I’ve read Gone with the Wind probably five times, so it is fair to say that it is my absolute favorite book. Recently, I purchased the unabridged audio book and couldn’t wait to hear it in all its southern glory. Well, I was shocked to the core when Scarlett, in an inner dialogue, accuses her former overseer, Wilkerson, as being a “n*&%$# loving so and so. How had I missed that in all the years of loving this book?! Listening to someone else read a book versus reading for oneself definitely changes it up. I now heard my beloved in a whole new way.
Was Scarlett O’ Hara prejudiced? It certainly sounded so. Was Margaret Mitchell prejudiced and it just came out in this
unlikable character she created, or was she a master storyteller and knew how to give us a complex character, one whom we wouldn’t necessarily like, but fundamentally root for anyway?
If you think about it, without giving away spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read this book (it only came out more than 70 years ago, get with it people!) things don’t really go well for poor Scarlett: she suffers hardship and deprivation, she realizes only too late who her real friends are, and well…I might give it away here, but it ends with that famous quote: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” So, maybe Margaret Mitchell wanted to show Scarlett who was boss, and that she couldn’t get away with her shenanigans without consequence.
When you think about it don’t we all harbor some form of prejudice in our hearts? Some are against people of another race, some have prejudices within their own race, some don’t like this religion or that one, some are against the rich, or the poor. Some don’t like fat people, some don’t like skinny people. Some don’t like old people, while some don’t like young ones. Heck, my own mother is prejudiced against jarred tomato sauce (which I have no problem using).
So, love her or hate her, Scarlett is merely a reflection of the times in which she lived and the unfortunate opinions of many from that time period. Gone with the Wind proudly displays a slice of American history that a few would prefer to hide (I would venture to say, however, that there are those who viewed it as their southern history and displayed it on the coffee table next to the family Bible). But, Scarlett O ‘Hara gets into our minds and regrettably our hearts. So, while I don’t agree with the sentiments of this fictional character, she is real, she is human and her brilliantly drawn character has resonated with millions for seven decades.
That’s what I have to say. What famous fictional character resonates with you?