Scarlett O’Hara

Of all the women I’ve written about for my series Women Who Wow Wednesday, Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara has to be the only one who stokes fear in my heart. She is the perfect incarnation of the devil himself on this earth. Yes, them’s fightin’ words. No, I ain’t takin’m back.

Scarlett O'Hara
Scarlett O’Hara

What could be so horrific about a woman wanting to ensure her survival by swearing an oath? “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.

To understand the villainy behind this woman, let me transport you to the Ol’ South. To a time when blacks were slaves and the aristocrats ruled the land with a rod of iron.

Katie Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), as everyone knows her, is all but sixteen when she sets her eyes on neighbor Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). In all of the county, and of all of the girls, she is the prettiest. Yet her beauty comes with a price. Inside, she is vain, self-centered, and somewhat spoiled. As intelligent as she is, she can flip into becoming babyish and overthink the little things.

Now, as for Scarlett’s fancy for Ashley, in private quarters, she declares her love for him. But Ashley intends to marry Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), Scarlett’s cousin. This doesn’t sit well with Scarlett. Not one bit. She berates him. How dare he make her believe he loved her? So enraged, when he leaves the parlor, she swears she would hate him forever and throws a vase at the wall. At this point, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a visitor from South Carolina, emerges from behind the couch. He wonders if the war had started. Well, Scarlett wasn’t going to have any of his disrespect and defends Ashley, who moments ago she’d cut down to a nub. Her strong-willed nature prompts Rhett to pursue the wild-tempered woman. At the same time, Scarlett finds Rhett liberating.

Scarlett
Scarlett

Once the war is over, Scarlett’s heart hardens. The insecurities she felt growing up come back to haunt her as she battles her fear of homelessness and starvation. Money becomes her god, and she turns to questionable business practices to get ahead. This leads her to pursue high profit margins at the expense of forced labor.

All very well and fine in business, but her family life, and the loss of her true self catches up with her. Melanie dies leaving Scarlett to pine for Ashley’s affection once again. A broken man, Ashley tells Scarlett that Melanie was always his true love. He never loved Scarlett. In the meantime, Rhett leaves Scarlett because he realizes she never really loved him. To make matters worse, Scarlett now understands she’s loved Rhett right from the beginning.

Complicated, isn’t it?

The thing that makes Scarlett is Scarlett. No one else matters in her world except Scarlett. That’s what scares me the most about her. That’s why I placed her in the Women Who Wow Wednesday series. She’s on the opposite end of the spectrum of righteousness. I say wow! because of her inordinate talent for survival. I also say wow! because in her world, no one else matters. She’s headstrong, indifferent, and cares less about anyone who’d dare become friends with her.

Meet Scarlett O’Hara, Women Who Wow Wednesday’s first true villain.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Ever see Gone with the Wind? What did you think of Scarlett?

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28 thoughts on “Scarlett O’Hara

  1. I wish my net wasn’t down, would be so much easier to type than on my phone… First of all – thank you for writing about Scarlett. She has been my fictional heroine growing up.

    I’ve watched the movie, read the book, read both Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig. This epic story doesn’t end too tragically if you read either of these two books I mentioned.

    I find it interesting how people perceive the character of Scarlett. I’ve always seen her as a survivor, a quick witted, strong and determined woman. She made some poor decisions, but then again – who doesn’t?

    Great post Jack!

  2. I was raised on this movie, but have yet to read the book.
    This movie…complicated characters that you hate and yet understand, a story line that is painful to follow but from which it is impossible to turn away. It probably influenced my love for real storytelling.
    That being said, Scarlett is despicable. Selfish and conniving and bitter. It was always beyond me how she could be so terrible to Melanie. While naive and annoyingly good, Melanie was so good to Scarlett when no one else would be.
    And Rhett Butler. What woman in her right mind would pine after Ashley Wilkes when Rhett Butler was on the scene? No sane woman, that’s for sure!
    Thanks for reminding me how much I love this movie!

    • I love Gone with the Wind, and like you, I found Scarlett to be a despicable, spiteful woman. To me, Melanie is the epitome of sainthood. Always cared about others. Never felt jealousy or hatred. She’s the exact opposite of Scarlett. Gosh, I should have written my WWWW on Melanie. Hmm, now there’s a thought…

  3. Hi Jack, Thanks for stopping by my blog- we obviously share a kindred fondness for Miss O’Hara!

  4. Oh Ms Scarlett! I smiled when I came to your blog and saw this because I wrote a piece about her as well. I was telling her to put on her big girl panties and grow up. 🙂 I really enjoyed this post.

  5. I have to confess I’ve never seen Gone With the Wind, despite having a love for both costume melodrama and Clark Gable … but your write-up has me intrigued! One more thing to add to your “Things Amb Should Watch” list 🙂

  6. Ooh it’s getting feisty around here. Great choice. It’s been so long since I saw that movie I need to watch it again.

  7. Villain? I think you’re being a little hard on Scarlett. Is she someone I want to be friends with? No. Is she vain? Spoiled? Selfish? Arrogant? Yes. Suffering from a bit of arrested development and insecurity over an unrequited teenage love that outlived its usefulness? You betcha. She’s absolutely flawed and kind of messy as a person. But she’s also true to her word, saves Melanie and the baby, and takes care of her remaining family at Tara when she returns after the war. Her sisters never would have been able to hold on to that estate since they were flighty and equally vain and not nearly as clever; remember how they complained that Scarlett had them doing work? I’ve never been starved, especially as the result of surviving a war, but I’m sure it tends to harden your resolve to continue eating no matter what the cost.

    Does she screw up all sorts of things? Yes. Does she make some terrible decisions that bring on dreadful consequences? Yes. Does her arrogance get in her own way? Yes. But she’s not a villain. I think people love her because regardless of her many, many flaws she is a protagonist. A complicated and messy one, for sure (and whose life isn’t complicated and messy?). But a protagonist nonetheless.

  8. She really deserves a spot here. You really pulled this one out of the hat 😉 , great choice of character as always.

  9. Ah! A movie from my childhood! Scarlett O’Hara is a very determined woman who always gets what she wants and is very spoiled. But that was the Southern woman back then for you. 🙂

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