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Notes on Gone with the Wind (2)

gonewind1Rhett both infuriate and beguile Scarlett. The more their dramatic interaction advances, the more it reminds me of Pride and Prejudice. Rhett Butler, who ships in goods by boat and is rumored to be estranged by his family in Charleston, is rashly designated a speculator. Like Darcy, the community has adopted a negative impression of Rhett Butler and sharpens into a particular resentment.

“So Rhett consorted with that vile Watling creature [a prostitute] and gave her money. That was where the contribution to the hospital came from. Blockade gold. And to think that Rhett would have the gall to look a decent woman in the face after being with that creature! And to think that she could have believed he was in love with her!” [247]

Scarlett still bears the hope to be with Ashley even he has been married to Melanie for two years. When Ashley comes home for Christmas in 1863, Scarlett becomes acutely aware of the privileges Melanie holds as his wife. The day Ashley leaves, Scarlett again reveals her feelings to him, hoping Ashley will break down and allow himself to reveal he loves her, too.

But one cannot deny Scarlett’s slight longing for Rhett Butler’s courtship. She secretly reflects that it would be so exciting to have Butler in love with her and admitting it and begging for a kiss or a smile. As to why he hasn’t made any further advances, Butler is waiting for her to grow up a little more—waiting for her memory of Ashley Wilkes to fade. Meanwhile I find their headbutting exchanges very entertaining, paving the way for their ultimate recognition of love.

“Indeed!” she cried, taken aback and now determined that he should take some liberty. “I don’t even intend to kiss you either.”
“Then why is your mouth all pursed up in that ridiculous way?””Oh!” she cried as she caught a glimpse of herself and saw that her red lips were indeed in the proper pose for a kiss. “Oh!” she cried again, losing her temper and stamping her foot. “You are the horridest man I have ever seen and I don’t care if I never lay eyes on you again.” [243]

The novel is set against the Civil War, but I’m not completely convinced young Scarlett, an eighteen year old, could have dealt with death, marriage, fire and war like she has demonstrated with dignity and calm. Maybe Margaret Mitchell wants to portray a Scarlett who always remains a child at heart. When the novel begins, she resents serious matters such as sickness or war, merely seeing them as impediments to having fun. Even when she grows more accepting of life’s practicalities, Scarlett insists on being the center of attention.

20 Responses

  1. Scarlett reminds me of people who bury their heads in the sand, even today. They ignore the wars, banking problems, illnesses, etc.

    So, so far, I can believe a character like Scarlett.

    Scarlett doesn’t worry about money or inflation; her dead husband and current family provide well for her. She doesn’t worry about childcare; Wade’s other relatives and the slaves take care of him. She doesn’t worry about the war, except for Ashley; she has no one that she really cares about on the front. She doesn’t worry about shortages; Brett manages to bring her something on each trip. She is on a “viist” in Atlanta, so she doesn’t have to worry about the upkeep of a house.

    So, I do believe she can ignore any unpleasant event that she wishes.

  2. I’m enjoying your notes immensely, but I feel like I’m lagging behind, because I haven’t even reached the Wilkes’ barbeque yet! She’s still deciding on what she’s going to wear…

    ps. this is rather blasphemous, but I do think this is one instance where the movie is better than the book. Or at least, where the movie enriches the book. I can’t imagine a Scarlett that isn’t Vivien Leigh, and a Rhett that isn’t Clark Gable.

  3. I saw your post yesterday, and I originally threw my hands up in the air. Of course I came back after feeling guilty for awhile. You have lost me! I too, am lagging way behind. (Scarlett is on her way to the barbecue.) I AM enjoying your comments, but I don’t think I can add anything, unless I refer to the movie.

    One thing that amazes me so far are the expectations put on women in the South during this time period. I would never have made it. Unmarried women can’t eat in public? An unmarried woman has to faint now and again to appear weak and in need of saving? They can’t speak their mind and make the men seem stupid? They can’t wear outfits that show their shoulders until the afternoon? They have to take naps while the men talk politics? I would have been ostracized! I can sort of understand how Scarlett feels!

  4. Despite my obstinate refusal to delve into these pages, I find that your posts and the enthusiasm of the comments warming my curiiosity. I’ve read some other opinions on the web, also. I weaken. Looking forward to further posts and discussion.

  5. Certainly there were unrealistic expectations for women in the North during that time period, too. But Sandy is reacting as if they’re rules for everyone, when “the rules” (title of recent popular book) are more subtle than that. Even today, my 15-year-old daughter can’t pack too much lunch, and everything has to be vegetarian, because a teenage girl stiil should not eat much in public. And the cool girls still know when it’s okay to show some skin. Scarlett always wants to be the center of attention, as Matt points out, and part of that is cultivating popularity.

  6. Great points. As I see what page your on I have to get my butt into gear on this book!!! Scarlett is a true southern belle but believe me she does come around!!

  7. You all sure are having fun. I like the comparison to Pride and Prejudice, too.

    Does anyone have an opinion about how accurate Mitchell’s depiction of the period is, yet?

  8. CB James – Personally, I think her depiction of slaves is inaccurate. How coincidental that none of the Georgian plantation owners treat their slaves unfairly. Mrs Tarleton whips her own children, but not the workers, oh no.

    I find the characters themselves – Mammy, Porky – realistic and yet something is Too Friendly to be real. It’s nice and all, but I don’t think it’s historically accurate.

  9. Isabel:
    All that you have mentioned of Scarlett is true. In fact, for a good amount of time while I’m reading, she almost seems unreal to me. How can anyone be so indifferent to everything around her during a time of turmoil? But I was reminded that she was only 17 and that all that mattered in her eyes was Ashley. Her only connection to the reality of war is the bodies brought into the hospital. My question is, if she really cannot let go of Ashley, mentally and emotionally, who did she dance a number with Rhett Butler at the bazaar?

  10. tuesday:
    I also was not convinced that slaves in general were being treated as respectfully as Mammy and Porky were. Although, as you’ll see in my upcoming post, which devotes to the character of mammy, a personal favorite, Margaret Mitchell paints her to be one who is having the say in the O’Hara house and is also aware of her boundary. I’ll investigate her in full length.

  11. Sandy:
    Very interesting and sound comments! I’m totally with you. Digression: I was watching this Chinese soap opera set in the 1920s, right after the Qing Dynasty was overturned. Girls had no say in whom they will marry. Women were treated like trophies at home. In the same way, Scarlett has seen and is horrified at how women were treated. Both her mother and the nanny have tried to raise her to become a man’s trophy wife and she absolutely hates that. In the passage, it mentions something about how she “hates the feminized world” she was in.

  12. Greg S:
    The discussion on here has been very exciting, deepening my understanding on the historical period in which the novel was written.

  13. Jeanne:
    Exactly. Girls in the novel have to be in the background. They take leave of the drawing room when men discuss politics. They are to be in mourning for a long period of time. They are not to appear in the public. I’m very surprised not more girls are rebelling against the chauvinistic customs.

  14. Staci:
    My question is why she did the dance number with Rhett Butler if she is still longing to be with Ashley. But again their headbutting exchanges pave for the long anticipated union.

  15. Matt,
    She danced with Rhett partly because she craved to get to dance again; society at that time did not allow widows to “have fun”. She *thinks* she loves Ashley, but the chemistry between her and Rhett is so strong.

  16. Valerie:
    Good point. For all that I have read between Scarlett and Ashley, I don’t see any chemistry. It’s almost like I’m craving for Rhett to make a move on her. I feel that Rhett really likes her even though they were arguing and getting on one another’s nerve!

  17. I have put up a blog post on week 2 of the read-along here.

    http://patchworkquiltlife.blogspot.com/2009/03/gone-with-wind-read-along-week-two.html

    Rhett does admit feelings for Scarlett, but not in the way that she thinks he should :-)!

  18. Matt, indeed it’s like you said: Rhett is waiting for Scarlett to grow up. In my Part 2 post, I think I was a little harsh on Scarlett. I disliked her indifference to what was going on around her. But you raise a very fine point, in that she’s really only 17. Her concern is about love and relationships, as they realistically are when you’re at that age. On the other hand, Melanie and all the other young girls are not as self-centered nor as indifferent.

    And Tuesday’s right, how odd that all the slaves are treated nicely, so unlikely, among so many families. Regarding Mammy being in charge, what about Uncle Peter? He practically runs the Hamiltons’ lives. 😀

    My post is here.

  19. […] Recap: Notes on Gone with the Wind, Part 1 Notes on Gone with the Wind, Part 2 […]

  20. […] is cotton and slaves and arrogance. They’d lick us in a month.” {pg. 111} And, like Matt, I couldn’t help but compare him to Mr. Darcy of Pride & Prejudice during both his first […]

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