The Characters of "Gone With The Wind" -1
"Gone With The Wind" - A Classic Historic Story & Film
It would be difficult to find many people, at least on this continent, who've not seen this all-time classic film, based on a historic novel by Margaret Mitchell, about the passing of "The Old South" and all it involved in the history of the USA.
The film has been restored and digitally updated from its 1939 original and is now available on DVD, so it's cross-generational. It depicts a time in our history when the shame of slavery was critical to the agricultural economy of Southern States: (i.e.) South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They had determined that continuing their system was necessary for them, and that would require their secession from the Union. They went off to war confidently; returned beaten. Results of the war were disastrous for the Old South, which became humbled and literally "Gone With The Wind" following that brutal war. With it, though, the bonds of slavery began to be removed, with Lincoln's freeing of ALL people in this country.
Hub Author's Note
This began as mere touching upon the dramatic characters of this classic film and novel with which I've been familiar almost all my life, and all of its life. I intended when I embarked on this, simply to present the characters and to inquire how each of us relates to them. However, there was no good way to describe them without showcasing them among some of their own actions and interactions, so that it grew into a larger-than-intended hub, even requiring splitting it into two "acts", like the 4-hour movie itself.
The result is highly summarized, of course. Some of you will notice what is omitted. Others will be amazed at what is included. My hope is that it is vivid enough to enable the reader to feel genuine stirrings of understanding of these fellow human-types, perhaps 'knowing' these colorful ones of our American 19th century (if you don't already know them), and in so doing, better understand that era of it. Like me, you may recognize common humanness they each illustrate so intensely as to be drawn to attempt this challenge.
In any case, I've enjoyed the project immensely. My hope is that you will, too!
(You may want a box of popcorn to have with it!)
Scarlett at Tara
Setting of the Story
The background of the film, set in Georgia, is the growing determination within these states to secede from the Union (The United States) and form their own separate Confederacy, in order to keep their way of life, especially owning of slaves. This would mean declaring their intention, requiring going to war with the rest of the United State, resulting in the infamous Civil war of 1861-1865. The outcome was in favor of the Union, under the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and the preservation of the United States was maintained, at huge cost of lives during the war and disruption of life in the Southern states as they'd known it in the aftermath. Mother had uncles who fought on the side of the Union. Feelings were so strong in many places that they remain raw to this day. Even after living in Texas from the 1920s till their deaths in the 1970s, my parents were still viewed as 'damnyankees'.
The story takes us through the days leading to the declaration and start of the Civil War, through it and into the difficult times in a war-torn South which followed.
The Main Characters
The 1939 Movie Trailer
Overview - Characterizations
This film is a "close-up" perspective of the mood of the times and the people. It's fascinating how their personalities, while bred of the times, are universally individually human, lending great interest as a study of humans in their environments. I was inspired to examine them further.
I'm no professional in human behavior, but it would be difficult to avoid noticing it playing out in this film!
~Each Main Character~
Rhett is the consummate Alpha Male. He's self-assured, elegant, inconoclastic, unflappable, charming in a dangerous sort of way, does things his own way. His female distraction in the form of Belle Watling, is a good-hearted madame of her own men's club, but he's attracted to Scarlett's fiestiness, while scorning her coy 'southern belle' flirtiness. He has great regard for Melanie's true-blue character and for Mammy's wisdom. Though he's from a good southern family, he disdains rules of society, - until he has a daughter, Bonnie, whom he adores and considers a mini-Scarlett before life made her hard, so that he cowtows to the doyennes to be sure Bonnie will be accepted by society.
Scarlett is the beautiful, charming southern belle. She's disarmingly coy and flirtatious, shrewd, scheming, fearless, self-indulgent, tireless in pursuit of what she wants, lacking compassion for how it may impact others. She fancies herself madly in love with Ashley Wilkes, who is so opposite her character as to be ludicrous. He realizes it and resists her advances; she won't relinquish her pursuit, no matter what.
Scarlett's Many Faces and Dresses
Melanie is so sweet and good that she can see no evil in anyone else. She is Ashley's first cousin. Being of the same gentle breeding, they share mutual total understanding when they marry. In their family, cousins usually intermarry. The War has just begun and immediately he's assigned command of a military unit, though he knows that war is not an answer to human problems. Charles Hamilton is tentatively promised to Ashley's sister, India, But Scarlett agrees to marry him before he goes to War and to die.
Ashley is a philosophical, quiet, thinking, principled, very good man. He's wants nothing more than to live gracefully forever on Twelve Oaks, his plantation home. Having no quarrel with anyone, much less, any enthusiasm for the War, he goes reluctantly; but it's his duty to go when summoned, so he complies. He resists Scarlett's pursuit in her youthful enthusiasm, assuring her they'd never work out and that he's going to marry Melanie, who fits him. Scarlett's furious at him, continuing to plot to tempt him. Spirit is strong, but at times, body is weak.
The Family Characters
Gerald O'Hara is a proud landowner, with the Irish love of the land and of horses. He and his wife call each other Mr. O'Hara and Mrs. O'Hara. When faced with a problem, his most frequent response is, "Let's ask Mrs. O'Hara," because she can usually resolve it easily. He indulges his daughters, especially 'Katy Scarlett', while Ellen O'Hara is ever the gracious lady who generously sees and administers to those in need, including the likes of 'white trash' Emmie Slattery each time she gets pregnant by Tara foreman, Jonas Wilkerson. The last time, the baby died in birth, and Mrs. O'Hara quietly recommended to Mr. O'Hara that the man be dismissed.
Suellen is next-eldest sister and is jealous of Scarlett. She's engaged to Frank Kennedy, who's a bit older, and not yet financially able to ask for her hand. The youngest sister, Careen, is kind and gentle, always trying to make peace and encourage harmony within their somewhat tumultuous family.
Aunt Pittipat lives in Atlanta and is a flustered 19th century member of a 'first family' of the social register, a maven who lacks conviction so that she shudders and reaches for her smelling-salts if any of her kinfolks do anything likely to be thought amiss, which Scarlett is prone to do.
Mammy was Scarlett's nanny from birth and has tried to be her conscience as she grew up, though her authority is merely as a servant, though her logic and common sense can be irresistible to her charge - but not always, unfortunately. She follows Scarlett into some of her silliest escapades and is with her throughout her 3rd marriage and motherhood.
Ellen Whispers to Gerald About Wilkerson and Emmie Slattery
Scarlett's Admirers & a First Husband Going off to War
The Tarleton twins follow Scarlett like puppy-dogs, as she leads them around to do her bidding. But they're both eager to go to war, and both lose their lives in it.
Ashley's - Melanie's wedding, rushed by the declaration of the war, and overhearing girls talking about her, saying that she's the kind of girl men flirt with, but not the kind they marry, crushes Scarlett so that when Charles Hamilton, Melanie's brother who was 'intended' for India Wilkes, professes his undying love and asks Scarlett to marry him, she agrees.
Ever the opportunist, she sees his proposal as a means to establish her firm position in society and to punish Ashley. She insists to Charles that they also must marry before he goes to the war. They're married the day after Ashley and Melanie say their vows. Scarlett's bitter tears for Ashley are mistaken by Charles as being for him because he's leaving to go to fight, so he comforts her with reassurance that he'll be back to her soon. But he's a military casualty, due to pneumonia, making Scarlett a very young widow. Of course, Scarlett's concern was never for him.
Scarlett in Mourning, in Atlanta and in Tribulation
Widowhood, having to wear black and missing the social swim depresse Scarlett, causing her mother to try to cheer her by offering her a visit somewhere, such as Savannah. But Scarlett can think of nothing appealing about visiting there. But when Ellen suggests Atlanta, where she could stay with Aunt Pittypat and visit with Melanie, Scarlett's spirits brighten; she jumps at the chance, while Mammy is duly concerned, reading Scarlett like an open book and knowing she's thinking she'll be there if Ashley gets a leave or returns for good!
In spite of Mammy's disapproval, Ellen makes the arrangements for Scarlett to go to Atlanta and sends languorous young Prissy along as her personal attendant.
↔ ATLANTA ↔
At a function to raise money for the Confederacy, where she's working a booth, Scarlett is approached by Rhett, making amused snide remarks about her widowhood, knowing her feelings for Ashley. Scarlett makes no effort to disguise her annoyance with him, until for an auction to raise money for the hospital, gentlemen were asked to bid to dance with the ladies of their choice. Rhett bids $100 in gold coins to dance with Mrs. Charles Hamilton.
Dr. Meade, in charge of the auction, reminds him that she is in mourning and assures him that that Mrs. Hamilton won't consider it, but she shouts out that she will, defying social convention, and dancing the Virginia Reel and all the rest of the evening's dances!
The War Begins To Turn Against Them
↔ UNION's GENERAL SHERMAN's ARMY APPROACHES ATLANTA ↔
The whole world seems to darken with the Union army nearing Atlanta. As the wounded are carted & carried into the city, Scarlett and Melanie are enlisted to help short-handed Dr. Meade in attending to them with limited supplies. Melanie is always thinking that it is what she would hope some woman up north would do for her Ashley, but she is pregant and must retreat to bed.
Finally Scarlett becomes so sickened by the sight of suffering and dying, that she can bear it no more, tears off her apron and rushes out of the make-shift hospital into the street, where Rhett gives her a lift in his rig to 'Aunt Pitty's', who is packed to leave town as they arrive, begging Scarlett to go with her.
She remembers her promise to Ashley, and cannot leave Melanie, finding her time to birth her baby is imminent. Prissy lies to Dr. Meade that she knows all about it, since he can't leave the wounded to come to Melanie's aide, but Scarlett counts on it. Of course, it comes out all too soon so that Scarlett must simply make-do and deliver Ashley's baby boy herself, with only scant help from Prissy.
↔ SCARLETT FLEES ↔
After the birth, she is desperate to escape. She sends Prissy to fetch Rhett from Belle Watley's bordello to come take her home to Tara and her mother. Since she'd promised Ashley to watch after Melanie, she must take her and her newborn along. Rhett acquires a wagon and a horse to drive them through the disaster of burning ammo reserves which are being destroyed to prevent the Union army from seizing them. They manage to get out of town, but soon away from the glow of Altanta's burning, he abandons them on the way, saying he's going to join the Confederate army because he always like to champion lost causes.
Mercifully, Melanie has fainted in the back of the wagon with her baby and Prissy, while aghast, Scarlett must proceed on without Rhett. She finds Twelve Oaks leveled and John Wilkes' tombstone. They rescue a milk cow, which will provide milk for the baby; they proceed on to Tara, where the horse keels over. But the old mansion is still standing but having been ram-sacked by the Yankees and used as their HQ, robbing it of all its valuables.
Her father has dementia and her mother has died of typhoid fever, caught, Mammy said, after she nursed Emmie Slattery once again.
The awful reality takes hold of Scarlett. Only Mammy and Pork, loyal house-servants, remain of all Tara's slaves. Mammy gets Melanie and the baby settled upstairs while Scarlett tries to assess the damage and decide what she must do. Her father's solutions are just to 'ask Mrs. O'Hara', so it is all up to Scarlett.
Melanie wants to help, but Scarlett assures her she must get well so she won't become another burden. Melanie apologizes for not thinking of that.
At one low point, a lone Yankee soldier invades the house; Scarlett uses the gun Rhett gave her to kill any invaders in self-defense. At the same time, Melanie appears, holding Ashley's sword, at the ready. Together they search the man, get his money and bury him before his mates detect he's missing and come looking.
↔ SCARLETT'S NADIR ↔
The house-servants are untrained for outside work, so Scarlett works herself and her sisters like field-hands. When Suellen complains that her hands are ruined and declares that she hates Tara, Scarlett slaps her, telling her never to say that again, that it's like saying she hates Pa and Ma.
Scarlett is a rigid task-master, taking full charge of trying to eke out a little food and raise some cotton crop from the parched ground, to sustain them. Fiinally, she's so hungry herself, that she runs out to the barren garden and finds a single radish, falls down upon it, pulls it up, dirt still clinging to it, and gobbles it down. But then she rises from the ground, declaring she won't be beaten, promising God that not she, nor any of her kin, will ever be hungry again, no matter what she must do to make it so. . . steal, kill, or whatever it takes!
Never Hungry Again. . .
Other Key Characters
For the Gals
Do you personally tend to identify with any of these characters? (1 or more)
For the Guys
Do you personally tend to identify with any of these characters? (1 or more)
- "Characters of 'Gone With The Wind' - 2"
Preview Second Acte.