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Your Turn: Scarlett O'Hara

From Gone With The Wind.
Book by Margaret Mitchell
movie directed by Victor Fleming
Nominated by Sabrina Stevens

If ever there was a character who has made an impression on American society, it is Scarlett O'Hara of Gone with the Wind. From the time the book was written, to the first airing of the movie based on the book, and subsequent showings of the movie, Scarlett O'Hara is a heroine that all Americans, male and female, can look up.

Her ability to be headstrong and stubborn and to go after what she wants (or thinks she wants) despite what society might think, show us that despite what others say, what hardships may come our way, we must always stick to the what we believe in, to forge ahead and never give up.

Even when things are darkest, she exemplifies the meaning of "Tomorrow is another day" and of course, another day to fight on and to hope. Scarlett O'Hara has been an inspiration to me since I first read Margaret Mitchell's classic in junior high in the '70s and to this day, no one, real or fictional, has come close to making such an impression. She has taught me to follow my dream and to never give up.



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I will preface this by saying I have only seen the movie, so I don't know how different the book's Scarlett might be. But I couldn't disagree more: Scarlett whines, connives, and remains oblivious to the tide of history swirling past her throughout the entire story, despite the efforts of Rhett, Ashley, et al to get her to stop seeing the world as a fairy book designed solely for her pleasure.

Even in the end, after seeming to lose everything she ever wanted (both Ashley and Rhett), her profound response is simply "Tomorrow is another day." That's it? Nothing is changed, it's just another day, more of the same "I'll make these people and this world love me, no matter what the cost is."

If she represents America, it's the worst of it, not the best.

Sent by Jay Laush | 4:13 PM | 1-14-2008

While Scarlett O'Hara may be an exciting character to read about and watch in Technicolor, she is no heroine. A heroine must have noble qualities, and frankly my dear Scarlett does not.

She is spoiled and selfish; only concerned with her own pleasures. When she is at mass the night before the bbq begins she is scheming how to make Ashley love her.

She marries Charles Hamilton, who she does not love or even like, to make Ashley jealous. When Charles dies she is upset that she must wear black and ruin her clothes. She flirts with Rhett believing he is not good enough for her. She marries her sister's beau and he is killed defending her honor. As far as being a mother: Rhett tells her that a cat is a better mother.

When Melanie dies she finally realizes that the long-suffering Melanie really was her true friend all along. Instead of dealing with loss head on she runs to Tara. She represents greed and a lack of compassion. Any power she has is based on beauty and manipulation. Her world is self serving and superficial.

Sent by Tina Brett | 2:29 PM | 1-15-2008

hello together,

can somebody please give me a characterization of Scarlett O 'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" and "Is she a typical woman of her time period?"
I'm so sorry about my English.
Can somebody help me with theese?
Tahank a lot!

Sent by Silke Muller | 7:50 PM | 1-15-2008

She really is an animal, using her instincts to fight for herself in the face of one of history's greatest disasters. I was going to use the term "monster," but you can see the self-preservation at work: she's not quite helpless or tragic enough to be called a monster. Her story arc might be interesting to compare to Nomi's from Showgirls, another cinematic "womanimal!"

Sent by John Werner | 12:05 PM | 1-22-2008

I am appalled at these comments. Good grief, you all must be Yankees! Scarlett is widely viewed among Southern women as a survivor. She did what she had to do to feed her family -- none of the other characters in that book had, in Scarlett's words, any "gumption" and would have starved.

Sent by Rachel | 6:44 PM | 1-22-2008

I have only seen the movie "Gone with the Wind", but even that well-made cinematic experience was utterly repellent to me, due in no small part to the execrable character of Scarlett O'Hara.

I agree with all the previous posters about Scarlett's obliviousness to the epic events sweeping her along and her fundamental selfishness which prevented her from caring about them or about anyone else.

I am not a Yankee, but I am a moral and ethical individual. Scarlett not only profited from the enslavement of blacks, but did so willingly and happily. No punishment would have been too severe for her moral repugnance, and her continued survival was no more admirable than the continued survival of a cockroach.

Her short period of privation during the Civil War was nothing compared to the many score years and thousands of individuals who were raped, whipped, lynched and otherwise brutalized at the hands of men and women who knew full well what they did and justified their ethical corruption with nothing more than greed and bigotry.

The day everyone recognizes Scarlett for the pathetic, base creature she is will be the day humanity takes another step closer to becoming a morally responsible species.

Sent by John Brown | 3:38 AM | 1-26-2008

Oh dear, how can we continue to present Scarlett as a heroine. She was self-centered, thoughtless, and amoral. Even as a young teen I understood that Melanie had the strength and moral fiber to be the one I wanted to be like.

I was a blue-collar kid in a school neatly divided between classes, the upper middle class and wealthy kids from one town and the lower middle class and working poor Italian immigrant in another. And there was Scarlett all privileged and rich like all the girls in my high school, disdainful of anyone less than she, including the slaves she owned and the poorer white girls and women around her. Years later when I moved to the South I realized that the things folk there said about African Americans were the same sort of things said about Italians in my family.

And there is the image of Scarlett as an independent, dare I say liberated woman. She understood nothing about women and sisterhood, if I can use that word. For me, her scheming and ruthlessness overshadowed the independence of spirit that others seem to admire.
While she is fascinating, as are many literary creations, she is not admirable.

Sent by Cher Holt-Fortin | 4:36 PM | 1-28-2008

The notion that some Black Woman would have some affinity for Scarlett on a gender level is not a newsflash. The idea that Black woman would then ignore the racist aspect of gender.. the white female privileged based gender now that would be a newsflash...

I doubt if Pearl Cleage or any other Black woman would support that premise...

Sent by Thrasher | 4:40 PM | 1-28-2008

After Gerald O'Hara falls off the horse and dies, Scarlett gives his watch to Pork. That gesture speaks volumes about her character.

I always thought Scarlett was pretty cool. I love how she always longed to be more like her mother -- gracious, patient, a real lady -- but was never quite able to pull it off.

The book gives much better insight into her complex character than the movie. It's a must-read if you wish to understand how Margaret Mitchell originally crafted her.

Sent by Lynn | 6:39 PM | 1-28-2008

Scarlett, when we first see her is 15 and oblivious to everything beyond her immediate needs. I think that we can forgive her for that. She is not a nice person - a spoiled brat offspring of the privileged class.

The times, however, change and she must survive. She is strong while others are weak. She shows guile, wit, charm, and whatever it takes to get her way. Others benefited and some suffered. All that is portrayed well in both the book and the movie.

I recall that in the book she was raped. She also had to plow the fields. So she got a sampling of what real life was like, although she still remains largely oblivious to the plight of others. She was willing to do what it takes, made up her mind, and worked hard. She had the gumption and the opportunity, in the only way that women had then and there, (marry well - not unlike an Austen heroine), and made the most of it.

Today, with the same traits, she would be rich and famous. People would still love and hate her.

Now, if my son comes home with a new girlfriend, I hope that it is Melanie and not Scarlett!!

Sent by Roger Holmstrom | 6:40 PM | 1-28-2008

I was stunned when I heard this essay today. As a privileged, upper middle class Southern white girl who grew up in the heart of the deep south during the Civil Rights movement, I grew up loathing Scarlett O'Hara and the whole Gone With The Wind mythos. I find it shocking that an African American girl could ignore the setting of this story and fixate on the character of this selfish, egoistical Southern belle who treated her slaves as if they were pets.

To me, she epitomized the delusional self-aggrandizement I saw in the culture where I grew up. There was a relentless sense of winsome longing for the 'old south' to return to the way it had been before 'the war'. In the South where I grew up, there was only one war and it had nothing to do with Europe. I could not wait to leave the racist, misogynistic place where I was born.

Although my family was liberal, I was surrounded by people who bought the myth of the great injustice done to them by the "Yankees" and wallowed in their Civil War heritage while ignoring the rampant poverty and racial injustice before their very eyes, at the heart of their most established institutions. They claimed to be 'good Christians' but not if it required them to share their bounty with another class of people.

From what I've seen, the place hasn't changed much. More poverty, less sympathy, more blatant corruption in government. The south is still full of Scarletts - willing to walk all over those less fortunate and sacrifice the greater good of society for their own selfish purposes.

Sent by Ginger | 8:51 PM | 1-28-2008

Some posters focus only on Scarlett's negative qualities, but those are the qualities that make the character so interesting in the first place. You could call Melanie the hero (as did Margaret Mitchell) because she is entirely good, but she lacks strength. Yes, Scarlett is selfish, but she's also a survivor and becomes strong when the others want to give up.

Also, it amazes me that some resent the fact that the injustices of slavery aren't addressed in the story. That's not its intention. It's not meant to be politically correct. The book is brutally honest in showing the white Southern point of view during and after the Civil War, which includes slavery and the racism of the period. The novel was well researched and is a valuable insight into the mindset of a conquered people.

Sent by Owen | 9:39 PM | 1-28-2008

Scarlett O'Hara-One word describes her:unforgettable. Either you love her or hate her but she still strikes a chord in everyone who has watched the movie or read the book.

She was strong willed, determined to survive in the midst of tragedy, and much like an office exec. of today, she focused on her climb toward success and considered it "nothing personal" to others she sideswiped on the way. She was passionate, brave, and an early feminist who let no man stand in her way of success.

She reacted to the war and postwar the only way she knew-she couldn't help it if she was raised privileged and was not taught to see beyond colors, unfortunately that's how many men and women were brought up at this time period.

Give Scarlett a break. Open the book. Highlight a few positive passages that enhance her finer characteristics, and then take a break until tomorrow when you can think clearly-because after all "tomorrow is another day"!!!!!

Sent by Shannon Palmer | 11:10 PM | 1-28-2008

We Black women that admire Scarlett do not " ignore the setting of this story and fixate on the character of this selfish, egoistical Southern belle who treated her slaves as if they were pets." But it is what it is. We can't go back in time and change how things were. Truth be told, we are still dealing with people who treat us as pets, but we laugh at them and continue on because we are FREE to do so.

My point is, it's fiction written by a White Southern Woman. It's a novel about a woman who does what she has to to survive. No one said she was perfect or had a realistic view of the world, but she was a WOMAN a FIGHTER and a SURVIVOR. That's what the novel is about. So you either take it or leave it. As a Black woman, I take it. I love the novel, I love the movie, and I love Scarlett.

Sent by Leslie House | 7:07 PM | 3-26-2008

My perception is that the movie about a woman - trying to exercise life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - in a man's world. Time-period not withstanding, she represented an independent mind in a world where female independence was all but cause for imprisonment. She was a woman who followed her heart - getting her and others into much trouble - but nevertheless she's a creative, persistent, strong-willed, intelligent, independent minded wife, widow, daughter, sister, mother, land owner, business owner, farmer, fighter, lover and crier - she was forever in the pursuit of happiness, and making mistakes along the way - NEVER giving up - not letting others dictate to her how she should behave or what her dreams should be - more power to her!

Sent by Sandee | 10:20 AM | 9-15-2008

The answer to Silke is - no. In my opinion Scarlett was not a typical American woman - she was more intelligent, more determined, and more courageous than a typical American woman of ANY time period.

Sent by Sandee | 10:34 AM | 9-15-2008