Last night I stayed up until 3 a.m. glued to my book, reading the bit of Gone With the Wind where Scarlett is widowed and moves to Atlanta, hates her boring widowhood, and ends up scandalizing everyone by dancing with Rhett Butler at a Civil War fundraiser. I literally could not put the book down. I love Scarlett. I want to be her. She’s so vivacious and headstrong, and as the book drills into your head, nothing like the rest of the Southern belles who act dumb to try to catch a man. She’s foolish sometimes and at others, dangerously impetuous, but Scarlett’s fiery, and I love that.
Here are some passages that made me fall in love with Scarlett:
“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm.”
I love that Scarlett isn’t conventionally beautiful. She has the hard jaw of her Irish father mixed with the delicate features of her French-descended mother, but her charms make people forget her appearance alone. I also love how vain she was, and how confident in her appearance and manners. Scarlett’s behavior with men borders on the scandalous for this period, for she doesn’t care. I love that vanity and arrogance.
“The other women were simply silly and hysterical with their talk of patriotism and the Cause…She, Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton, alone had good hard-headed Irish sense. She wasn’t going to make a fool out of herself about the Cause, but neither was she going to make a fool out of herself by admitting her true feelings. She was hard headed enough to be practical about the situation, and no one would ever know how she felt.”
Scarlett really doesn’t care a whit about the war. She doesn’t want to talk about it, but she can’t denigrate it, either. As a widow of a husband she didn’t love, Scarlett must constantly pretend to be overwhelmed with grief when the only thing she’s grieving for is her lost youth. Silence, for her, is the only way to conceal her true feelings and also her true personality. She’d much rather be dancing and flirting than wearing mourning clothes and knitting with other matrons.
“How wonderful it would be never to marry but to go on being lovely in pale green dresses and forever courted by handsome men. But, if you went on too long, you got to be an old maid like India Wilkes and everyone said “poor thing” in that smug hateful way.”
The narrative is full of commentary on the plight of women in 1860s American South. Women are groomed to be charming, empty-headed creatures always eager to defer to a man’s intelligence and power, regardless of her own mental prowess. Once you have “caught” a husband, you must put away these charms and tricks and become a meek, timid wife. Scarlett hates this system and finds it difficult to break away from the reputation of a lady and live as she pleases. I’ll be reading ravenously as her story progresses!
Has anyone else read Gone With the Wind? How did you feel about Scarlett?