Scarlett O’Hara: Banned Books Week Character Connection

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Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
How the world sees Scarlett

I intended to write about a different character this week, but I hated to throw such a sweet guy into the mix of my Banned Books Week celebration, so I’m going with that minx, Scarlett O’Hara.

I just cannot figure out how I feel about her. I’m still trying to decide whether I love her or hate her eight months after finishing Gone With the Wind! She reminds me of Anna Karenina in that respect. (Coincidence that Vivien Leigh portrayed both women? Probably not.) Scarlett is a huge mix of contradictions. Maybe she has a multiple personality disorder! But that’s not it either. All of her traits make sense together when you step back and look at them the right way, it’s just not immediately obvious.

Anyway, I guess you can already tell this is going to be a rambling post.

As I sat down to write this, I was thinking that Scarlett is dumb as a post (I was thinking about a line early in the book where she cracked me up with her utter ignorance of history). But that’s not at all true. She’s actually too smart for her own good. She’s weak on “book smarts” but I’m guessing that’s because she’s too busy having fun and flirting to bother with books. She has a good head for business and she’s not afraid to use it. She’s also great at getting what she wants. If charm doesn’t work, she has a sort of alley cat shrewdness that lets her see exactly how to manipulate people.

She is a survivor above all. Her world is burned down around her and she comes back stronger than ever. While all the other people of her class are stoically and heroically starving to death, she is picking cotton, growing food, and striking deals with the Yankees. Honor never seemed to mean much to her to start with, but she definitely ditched the concept when her life was on the line.

Scarlett O'Hara
Scarlett showing her true character

She’s probably one of the least introspective characters that I’ve ever come across. She doesn’t really want to think; she just wants to do. And that’s how she gets into so much trouble. She does not have any self awareness. That’s the only way she could want a wimp like Ashley. He’s absolutely no match for her, but since she thinks that she’s a perfect Southern lady like her mother, she doesn’t see it. Rhett is another survivor but she looks down on him (See his Character Connection post). She doesn’t see that they’re both on the same path. She marries men who are completely unsuited for her for all the wrong reasons. Again, she’s just not thinking, she’s doing.

She is one of the worst mothers in literature, I swear! If you’ve only seen the movie, you might be surprised to find out that she has several children. Even if you’ve read the book, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about them; Scarlett forgets about them herself. If it weren’t for sweet Melanie, the poor things would never get any kind of maternal love.

But while I’m loathing her for ruining men’s lives, wanting a married man, neglecting her children, and exploiting everyone around her, I’m also admiring the way she steps up. It wouldn’t have surprised me if she had just decided to look out for herself when the family was all but starving. But she didn’t let that happen. I think that was because of her vanity as well. “Not on my watch!” That’s not fair; she does care about the others just a little bit. My inner feminist likes the way that she refuses to do what society expects of her just because she’s a member of the “weaker” sex. She wants a business, so she darn well gets one. My outer wallflower admires that too.

Whatever I felt for her, I always felt it strongly. I was never indifferent to her. I know I’ll be thinking about her for years to come.

Who have you connected with recently? Link your post on Mr. Linky, then be sure to go check out the other Character Connections!

Character Connection meme hosted at The Introverted Reader

Who do ya love?

Or love to hate?

You know you’ve got a lot to say about some larger-than-life characters, and this is the place to say it. Write a straightforward post. Draw a picture. Vlog, write poetry, write fiction, cast the role, be as creative as you want!

Be sure to post the book’s title and author, and be very careful not to give away spoilers while talking about how much you love your characters.

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1 Comment

  1. I love Scarlett. I honestly didn't realize until just a few years ago that large swaths of people hate her. I suspect one reason many people dislike her is that they recognize a few of her less-desirable attributes in themselves. But we're lucky enough not to live in the midst of war and starvation and occupation, and so we've never had our mettle tested as poor Scarlett has. Yes, she's stubborn and selfish and self-centered, but I think the core to her being is something you mention – the fact that she makes sure her family is fed (including all her sisters and their servants/former slaves) and their house is saved, no matter how low she has to stoop to do so, from picking the cotton herself (which other genteel Southern women at the time would literally rather die than do) to even offering herself up as collateral. And to top it off, one of those sisters is Suellen, a horrid bitch who would have disappeared in an instant if she'd been able to and never looked back. She might have not cared so much for how it looked for her to run her own business, but she absolutely did have principles and she stood by her responsibilities, even if she resented every minute of it. I give her a lot of credit for that. I think in the same situation, I would have responded very similarly to Scarlett, although with a little more book smarts and a little less business smarts (so I would have fared less well.) Thank goodness I don't have to deal with those situations, but I'm not going to fault someone who's doing what it takes to put food on the table. (Yes, I know that she does some awful things, like marrying Charles, long before lives are at stake, but she's very, very young when she does that, and she does regret it, although not for the right reasons.) I'm so glad you finally liked GWTW!

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