Scarlett O’Hara is a very passionate character. She married a stranger to seek revenge against her ideal lover, Ashley Wilkes, because he loves another woman. She ruined her hands and hurt her back from bending too much to pick cotton that she might sell for food to feed her family. When Rhett Butler was too casual or glib, she lied about her true feelings for him. When Scarlett demands more work, more money, or more involvement in matters important to her, she must get it or she will ruin herself or others to her own regret.
A weaker partner doesn’t stand a chance.
Gone With The Wind has just become my favorite American novel. The dialogues are so good, the two main characters are so cunning and flawed that I find myself going back to those pages because they stir something in my sleeping blood. Maybe I like to be as as angry as Scarlett every now and then, or maybe I just want to know how sorrowful it is to have to ask for money from a lover. Definitely, I’ve never read anything like it, save perhaps for Anna Karenina, whose eponymous heroine is as vindictive as Scarlett but more self-destructive.
Scarlett O’Hara’s relationship with Melanie Wilkes is a revelation of how some women willingly avoid other women or treat them as competition for the attention and affection of men, which suggests the tendency to steal them from their wives/fiancees if so desired. I know it happens in reality, but the fact that Scarlett did it to her sister and with pleasure is such an evil thing that I can almost taste blood just by reading how she manipulated Frank Kennedy to marry her and not her sister.
One of my favorite dialogues is when Scarlett defended Ashley from Rhett Butler’s criticism of his helplessness after the war.
His breed is of no use or value in an upside-down world like ours. Whenever the world up-ends, his kind is the first to perish. And why not? He doesn’t deserve to survive because they won’t fight–and don’t know how to fight.
I remember very well the one line Scarlett said that endeared me to her because it shows her compassionate side, which she dare not verbally express to anyone including Ashley: What else could he have done?
Meaning: What else could Ashley have done when his plantation is no more? What’s a Southern gentleman to do after the war? The question raised by Scarlett reveals a sensitivity that is very feminine. It balances her hard driving nature.
Another favorite scene, which the film adaptation did not do justice, is when Scarlett, who was disappointed to learn that Rhett can’t give her the money while he’s still in the Yankee prison, went at him like a crazy woman and passed out, it seems, because she was deeply consumed by her anger. It was one of the saddest events in the novel, being humiliated by someone you thought you can trust. The curtain dress is nothing compared to this.
If you have only seen the film, you don’t need to read this because Vivien Leigh IS Scarlett. But if you wish to experience a deeper understanding of her character and how the war has made her hardened yet driven to survive at all costs, I highly recommend reading this.