Thursday, July 12, 2012

Scarlett O'Hara can kiss my grits

Lots of little girls in the South are named Scarlett. Having just watched Gone With the Wind and started in on the novel, I can state with total authority that it is a TRAVESTY that they aren't named Melanie instead. My fabulousness aside, I mean.


I love Melanie Wilkes. I loathe Scarlett O'Hara.


What's more, as a Southern-raised woman, I'm not sure I even get her. Anyone want to argue her case for me? Because here's how I see it: she has NO redeeming qualities. 


Even the ones on the surface that seem like redeeming qualities to other Southernors in Scarlett are NOT. Like love of the land, for example. We love our land, yes. And no matter how long I've been gone from Louisiana, it's like invisible roots shoot out the second I step out of the airport and connect me to the place that shaped my spirit. My grandfather owned and worked a good bit of acerage all his life, even until his death in his eighties. I spent countless hours working in the huge gardens my father planted every summer. Loamy, stinky, gorgeous soil. It's what we do. 


But Scarlett . . . I don't know. I don't understand why she loves the land. It's a possession thing, not a connection thing, I think.


And another Southern commandment: she reveres her parents. But when she escapes Atlanta to be taken care of by her mother,  she flips to find out she's dead only because it's now inconvenient for her to lose that source of comfort.


I don't get it. Melanie Wilkes is kind of the awesomest and Scarlett pretty much sucks. When all is said and done and Scarlett's all alone at the end, I kinda don't give a damn, either. 


Discuss.

15 comments:

Lindzee said...

Gone With the Wind is my favorite book of all time (and don't even get me started on the movie...Clark Gable as Rhett Butler? Yes please). And for me, Scarlett is someone I love to hate. She is despicable at times, horrible at others, and basically not a very nice person. But I think her redeeming quality, for me at least--the thing that makes me able to get behind her as a heroine--is she is a fighter. No matter what happens, she will figure out a way to claw her way out of the situation and get back on top again. She never gives up. And even with everything she does, that makes it hard for me not to at least root for her a little. Melanie is really hard for me to like because there is NOTHING wrong with that woman! I like characters with issues. :)

Melanie Jacobson said...

All right, fair enough. And Southernors do love spunk. I'm hoping I get a little more into Scarlett's head as the book wears on but I figure I'm going to spend A LOT of time wanting to shake her. I guess what bugs me is that YES, she fights, but it's only to suit her own purposes, to benefit herself. Melanie fights too only she's nice and kind.

You know who their hybrid is? RHETT.

Sarah said...

Well, yes, Rhett's really the one to cheer and feel bad for. He's the one that loses, more than anyone else. I'm with you -- Scarlett is REALLY hard to like. I love that she's a fighter, and even that she's broken (Melanie is a fighter but ISN'T as broken) but she's not someone I want for a friend.

Donna K. Weaver said...

If you've just started the book, hold your judgement until you've finished it. Scarlett comes off much harsher in the movie than she was in the book. You have to bear in mind that she was a spoiled 16 year old at the beginning of the story.

I believe that many of the things that happened to her kind of froze her in time, emotionally. She lived in a society where a woman's only power was through manipulation. And Scarlett learned to do it well. She didn't just love her mother, she idolized and revered her mother (she'd substitute her for the Virgin Mary in her mind). After going through all that horrible stuff and fleeing Atlanta, she clings to the thought that if she can just get home to Tara she will be taken care of again. But her adored mother is death and her father has become a witless idiot in his grief. Even the servants who used to command her as a child are looking to her for answers. She's completely unprepared for what faces her.

The admirable thing about Scarlett is not the choices she makes (because they're dreadful, many of them) but the fact that she made decisions in spite of the adversity she faced. She saved her home and her family when she could easily have just given up, basically dug a hole and buried herself in it.

Unfortunately, she was so focused on it that she was blind to everything else. Even that she didn't really love Ashley. He represented that old life. It was as though if she could have him then that old life could come back. It's not until Melly dies that Scarlett has her epiphany and see both Ashley and Melanie for what they were.

That is the moment where Scarlett finally gets her wake-up call. And she recognizes it. The question is whether she can save anything she cares about.

It's interesting that when asked if Scarlett gets Rhett back, Vivian Leigh (actress who played Scarlett) said she doesn't think she does. However, Clark Gable (who played Rhett) said he believed she did.

I'll go with the guy's opinion. Scarlett's only 28 at the end of the book. And unlike the movie, she has two other children.

What's always drawn me in this story is the idea that a woman as determined as she is can win out once she wises up. It's what I've always imagined happened after the end of the book that I like.

And it very much is a reflection of a time and a mentality.

I agree with you about Melly. In my mind she's the true hero.

Interesting that when Margaret Mitchell wrote this book, she'd hide chapters all over her little apartment (we got to visit it a couple of years ago), under cushions, in cupboards, etc. She was scared to death to let anyone read it.

And it won a Pulitzer.

Lindzee said...

Rhett is definitely the hybrid (and my favorite character). I also love that Scarlett does what she has to in presser to survive, even when she doesn't really want to (like letting soldiers come through Tara after the war and begging Rhett for money).

Do yourself a favor and don't read Scarlett, the sequel written by someone else. Just don't.

And Donna, I'm glad you think they end up together. I would not be exaggerating if I said I was devastated by the ending and cried for two weeks. I hadn't seen the movie and I didn't know anything about the book when I read it so the ending was a complete shock. But I feel there is something incredibly beautiful about the ending, and it was really the only way it could have ended. Ant other outcome and I would have felt lied to.

Karen Peterson said...

I've never understood why people love Scarlett. She's spoiled, selfish, unkind, ungrateful, and pretty much the total embodiment of every negative quality a person can have.

CaJoh said...

I never read the book (only saw bits and pieces of the movie). But I do agree that it is hard to find a redeeming quality in her character. IMO I think she's a spoiled brat.

Melinda said...

I Love what Donna wrote and completely agree with her! :) I really enjoyed this book, I felt like I learned a lot from it. All I really want to add is that I ADORE Rhett, absolutely adore him. Gosh, the sad things that happen between them is heartbreaking. Sigh...

Eliza said...

I have to agree wholeheartedly with Donna (nice analysis, by the way, Donna). I'd just like to add that I think Scarlett's devotion to the land and the burning need to save Tara has a lot to do with her devotion to her father. She loved Tara because Pa loved Tara, and needed so desperately to save it because she was trying to maintain her connection with him and to honor him. It's been a long time since I read the book, but I feel like I remember thinking that Scarlett was really trying to make something up to Pa, and do well to honor him, by keeping Tara and everyone associated with it.

Also, there's a picture somewhere on the internet of Viven Leigh as Scarlett (you know, making that impeccable raised-eyebrow face) with a caption of "Keep calm and put your bi*ch face on." I love it. I LOVE IT. The thing that I learned from Scarlett is that sometimes you've just gotta toughen up and be strong to keep shiz together, and refuse to back down in the face of adversity.

Also, also! (I know I said I was just going to add one thing, but now that I'm going...) The way Scarlett was and the things she did were the only reason her surviving family and the Tara slaves even made it through the war and the rebuilding period. She kept them together and kept them surviving, no matter the cost. I think there's something admirable in that.

Eisparklz said...

I hate the movie, but the book is an all time top 5 for me (there are probably 40 books in my top 5). What I love about Scarlett that she seems very self absorbed, but in the end, she ALWAYS makes the choice that's right for her family - even if she has to bulldoze through social norms to support them. Melanie is also an amazing character, and someone who I would believe is too perfect to be true, but @autamday has her same gentleness, and her same quiet iron strength.

Eisparklz said...

I hate the movie, but the book is an all time top 5 for me (there are probably 40 books in my top 5). What I love about Scarlett that she seems very self absorbed, but in the end, she ALWAYS makes the choice that's right for her family - even if she has to bulldoze through social norms to support them. Melanie is also an amazing character, and someone who I would believe is too perfect to be true, but @autamday has her same gentleness, and her same quiet iron strength.

Eisparklz said...

I hate the movie, but the book is an all time top 5 for me (there are probably 40 books in my top 5). What I love about Scarlett that she seems very self absorbed, but in the end, she ALWAYS makes the choice that's right for her family - even if she has to bulldoze through social norms to support them. Melanie is also an amazing character, and someone who I would believe is too perfect to be true, but @autamday has her same gentleness, and her same quiet iron strength.

Susan said...

Believe it or not I've never read the book or seen the movie. Maybe I should.

myimaginaryblog said...

I think I always thought of Rhett as the protagonist, both for loving her in spite of her flaws, but also for eventually getting out of the dysfunctional relationship. (I haven't read the book, just watched the movie.)

Sonia said...

My best friend and I love the film and the book (book more of course), and since high school have nicknamed ourselves Scarlet (me) and Melly (her). The characteristics are close. Do you guys have a good tip for a commemorative tattoo we could get in honor of this connection? Seriously, we have thought of the "Frankly my dear" quote but it doesn't represent their relationship. We want to avoid typicals like peaches and magnolias. Any suggestions?