The Characters of "Gone With The Wind" - 2
↔ THE WAR OVER - CHALLENGE IS SURVIVING IN ITS AFTERMATH ↔
Gerald O'Hara brings the news inside the ravaged Tara mansion that the war has ended. The occupants have mostly survived. All slaves are freed. The possibilities are all ahead of them! Scarlett shrewdly and quickly assesses the potential for cotton crops and prepares to swing the plantation into productive gear.
The immediate need is for a way-station for the the battered, staggering, beaten Confederate soldiers returning to the ashes of their world. Scarlett, Melanie and Mammy are in charge of operations with Suellen and Careen enlisted as aids in the program. Mammy boils lice-infested uniforms and sees that the defunct army survivors bathe while Scarlett and Melanie make sure they're fed, though Scarlett grumbles about giving their scarce food away. But Melanie reminds her that some kind northern woman may also be feeding her beloved Ashley on some forlorn northern road.
Frank Kennedy is among this defeated rabble, returning bedraggled and infested from the war, eager for permission to marry Suellen, which has become Scarlett's authority to grant, as soon as he can earn enough money to provide for her.
Melanie gets word from one of the soldiers who came for refuge, about Ashley, because he'd fought with his unit and knew that he'd been captured, so she is encouraged. He is a POW, so at least - alive! Then she glimpses 'another one' coming up the road, probably hungry, and was just about to go in for a plate of food when she suddenly realizes it's Ashley; they fled as fast as they could into each other's arms while Mammy restrains Scarlett from fleeing to him, too.
Of course, once there on Tara, Ashley joins in the overall effort to provide help to the homeless war refugees in any way he can and to do his part in the plantation work. Being unaccustomed to actual chores of running a plantation or resolving its financial challenges, such as taxes, though, he feels inadequate, actually true.
Meanwhile Pork had returned from town with the news that he overheard that they were to be charged $300 for taxes on Tara, which 'might as well be a million', Scarlett said. Little wonder, when she asks Ashley for help in resolving their tax crunch, that he can offer none.
Approaching him alone in the barn, desperate and at that point, both weary and discouraged, the scene dissolves into her pleading with him to admit his love for her and run away together to Mexico. He's tempted, but of course, must refuse, being aware of Melanie and the baby and that his honor is really all he has left. Scarlett declares she has nothing left, in that case, but he picks up a handful of Tara's soil and places it in her fist, assuring her that it will sustain her.
Things Get Worse
The scene immediately shifts. Tara's former foreman-now-carpetbagger, Wilkerson, arrives at the front door in a fine horse and buggy, to present his 'new wife', the same trashy Emmie Slattery, whose care cost Mrs. O'Hara her life, now decked out in fine regalia, He's propelled by bitterness at Gerald's letting him go when Miss Ellen insisted, and presumes to have come to 'visit with old friends' and to offer to buy Tara to save it from being taxed. Scarlett seethingly tells him they're never friends, then flings the handful of its red soil, still in her clenched fist, at him, saying it's all of Tara he'll ever get.
The couple angrily get back in their wagon and leave, whereupon Gerald O'hara, who's observed all this unfold on the front steps, jumps on a horse to take off after them, but misses a jump over a fence and is tragically killed in the fall.
Postwar Trials With Tara: Her Solution: Husband #2
Alone and faced with taxes she can't pay, Scarlett purposes to go to Atlanta to beseech Rhett for money for taxes. She has Mammy make her an elegant outfit from green velvet curtains. Rhett is in jail and has no access to his money which is in a bank in England, so must refuse her, even after letting her make a fool of herself coyly asking him.
Angered, she stomps out with Mammy onto the street, where they run into Frank Kennedy and discover that Frank has, indeed, established a thriving dry-goods store. He assures her he has almost enough saved to marry Suellen and build them a house. She sees he has a small lumberyard and calculates how profitable it could be, with Atlanta's rebuilding business booming.
Of course, she sees all this as her opportunity to get the money for the taxes so she seduces Frank into marryng her, lying that Suellen just got tired of waiting for him and married someone else, as Mammy glares at her for telling such a cruel lie. But she gets the money to pay the taxes and then takes charge of the store, running everything rigidly.
Much to Frank's chagrin, Scarlett pressures his friends to pay past-due money and she expands the store into a major lumber business, which she persuades Ashley to help her run. When she approves Johnnie Gallagher's cruel use of half-starved prisoners to work it, both Frank and Ashley are aghast. She, however, is unrelenting in her pursuit of success, money and security at any cost to others.
↔ SCARLETT's FIASCO ↔
She tells Rhett, 'I can shoot straight if I don't have to shoot too far," and he's amused. But after ignoring his warnings, she is savagely attacked by a nest of rabble, fights back but passes out & is about to be violated. Miraculously, she's rescued by Big Sam, former trusted Tara slave, who is camping nearby and heard her screams for help.
Big Sam fights off the hoodlums while she escapes. He catches up with her to drives her home to safety.
The Political Situation Erupts
That evening, the menfolks head out to 'clean up' the camp of drifters responsible for the attack, taking matters in their own hands without consulting the occupying Yankee Union military. The tense women keep up appearances of normalcy, but exclude Scarlett from awareness. India almost blurts it out in her fury toward Scarlett for causing it, but Melanie shushes her, defending Scarlett.
When Rhett comes in asking where the men are, India advises Melanie to not trust him, but she reads his face and tells him where they are before he rushes to go see about them.
Meanwhile, Yankee troops, led by Captain Tom, come to investigate the men's self-governing activities. He posts men outside Melanie's house to snare the men upon their return, while inside the ladies nervously sew and Melanie reads classics aloud to them
Rhett, Dr. Meade and Ashley arrive, pretending to be sloppy drunk in order to disguise Ashley's serious wounds and support him between them. Melanie goes along with the sham as though Ashley's coming home drunk with his friends is a common occurence, while brushing aside Captain Tom's objections.
Rhett Saves the Day
Rhett provides Captain Tom with a plausible alibi, vouching that the men were with him at Belle Watling's 'men's club', assuring him that Belle will back him up. He manages to get Tom to accept it by reminding him of his own forays into Belle's place and shaming him in front of the womenfolk, who act properly miffed by their husband's outrageous behavior. Captain Tom apologetically retreats, and immediately Dr. Meade begins to treat Ashley's wounds. Scarlett's concern with Ashley prompts Rhett to remind her that she should ask about her own husband, Frank, who was killed in the ambush protecting her honor.
So once again, Scarlett is a widow wearing black, feeling sorry for herself and drinking privately. Rhett comes by, finds her in that state and warns her not to drink alone, that "people will always find out." But he'd come to declare his love and propose, while reminding her that he has to catch her between husbands.
After an initial surprise and a 'show' of objections, she enthusiastically accepts, especially when he assures her she can have as big and gaudy a diamond ring as she wants.
A Rocky Third Marriage to Rhett Begins
He will provide her lavishly with everything her heart's desires, which delights her, though she still thinks she loves Ashley and will be unable to love Rhett the same way. She explains to Rhett that they're compatible and he admits that is their best feature. With Ashley unavailable to her, she's too greedy to refuse Rhett's proposal and all he promises her and it starts off well.
Her experience of deprivation allows her to indulge in the abundance he provides. Their New Orleans lavish honeymoon has her shamelessly greedily gobbling the fine cuisine. But even on the honeymoon, Rhett must comfort her nightmares from her experiences, when she begs him to take her home to Atlanta, where he builds her a fine mansion and even restores Tara to even greater splendor than before the war. She's living in luxury.
Bonnie Blue Butler
They have a beautiful baby girl, Bonnie Blue, on whom Rhett dotes. As soon as possible, he buys her a pony and teaches her to ride. He buys her a lovely lady-like riding outfit, but it's skirted, so that it becomes necessary for her to learn to ride side-saddle, becaise her dress is unbecomingly arranged while she straddles the saddle! Rhett is determined that Bonnie will be well accepted into Atlanta society, so everything must be just 'so'.
Rhett and Bonnie Blue Butler
Jealousy rears its head, though when Scarlett announces that she want to have no more children (really because it's ruining her figure). Being before contraception was known, she mentions that Melanie can't have more babies and that Ashley respects that, clearly implying abstinence. She drops Ashley's picture she'd been mooning over. Of course, Rhett is furious.
When she begins to shut Rhett out of her bedroom, the way is paved for new jealousy and an "Ashley" cloud which hovers and paves the way for the next incident.
Scarlett and Ashley are talking at the lumber store about his birthday to be celebrated that night by Melanie's surprise party, of which he's aware but will be 'surprised'. They platonically embrace, only to be observed by India Wilkes and several of the society matrons who instantly misjudge it as intimacy.
There's no explaining, so Scarlett plans to avoid the birthday party, but Rhett insists that she must go and face the woman she's wronged. He chooses the most dramatic of her red dresses which she must wear, with 'plenty of rouge'. Then he tells her she'll have to face it alone.
Ashley's Birthday Party
Scarlett enters the party, expecting the worst. Everyone stops in their tracks and glares at her. She's unnerved but stands tall and straight-faced, appearing confident.
But Melanie, even though she's been informed of the earlier incident, trusts both Ashley and Scarlett and she immediately becomes Scarlett's protector, greeting her warmly, asking her to help with the guests and making it impossible for the guests to scorn her.
Afterward, Scarlett and Rhett chance to meet in the dining room, each there to drink, where they argue heatedly. He's been drinking quite awhile and threatens her, almost intimidating her. But she rallies and sets him straight, then leaves with aplomb and starts back upstairs.
He storms out of the room and follows her to the stairs sweeping her up in his arms and carrying her upstairs, telling her it's one time she won't shut him out.
The next morning scene finds Scarlett waking up happy, smiling and feeling great, but it is short-lived. When Rhett enters the room, she's still glowing, thinking things are resolved, but he brings different news. After apologizing for his drunken behavior the night before, he says they should get a divorce. She tries to tell him her feelings, but he's adamant, and announces he's leaving right away for London and taking Bonnie with him.
London & Return to Atlanta
At first Bonnie enjoys London but she's afraid, cries in her sleep and misses her momma.
When she begs Rhett to take her home, he does. She's thrilled to see Scarlett and Scarlett is hopeful that Rhett is glad to see her, too.
Bonnie is happy to see her mother, but when Rhett sees Scarlet at the top of the stairs, smiling at him, he's snide and insulting, saying that even a bad mother is better than none to Bonnie. Of course her smile fades.
She tells him she is pregnant, to which he's sarcastic, asking who's the father and saying maybe she'll lose the baby.
In her frustration and panic, she tumbles down the stairs and suffers a miscarriage. Rhett is devastated and, though Scarlett repeatedly asked for him in her delirium, when he asks those attending her whether she asked for him, no one reports it to him. It's a tense household, though Melanie tries to assure him that Scarlett loves him.
Just Before Scarlett's Disastrous Fall
Bonnie's Disastrous Fall
When Scarlett has begun to recover, they're watching Bonnie, who wants to show them her jumping forsemanship, adamantly refuses to wait when they caution her. and,- like her grandfather O'Hara, attempts to jump a fence, falls and is killed.
Rhett is inconsolable, locks himself in the room with his daughter's body, refusing for her be buried, because she's so scared of the dark. Mammy finally must ask Melanie to come reason with him,- successfully.
But devastation is palatable, and Melanie collapses outside his door.
Final Blows Spare Some Lives, End The Marriage and The Film
Melanie dies in childbirth, which medically was ill-advised and was further hastened by her effort to reason with Rhett to allow Bonnie to be buried.
At her dying bedside, she particularly asked for Scarlett, especially to care for little Beau, her son. She also asked her to care for Ashley, as she once cared for her at his request.
When Scarlett tell Ashley and sees It dawns on her that she really never loved him in a mature way and that she really does love Rhett. But the abiding jealousy again comes forward when Rhett asks for but misinterprets Scarlett's brief report to him about what Melanie said to her at her bedside. Rhett sees this permission as exactly what Scarlett has longed for all her life. Nothing she can say or do convinces him otherwise. He leaves her, answering her plea what will she do without him with the famous (then unheard of language in a film): "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" as he walks away into the fog. The movie ends with Scarlett sitting in a heap on her massive staircase, trying to think what she will do, but, as usual, deciding she can't think about it then, but will "think about it tomorrow".
But she perks up as the idea of going back to Tara, which Rhett had fully restored for her, takes shape in her mind, and a resolve emerges with her last words in the film, "I'll think of some way to get him back! After all, tomorrow IS another day!"
Frankly, my dear. . . (it's too late . . . )
Characters of GWTW
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- "Characters of 'Gone With The Wind' - part 1"
Review First Acte.
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