I don’t remember when I first saw Gone with the Wind. I’m sure I was at least a teenager. Upon my first introduction to Scarlett O’Hara, I really wanted to smack her. She was a rule-breaking, boyfriend-stealing, mean-spirited brat. She was also beautiful, had a wardrobe to die for, and lived on a gorgeous plantation with men literally falling at her feet. OK, so I was a little jealous too.
I also believe Scarlett O’Hara is one of the most misunderstood characters of all time. Having watched the movie several times, and read the book, I believe Scarlett was a very strong willed person who dared to take control of her own life. She fought the asphyxiation of society and clawed her way out for oxygen.
Remember the scene at Twelve Oaks when Scarlett threw a knickknack at the wall and it shattered over Rhett Butler’s head? I think that is the first honest emotion we see from her, and when Rhett first became intrigued by her.
Margaret Mitchell began writing her epic tale in 1926 after she was injured in an accident that took years to heal. Encouraged to finish by a publishing friend, she took more time to research for historical accuracy. It was published in 1936 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937.
Producer David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights for $50,000 in 1936. Filmed in California, the famous scene at the Twelve Oaks picnic was filmed at Busch Gardens. The lack of extras to play the dead and wounded Confederate soldiers toward the end of the war forced Selznick to use 1000 dummies to show the epic suffering. The burning of Atlanta was filmed on a movie set in California, not Georgia.
During the premiere in Atlanta, the Governor of Georgia declared a state holiday, and organized three days of parades and parties. One sad fact I found was that even though Hattie McDonald, who played Mammy won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, she was not allowed to sit with the other nominees at the GWTW table, but was segregated to the back with a friend, and her agent.
For me, Gone with the Wind is an example of that good ole’ “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” mentality. Scarlett did what she felt she had to do to survive. Even if that meant beguiling her sister’s beau to marry her in order to keep a roof over everyone’s head, or seducing Rhett Butler for the money to save her precious Tara.
It takes a strong will and courage to go up against scrutiny. Yes, some of her decisions did hurt others, and I think she did feel bad about it.. But her determination also provided a home and sustenance for others in need.
In the end, she grew up and realized that Ashley was just a dreamer, not her savior. Rhett understood her, and that was a lot more than anyone else had ever tried to do. Melody loved her unconditionally, even with all the bad choices she made. On the surface, Scarlett did seem like a self-centered brat. Inwardly, I believe she loved very deeply, so much so that she was willing to do the unthinkable for those she loved.
Writing Prompt: Margaret Mitchell purposely wrote Gone with the Wind without a definite ending. How would you have ended the story?