Read-Along: Gone With the Wind

 

My Feelings for Scarlett O'Hara (1)

We are half-way through the read-along of Gone With the Wind. Corinne is unable to continue leading us, so please check out Brona’s blog for this week’s check-in. I will do the next check-in in two weeks (June 27), unless Corinne can pick up again. She has been such an enthusiastic leader so far, and I credit her for helping me really get into the story.

I had a slow start, but I am all caught up now. While there are some parts that feel a little long, overall, I am enjoying this sweeping saga. (Can you call it a “family saga” if it focuses on only one generation?)

I like Rhett Butler much better than I had expected, but Scarlett O’Hara . . . . I’ve been going back and forth with how I feel about her. Here is a sample of the internal dialogue I have going on every time I pick up the book:

Me 1: So, at the beginning, I felt sorry for Scarlett. You can really see how she’s similar to her dad, and if she had been a man, she could have done so much more with her life.
Me 2: Yes, but she makes absolutely no effort to think about anything other than dresses and boys. If she had been a man, she probably would have been just like the Tarleton twins, snubbing her nose at an education.
Me 1: True, she has no curiosity about anything that goes on outside of her little world. But it’s too bad that all those characteristics that made her father successful—the stubbornness and the hunger for success—are making her a not-so-nice person. Tenacity was not a desired trait in a woman back then.
Me 2: She doesn’t seem to learn anything either as we read along, does she? Why didn’t she listen to her father when he told her Ashley wasn’t a good match for her? He was so right about that.
Me 1: Well, she was only 16. Which 16-year-old ever listens to her parents?
Me 2: Still, marrying someone out of spite is pretty despicable.
Me 1: But she certainly regretted that spontaneous decision.
Me 2: You’d think she might have learned something from her mistake. But I don’t see any personal growth after the marriage disaster.
Me 1: She’s still so young, though. And since dancing and flirting is what she’s always done, isn’t it understandable that she misses it and takes the first opportunity to go back to it?
Me 2: Yeah, maybe at the beginning of the war, when everyone still thinks it will be an easy and quick victory. But you’d think that at some point, she’d have a little compassion for others and stop thinking about herself all the time.
Me 1: She does take care of Aunt Pitty and Melanie. And in a way, it’s admirable that she doesn’t get carried away by the feverish patriotism that grips everyone else.
Me 2: She only does it because Ashley asked her to. She’s not doing it out of the goodness of her heart. And her lack of blind patriotism is not because she’s realistic about the situation, like Rhett is, but because she’s simply not interested in it.
Me 1: I was surprised that she doesn’t seem to take any pride in the work that she puts into keeping Tara.
Me 2: I really wished to see a little more depth in character at this point. She finally has a good reason to be proud of herself, for escaping from burning Atlanta and getting Melanie and the children safely to Tara, but instead she’s just resenting everyone for putting her into such a situation.
Me 1: She can’t see that the men are respecting her more now than at the beginning, when she was just an entertaining plaything for them. She has no desire to be a leader, which is a shame because she deals with the challenges of the war and its aftermath much better than others at Tara.
Me 2: But every time she does something great, like saving the livestock from the Yankees and keeping them from burning Tara, she starts complaining. Tara is so important to her, but she takes no pleasure in the responsibility that comes with it.
Me 1: But that role is so different from the way she was brought up. She was aware of her mother’s strength in keeping the household running, but she really has no woman in her life who could be a role model for her under the drastically changed circumstances she finds herself in.

As you can see, compassion, pity, annoyance, irritation, all tangled up together. From what little I remember from the movie, I am not sure my feelings will untangle themselves as I continue reading.

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19 comments

  1. What a great way to demonstrate your feelings as you read GWTW! And funny! I guess I don’t concentrate just on Scarlett so much. But then I’ve only reread the first 10 chapters thus far. I do agree that Melanie is just a bit too “pure” for me at times, but she makes an excellent counterpoint to Scarlett and allows us to witness certain aspects of Rhett’s personality that we might not otherwise realize…

    • That is an excellent point! I’m glad you pointed it out. I agree with you that the interactions between these three characters are very interesting and shows us sides of each person that we might otherwise not have seen. I think you could also include Ashley here. Just like Scarlett and Melanie are often opposites, so are Rhett and Ashley.

      • So very true! Some symmetry there among the characters. I’m sure there are many aspects of this book that could be analyzed and re-analyzed. I’m just thrilled for the end result!! 🙂 I love everyone’s reactions–so varied and educational in their own right!

  2. Hmm, histrionic personality disorder is very interesting. I understand how you feel about Scarlett, she really does make me a little crazy because selfishness is her default reaction to everything. However, at the same time I really love her. I think she’s a very strong female character and it’s so wonderful to read how she changes and becomes self-sufficient as a result of the war’s impact on her world.

  3. Haha! This is funny. I have a lot of the same thoughts. What she is doing if good and helpful. But what she is thinking is terrible and selfish. And then Melanie is there thanking her and praising her for her kindness so that adds some confusion. And, of course, Rhett notices her motives so we now see that Scarlett’s actions aren’t all Melanie praises them to be. Maybe Scarlett has a little of Ellen and Gerald in her. I really like how your wrote your post.

  4. I never thought I’d want to read Gone With the Wind, but I recently read a great essay about it in Slightly Foxed literary quarterly, and now I think I might give it a shot someday. Can’t wait to hear what you think once you’re finished!

    And I loved reading your inner monologue – so funny! 🙂

  5. I think your back and forth about Scarlett really illustrates why she’s such a great character! Conflicting feelings, lots of room for discussion/debate, strong feelings one way or the other….I much preferred her to wet noodle Melanie!

  6. I love the way you wrote this post — it expresses my experience with Scarlett exactly. 🙂
    I’m hanging on because I expect the ride with Scarlett to reach new heights and new depths.

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