Falling in love with Scarlett O'Hara

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.

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“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.

English: Cropped screenshot of Vivien Leigh fr...

“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?

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  • I saw the title of your post on Twitter and right away knew I would love this post.

    I have read bits and pieces of GWTW. I attempted the book at the very young age of 13, but the sheer size became to intimidating. However, I have seen the film more times than I can count. I know the film is quite different from the book (and you can never replace a book for a film), but from what I read and what I’ve seen, Vivien Leigh did an incredible job bringing Scarlett to life and I think I got a great feel for who Scarlett is through her. While Scarlett doesn’t always make the best decisions (but hey, I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t made at least one bad decision in their life), she is determined, courageous, and has an abundance of self confidence- all things I’d love to be.

    I really need to get back to the book, especially since it has been 10+ years since I picked it up and, too, because I never finished it.

    • I’m so glad you liked the post! I think you’d definitely be equal to GWTW if you read it now. It’s actually very readable! Not difficult at all, I find myself flying through the pages! I love Scarlett more and more as I read…it’s Rhett I don’t know about yet! I saw the movie when I was really young, 10 or something, but after I read the book I definitely want to watch the whole thing!

  • I’ve never read or seen Gone with the Wind. It is one of those stories I presume I know, but actually other than knowing that it is a LONG film, I now nothing about Scarlett! Very tempted to now go trail the charity shops for a copy! x

  • I’ll let you know when you’re done the book 🙂 She’s complicated — I love her, but probably not for the reasons many readers do.

    • I’m excited! I’m sure she changes so much during the novel, but I have fallen in love with her from the beginning! She’s absolutely complicated but I think it’s her honesty with herself that most strikes me. Melanie, though. I love Melanie as well, and they’re night and day. Ah!

      • I only started understanding Melanie recently! 🙂 You’re making me want to read GWTW again 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • I’ve watched the film, but I haven’t read the book and I didn’t realize that Scarlett wasn’t supposed to be conventionally attractive! The movie was not accurate in that regard, as Vivian Leigh was absolutely gorgeous. 🙂
    As for your paragraph on the plight of women in the American South in the 1960s, it’s a bit sad to say that not all that much has changed, at least from my perspective! Women are still encouraged to be pretty, empty-headed, and get married as quickly as possible.

    • Whoops! I meant to say 1860s, obviously.

    • That’s heartbreaking. Reading more of the novel, I’m struck by how wide a gap existed between the North and the South at this time; they were truly like two separate countries in more than just name and secession. It’s jarring to think that that gap still exists today.

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