|16-year old Scarlett and her beaux at Twelve Oaks plantation|
|Scarlett’s fashion comeback in the green curtain dress made by her slave, Mammy|
But Scarlett O’Hara is so much more than a beauty with a glamorous wardrobe. I was only 12 when we met, and I remember being fascinated with her energy, spirit and determination. What Scarlett wants, Scarlett gets. What stands in her way, she dismisses with an impatient, “Fiddle-dee-dee!” She does not stop there. “Great balls of fire, don’t bother me anymore, and don’t call me sugar!” Yes, Scarlett has attitude. She can be scathing and cruel. But some in her entourage do not let her get away with it.
|Faithful Mammy keeps an eye on Scarlett|
|Scarlett: “Sir, you are no gentleman!”
Rhett: “And you, miss, are no lady!”
Scarlett is far from perfect. Even as a young teenager, I could tell my heroine had questionable interpersonal skills, and not an ounce of self-awareness. Doesn’t she spend the whole story chasing her cousin Melanie’s husband, the chivalrous Ashley Wilkes, ignoring all along that her true love is Rhett Butler? That part infuriated me. What did she see in soft-spoken Ashley?
|A young Scarlett, her cousin Melanie and Ashley Wilkes|
And yet, sweet Melanie Wilkes, her cousin, doggedly stands by her side, until her untimely death. “Why?,” one may wonder. What sensitive and forgiving Melanie sees is the shining side of Scarlett. Melanie ignores Scarlett’s tantrums and tempestuous outbursts, focusing instead on her actions during the war years, her intelligence and determination, her courage. Scarlett survives the war, and in what becomes a pattern in her life, overcomes today’s trauma, so she can reach tomorrow. While all the men are at war, Scarlett takes on the burden of her family, servants, and the Wilkes family, while running Tara, the family plantation. In short, Scarlett is indomitable. Through Melanie’s understanding and loving eyes, we come to admire Scarlett’s strength.
|The plantation mistress works in the cotton fields|
The magnificent scene at the end of Part 1 still gives me the goose bumps. A different Scarlett emerges out of the harrowing war years. Hunger and poverty have damaged her. She is harder, and determined to survive. She will re-invent herself into a ruthless and materialistic opportunist.
|“I’ll never be hungry again!”|
“As God is my witness, as God is my witness.
And as we watch her grow into a powerful businesswoman and a leader, and follow her disastrous and often misguided personal life, we wish – the young teenager I was then, so many years ago, wished – that we could shake her up, tell her to open her pretty green eyes and really look at the people around her. Come on, Katie Scarlett, look at Melanie. Listen to her. A girl needs girlfriends. True friends. Not all women are enemies you need to compete with. And Rhett. What a guy, Scarlett. Don’t let Rhett run away from you. Forget Ashley. He is so “Old South!” Rhett is the future. He understands you. He will be by your side, no matter what happens.
There is no reasoning with Scarlett. Watching her towards the end of the movie is like seeing a runaway train headed for a precipice. It is mesmerizing and terrifying all at once. Then the ending comes. Rhett finally gives up on her, and leaves their beautiful house, with what remains one of the most famous lines in American cinema: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.“
|Magnificent Vivien Leigh|
|Scarlett is home again|