Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Fiddle Dee Dee! (There's a Little bit of Scarlett in the "Melaniest" of Women...And Vice Versa)

How do I love Scarlett...let me count the ways! The first time I made her acquaintance I was too young to know about the Civil War, but old enough to know I wanted men to bring me Barbeque. (This was in my meat-eating days.)

Scarlett did what she wanted, when she wanted, and rules be damned! Even though she had astoundingly bad taste in men (Ashley Wilkes), she had style. Certainly more style than that drip, Melanie.

The day I finished reading the book I was too overwrought to go to school. It was just too damned much that at the exact moment that Scarlet came to her sense Rhett decided to be difficult. It is for this reason I avoid the end of the book and the movie...because it never changes. The girl just keeps getting left.

(I once got into a fight with a boyfriend because I told him I was sure that Rhett and Scarlett made up a few months after he walked out. He told me it was a book, they had no life outside of the book, and that's that.)

Here is the thing though -- faux sequels to the contrary, as time went on I knew that these two people probably were not meant to be together. She was damaged by the war and only as strong as her denial of her frailties -- constantly looking to "tomorrow", because the past was too painful, and the present too tumultuous. Rhett was in a different place -- realizing for the first time that he didn't want to deny his roots; in a world too changed he wanted to find the simpler joys he'd rejected in his youth.

And then it hit me that the strongest character in the book (and movie) was quite possibly the one that most people would dismiss as the weakest: Melanie Wilkes. She had love for the fundamentally screwed up Scarlett, and when others were damning the Yankies she tended their graves, hoping that some woman in the North was doing the same.

Scarlett, who spent a lifetime denying the worth of Melanie, felt that her death was like losing her mother all over again. The one person who was always in her corner was gone.

Rhett loved Scarlett, but did he ever really like her? He stated that they were alike more than once, but the qualities they shared were ultimately the ones that he rejected. He opted for the type of life that she was fighting to forget she'd ever lived.

Other than Scarlett's mother, nobody other than Melanie and Mamie saw all of Scarlett. She was too busy faking weakness to get Ashley, or denying weakness to distance herself from Rhett. Only the women -- probably because Scarlett saw them as being insignificant -- got the whole package.

I can't help but think that Scarlett would have kept Rhett if she'd allowed herself to be more like Melanie -- and Melanie would have kept a little better hold on Ashley if she'd have let loose her inner Katie Scarlett.

And maybe in focusing on Rhett and Scarlett we missed an equally fascinating story about two women who had much to offer one another. (But that's the plot of Cold Mountain!)

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