Fangirl Fridays – Scarlett O’Hara
Dear Scarlett! You aren’t helpless. Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you. ~ Rhett Butler
IMDb’s description of the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind, based on Margaret Mitchell’s book of the same name, says: “A manipulative Southern belle carries on a turbulent affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War.”
That is so harsh both for Scarlett and Rhett, isn’t it?
Oh yes, Scarlett O’Hara is a spoiled brat, selfish and vain, also insecure and shallow. But she is only 16 when the story begins, and what do we really know at that age? And at that time, she acts according to her times: simply be sweet and pretty until you find a wealthy husband, then raise a family.
I watched the movie first, and fell in love with Scarlett as fast as lightning. Then I went to find the book and fell in love all over again with Scarlett, Rhett, and the American South of the time. As I said above, FIRST I loved the movie, that’s why “my Scarlett” is “movie Scarlett”.
In Gone with the Wind, author Margaret Mitchell succeeds in portraying Scarlett O’Hara as a heroine who eclipses the stereotypical Southern Belle, not in spite of, but rather because of her own original and “wicked” methods of becoming a heroine.
Let us look at how we define a heroine, shall we?
The Free Dictionary:
1. A woman noted for courage and daring action.
2. A woman noted for special achievement in a particular field.
3. The principal female character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.
The Oxford Dictionary:
1. A woman admired for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
2. The chief female character in a book, play, or film, who is typically identified with good qualities and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
Does Miss O’Hara fit any of these definitions? Let’s see.
What do you expect from a woman of that time? To be pretty, smile, get married, and have children? Well, don’t expect this from our Scarlett.
Scarlett is determined to achieve her wishes and needs. She does it by every way open to her in her current circumstances, even I it makes her appear selfish and spoiled. So she is courageous, no doubt there.
One of the first times her true character shines is when she has to deliver Melanie’s baby herself, after finding out that the young slave girl, Prissy, lied about knowing how to deliver a baby. Grand deed, selfless and strong!
Scarlett defies the women’s role of her time repeatedly; she runs lumber mills and a store for a time.
When the northern army attacks Atlanta, she is determined to leave and make the perilous journey to Tara, while refusing to leave Melly and her baby behind, showing determination and compassion. So, noble character and bravery, check.
She holds on to Tara during those awful times, doesn’t she? The world she knows crumbles all around her, but she refuses to give up. She survives AND she protects the family legacy.
That said, her courageous and noble intentions do at times veer off in the wrong direction. For starters, her unrelenting pursuit of one Ashley Wilkes is more than embarrassing, but it takes a lot of courage, wit, and daring effort to keep striving for a goal against all odds. But then, she does understand and she is not afraid to admit it:
“I loved something I made up, something that’s just as dead as Melly is. I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it. And when Ashley came riding along, so handsome, so different, I put that suit on him and made him wear it whether it fitted him or not. And I wouldn’t see what he really was. I kept on loving the pretty clothes—and not him at all.”
Then, in her fight to save Tara, she steals her sister’s fiancé, Frank Kennedy, and marries him to get the money to pay property taxes on Tara. Um, desperate deeds for desperate times, but still…
I must confess, I never liked Mr. Wilkes. I didn’t like the actor, either.
Perhaps Scarlett’s temperamental nature results from the combination of her parents’ personalities. Her mother, Ellen Robillard, is of French origin. Her first love (in the book) is her cousin, Philipe Robillard , who dies in New Orleans in a bar fight. Ellen pines for him even on her deathbed. Isn’t that an immature, untested love? Just like Scarlett’s love for Ashley. Her father, Gerald O’Hara, is a strong-willed Irishman who loves the South and the rich, fertile soil of Tara. Just think of this feisty combo! How could their daughter not be a romantic and a firecracker?
I see Scarlett as a kind of early feminist. She is strong and unafraid to be whatever she needs to be to meet a challenge. She’s a fighter for her land, picking cotton in the fields and making dresses out of draperies. She’s a fighter for the South, offering food, drink, and medical care to weary soldiers who happen by. She’s fighter for her family, as a wife and mother. She learns to organize, delegate, and administrate the things around her, trying not to rely on men for help (which is no easy feat during her time). When things stand in her way, she brushes them off with her signature “Fidddle-dee-dee!” and forges ahead.
Yes, she makes some stupid decisions, some big mistakes, but that only shows that she is human. We all make mistakes, no one is perfect.
Admittedly, I love the movie more than the book. For me, Vivien Leigh IS Scarlett O’Hara. She is beautiful and spirited and her clothes are magnificent!
I don’t think these dresses are comfortable to wear, but oh so beautiful.
Scarlett and Rhett, two strong-willed characters, no wonder they make each other’s life a kind of hell. Scarlett fails to see how much Rhett loves her, foolishly clinging to Ashley. How she hurts him many times, until he has enough! Even then, with all her misery, she is not completely defeated, she is a survivor!
“I’ll think of it tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”
I am sure she finds a way to get him back (and I don’t mean that novel Scarlett, which was written in 1991 by Alexandra Ripley as a sequel). It will be her way, she will go to Tara, because her connection to the land is so important to her. She and Rhett just need some alone time and she has to grow up some more. She will win him over and they’ll be together again. It will not be easy, there will be fights, thunder and lightning, and but there will be friendship, trust, intimacy, and closeness. There will be love.