I am a huge fan of the Gone with the Wind book (including the “sequels”) and the movie. Most particularly, Scarlett O’Hara. So much so that I used to read essays and college thesis papers that deconstructed the novel and detailed character analyses of Scarlett!
The character of Scarlett O’Hara within the Gone With the Wind book and movie is a product of a time that depicts ethnic and racial prejudices that were wrong then and are wrong today, I decided to keep this post up without noting this denouncement would be irresponsible. If we are to create an antiracist future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history, including personas like Scarlett O’Hara.
Many women, particularly feminists, would question my admiration for Scarlett O’Hara. She was selfish, manipulative and petty among other things, but she was also a rebel, determined and loyal (at least to those things she felt deserved her loyalty). She did not accept the conformities of society and did what she damn well pleased. She was direct and not afraid to express her opinion even though it would probably get her in trouble. She was passionate about what was important to her without ever experiencing physical passion until she met her match, Rhett Butler. There is a lot to be said of Scarlett and there were definitely life lessons that Scarlett O’Hara imparted on me:
Your dream guy may not be the right guy.
Scarlett never really loved Ashley (something she eventually admitted to herself), yet she pursued him relentlessly at the expense of experiencing real love with a guy who “got” her. How many years did Scarlett and Rhett lose with her mindless pursuit of the wrong guy? The guy (or gal) that you think you are meant to be with may, in fact, be the worst possible partner for you in the grand scheme of things. When it comes to love, many people are so busy listening to their heart, they forget to listen to their gut. Your gut, your intuition, that little nagging voice inside, is your best friend in the whole world, and if you learn to listen to it you will be far happier and spared from a lot of bad relationships and worse situations.
Don’t screw your friends.
Scarlett did not have many friends, probably for good reason, but the one friend she did have was Melanie. It was actually Melanie who was the bigger friend for putting up with all of Scarlett’s antics, including trying to steal her husband. Scarlett’s behavior definitely taught me how uncool it is to screw your friends, something I can say with confidence I have yet to do. And although I don’t have a huge collection of friends, I prefer quality over quantity, I know that I can count on each and every one of them in good times and bad. An important asset in life. One that you should not risk.
Even deeply flawed women deserve happiness.
Scarlett never made excuses for who she was. She ignored social norms, manipulated everything that crossed her path, hurt a lot of people, but she is just a woman in search of love and a roof over her head. Everyone deserves love and affection. There is always some good you can find in people. Sometimes it is just a matter of not having met the right partner in life, the one that looks you in the eye and tells you, you are ok.
Things are not always what they seem.
Gorgeous green velvet dress? Or the living room curtains? Don’t judge by appearances. Don’t judge period. The other lesson from those curtains: use what you got, be creative, be innovative. Be bold.
Or as I translate the mantra, “it is what it is.” When faced with a situation or conversation she was not particularly happy with, Scarlett would dismiss it with a “fiddle-dee-dee” as if to say: “I hear you, and since we can’t do anything to change that, let’s not dwell and let’s move on.” There is something in life that you cannot change, so you can bang your head up against the wall until you bleed or you can find a door to walk through and get on with life. Some would say that used that as a tool in order to not deal with difficult situations, I say she was just smart enough to recognize what can and cannot be changed.
Never give up, you can survive anything.
But when faced with obstacles that can be changed, but seemed unachievable, there was no one more determined than Scarlett O’Hara. Through war, bad marriages, near-rape, and starvation, Scarlett always found a way to survive. She had an end goal, Tara, and she never let anyone or anything push her off her path towards securing her Tara. She did what she had to do, she sacrificed, lied, cheated, stole, and whereas, that probably wouldn’t fly today, and I am not 100% on board for the whole “end justifies the means” I do admire and appreciate her drive and yes, her positive attitude. If she had withered up in a ball and cried, if she had given up faith, she would have never got what she wanted.
Tomorrow is another day.
And lastly, this. No matter what happens to you, or doesn’t happen to you. Tomorrow is another day. Start fresh. Live as if that day is your last. Be nice to people. Be generous. Profit from every action you take, every decision you make. Don’t dwell on the past, or too much on the future. Live for the moment and know that each day is a gift.
Well if you got through all that and are left wondering what the hell is she talking about? Read the book, see the movie and soak it in.
Run along now and bring me a mint julep!
Oh wait, before you go, do you have any life lessons learned from a movie?
If you’ve never read any of the Margaret Mitchell authorized continuations of the story, I highly recommend them! There’s Scarlett, the sequel from Alexandra Ripley, Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig which parallels Gone With The Wind, and Ruth’s Journey, also from Donald McCaig, which is a prequel. All great reads!
Special thanks to Gulya for allowing me to use her beautiful image of the Scarlett O’Hara doll. An actual picture of Scarlett O’Hara costs $500!
Illustrations commissioned from Linden Eller.
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