such flaws or vices are enhanced to point out their utter ugliness. Perhaps prideful tendencies that one is comfortable with are finally given second thoughts after studying Scarlet. Scarlet is an excellent character because her vices are not muddled or twisted, there's an integrity to them. One sees them for what they are. The evil of pride and selfishness is shown with the greatest clarity.

  2. Thank you, Adela!

    You make a very good point about pride. I've noticed that myself - for example, any time anything happens she thinks of what she can get out of it. I do that a lot, too, and I never even realized it until I read Gone with the Wind.

    Excellent summary! You explained Scarlett better in your one paragraph than I did in my six. :p


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