Today’s participation post is about our favorite female character and my choice isn’t very popular among bookish people. I LOVE Scarlett O’Hara. From the moment Vivien Leigh graces the opening scene, I fell hard and needed to read the book, but there was one slight problem! I was five years old! No one felt it was appropriate to read me the book and yet it was okay to let me watch the film. I come from a family that don’t read for pleasure and I’m the odd ball always with my nose stuck in a book. My grandmother took pity and took me to the library where we would go daily for an hour while she read to me in the corner. It was our dirty little secret. Some grandmothers feed you extra cookies, mine read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. I understood the basis of the novel partly because I had seen the film, but it wasn’t until I read it on my own at the age of 12 that I truly appreciated it.
A lot of people take issue with Scarlett by describing her as selfish and childish. I like to remind them that she’s just sixteen years old when she’s sitting on Tara’s steps talking to the Tarleton brothers and while she exclaims the war talk has ruined all the fun at parties, you have to admit the thought of war is pretty scary especially for a teenager. I’m showing my age here, but I remember the first time there was talk of the First Gulf War and how immensely troubled I was despite not fully knowing the facts. I try to picture what it must have been like for Scarlett and I can’t blame her for wanting to forget about the war. Even when she’s a nurse and helping the cause she wants to be elsewhere. In one scene she’s talking to her mother and her mother declares how she wishes she could keep her at Tara instead of sending her back to Atlanta and, “She did not tell her mother that it was the dancing and the beaux which drew her back to Atlanta and not the service of the Confederacy.”
Now in terms of being manipulative, I mean heck she does lead Charles on and marries the poor boy making him believe she cares about him; she also does what’s right. I know you’re probably thinking, “huh?” Truth be told, I bet Charles was really happy knowing he married her and his last thoughts were probably about her. Charles doesn’t want to marry Honey and as Mitchell describes, “Charles was not excited over the prospect of marrying her, for she stirred in him none of the emotions of wild romance that his beloved books had assured him were proper for a lover. He had always yearned to be loved by some beautiful, dashing creature full of fire and mischief. And here was Scarlett O’Hara teasing him about breaking her heart!” I don’t agree with her treatment of Frank and stealing him under Suellen’s nose, but in her defense Scarlett knew Frank was always going to keep Suellen waiting. Does it make right, what she did? No, but she’s a woman who devised a backup plan when her original went out the window. With regards to Ashley…she just didn’t know any better. How many times have we coveted something only to get it and realize we didn’t want it all? Scarlett would have eaten Ashley alive had she married him and he knew early on that they weren’t right for each other. Different temperaments and life plans. Scarlett marrying Ashley on the brink of war wouldn’t be the same Scarlett we see emerge. Ashley though just represents life before the war and how happy she was. When Scarlett finally grows up, it’s with a heart of steel. She’s a product of the war and she’s a realist. The moment she arrives home to Tara she knows everything will be okay because her mother is there to take over. I know coming home feels like a vacation itself because my parents are there to take away the problems of the world.
So when she realizes that her mother is gone and sees the devastation around her and experiences hunger (she’s never had to do without before), she has no choice but to put her foot down and declare, “As God is my witness, as God is my witness, the Yankees aren’t going to lick me. I’m going to live through this, and when it’s over, I’m never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill — as God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again.”
Now we see the Scarlett that we could cheer for and she’s ruthless. A woman ahead of her time by opening her own business and running it, she isn’t afraid of anything except doing without. And yet, it’s her downfall. Money to her is always the solution and I can’t agree more. Sure money doesn’t buy happiness, but it saves Tara.
I’ve always found it interesting that Rhett cared for Melanie the way he did. He respected her and while I don’t believe he wanted Scarlett to be her, she was everything he wanted Scarlett to be. Melanie was a loyal friend, kind and caring mother, but most importantly she was in love with her husband. Scarlett was jealous of Melanie not only because she had Ashley’s love and his name, but because Rhett looked up to her. Melanie though understood Scarlett and how misunderstood she was. She defends her during the Twelve Oaks barbeque, “She’s just high spirited and vivacious. I thought her most charming.” Melanie saw Scarlett for what she was and for what she would become. At the same time, Scarlett always wanted to be like her mother. In many ways, Ellen is like Melanie and I’ve always thought it was interesting that it’s Melanie that’s around Scarlett. Scarlett doesn’t realize what she has in front of her until it’s too late. When she does, she tries her hardest to make things right. Sadly, Scarlett learns the most important lesson of loss when Rhett declares, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”
I always wanted to be like Scarlett. Be that person who didn’t give a damn about what people thought about her and could walk into a room with her head held high when she knows she did no wrong. I wanted a Rhett to declare his devotion to me. I wanted to have an Ashley because he understood Scarlett and saw the real person she was even before she was able to. I’m not that Scarlett who can flirt with men (I’m terrible at it) or loves to dance (I loathe it). Scarlett has her faults and she’s not perfect. Oftentimes in fiction we’re presented with these paragons of virtue in both our main characters. Everyone in Gone With the Wind is flawed in some form (yes, even the saintly Melanie) and while its history is romanticized with the Old South and the good old days, it provides us with a heroine who is very human. Mitchell gave me a heroine who I can walk and dream with. Most importantly, she gave me Scarlett and Scarlett taught me that “tomorrow is another day.”
Today’s challenge is the 99 page test. Basically you take a book you’ve not read yet and turn to page 99 then give a synopsis of it without spoiling it. So here goes, from Deanna Raybourn’s A Spear of Summer Grass.
Synopsis: The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.
Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.
Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.
Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.
hmmmm Delilah meets with Kit Parrymore and spends an afternoon with him much to Dora’s surprise. There’s a hint that Delilah may have spent more than afternoon walking with him (wink, wink). While she was Kit, Delilah receives an invitation to a dinner party from someone named Helen and Dora hands it to her. Delilah announces she will accept the invitation and when Dora asks why Kit is in town, she explains it.
Will I read this? Of course! I need to know who this Kit is and why Dora disapproves of him as well as why Kit’s in Africa.