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Perfect Fictional Character - Scarlett O'Hara

Updated on March 15, 2013

The Spitfire of the Old South

"There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the Old South.

Here in this pretty world, gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of knights and their ladies fair, of master and of slave.

Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a civilization gone with the wind..."

As a family, "Gone With the Wind" is one of our favorite movies, but nobody in my household loves it as much as my preteen daughter, Mystery. She has been enchanted with the movie for years. The highlight of her devotion sits on top of our television set: a velvet covered box-set version of the movie with original artwork on the front and four hallmark ornaments based on scenes in the movie.

My daughter and I especially love Scarlett, and every time we watch the movie, which is quite often, I comment that Scarlett is what every fictional character ought to be. We certainly don't agree with her methods or her madness, and yes, we are fully aware that she is a conniving, backstabbing, manipulative little witch. We don't agree with slavery, and we don't agree with the softer, gentler version of the south that was portrayed in the movie. In real life, neither of us would care for Scarlett very much... but in fiction she is one of those characters that grabs hold of you and wont let go.

Scarlett O'Hara is one of the strongest female characters ever created, brought forth in a time when women had few strong role models to look up to in fiction or otherwise.

Convention said a true lady was always polite, kept her mouth shut, did not show her own strength, and most certainly did not use her head. Her job was to patiently wait for a man to come rescue her, and look pretty while doing it.

Scarlett broke every rule, from the very first time we see her as a pampered southern belle, lost in the romance of the antebellum south, to the very last scene, where she realized that she has just lost the only man she ever truly loved. Yet she still fights on, promising herself that tomorrow is another day, she is a true heroine.

Her value as a character is immense. Throughout the story she grows and changes; some aspects of her personality are sharpened while others are worn down. When people speak of well-rounded characters, I always think of Scarlett O' Hara.

This lens is dedicated to my youngest child, Mystery. Mystery wants very badly to be a southern belle when she grows up. She insists it is still possible even though we live in Colorado, because we live in Southern Colorado.

She also wants to start her own Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and dreams of moving to the South when she grows up. That's after she becomes a vet... no, a nurse... no, a...

Scarlett the Character

I love tearing things apart to see how they work, especially story plots and characters. I do it constantly, watching the same movie over and over just to see what really makes it tick.

Scarlett is a complicated character on many levels. When we first see her sitting on the porch at Tara, she is everything we think of when the term southern belle comes to mind. She waves her hand when the talk turns to war, and exclaims "fiddle-de-de."

She obviously can't be bothered thinking of such trivial things when there are boys to toy with, barbecues to attend, and a man to catch. She is good at playing the fragile type, but later when she is alone with Mammy, we see that the fragility is all part of her act.

She married for revenge and is soon widowed, but remains the self-centered princess when she complains about the forced mourning. One of the most telling scenes is when we see her leaning on the counter, looking bored out of her skull, but then the camera pans to her feet. She is young and spirited and born to dance, mourning or not.

Later, when everything she once thought was important has been stripped away, we see even more of that stubbornness as she goes from pampered princess to field worker. She will do whatever it takes to save her beloved Tara, include trying to con Rhett, or marrying her sister's beau.

She can turn her charm off and on at will, and uses it to her advantage. While we are presented with two different versions of Scarlett, we see that both are part of her.

She is the perfect character because she is so imperfect.

We see her go from daddy's little princess to a starving waif in rags, right back to the top of the food chain again. We see her grow and mature throughout the many stages of her life.

Yet, even though she is positively wicked, there is still a loyalty to her that keeps her next to Melanie's side throughout the toughest times of their life, a sense that she is a very bad girl who truly wants to be good.

She is perfectly balanced out by the soft and sweet Melanie, who is quite literally perfect in every way, so perfect in fact that had she been the main character in the story, the story would have lost much of its power. Instead, she serves as the stark counter-balance to Scarlett, enhancing her, building her up, and through it all loving Scarlett in spite of all of the horrible things she does.

I have often wondered if it would be possible to remake "Gone with the Wind" in the modern era, but I don't think they should even try. Anything that comes after the fact will merely be a shadow of the original.

Scarlett truly is one of a kind, and thankfully attitudes about slavery and segregation have changed in a positive way. Progress moves us forward, and characters like Scarlett are now a thing of the past.

Reasons to love Scarlett

Yes, she was manipulative, and yes she was quite often a spoiled little brat, but she had a strength and dignity about her that has inspired countless generations of women. It is her imperfections that brought her alive, that gave her so much room for growth.

Each time she turns and gives the camera that look, I get chills. That one look tells you everything you ever needed to know about Scarlett. She is not going to let anything get in the way of the things she wants.

Quick Fact:

The classic that almost wasn't...

Margret Mitchell never intended to publish "Gone With The Wind," instead it happened quite by accident.

She had written the story in bits and pieces, but never put them together.

A publisher friend stopped by one day and asked if he could take a look at it. Shortly after he took it, Ms. Mitchell changed her mind and asked him to return it.

She was never happy with the way it turned out, saying it had the exact opposite effect as the one she had intended.

Vivien Leigh

A lot of the personality we associate with Scarlett O'Hara actually came from actress Vivien Leigh, who portrayed a southern belle so well that most people do not realize she is in fact British born.

This fact left people up in arms at the time of the movie's release. Many felt a southern belle should be played by a southern woman, or at least an American. She quickly won the hearts of fans everywhere and became forever known as the one and only Scarlett.

Quick Fact:

Scarlett was named Pansy in the original manuscript. Her name was changed to Scarlett just before "Gone With The Wind" went to print! Would her character have been as powerful as a Pansy?

Quick Poll

What do you think, is Scarlett one of the greatest heroines in literature?

See results

Quick Fact

One of the most famous lines ever spoken in any movie almost didn't make it into the film because of the use of the word "damn."

Instead they tried, "Frankly my dear... I just don't care," "... it makes my gorge rise," "... my indifference is boundless," "... I don't give a hoot," and "... nothing could interest me less." Special permission was finally procured to use the word damn only when it was absolutely necessary.

Mammy

The role of Mammy was played by Hattie McDaniel. In the old South the Mammy was often the central parenting figure in children's lives, and played a large role in overall management of the home. After slavery was abolished, the role of a Mammy in many homes was still very central.

Hattie McDaniel was the perfect actress for this part, and really gave Scarlett a run for her money when it came to spunk. She has no trouble speaking her mind, even calling Rhett and Scarlett "mules in horses' harnesses" at one point.

Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to be nominated for and win an Academy Award for her role in "Gone With The Wind," paving the way for future advances for African-American actors and actresses in Hollywood.

Frankly my dear...

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    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Well done! Some really interesting backstory, too.

    • chrisqw profile image

      chrisqw 6 years ago

      I do give a damn!. Great lens. Thank you.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      I saw Gone With The Wind four days in a row when it came out again in the 70's... LOVE it!

      thanks for this lens!

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      I remember taking my daughter to see the movie many years ago. It was quite a mother daughter day.

      Very nice lens - well done!

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 5 years ago

      I always say "fiddle dee dee" when I'm pretending to have a southern accent. Love Scarlett.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Scarlett is one of those people that you love and hate at the same time. When I first read gwtw, I liked her until I realized her inability to get out of her own little world. But I still rooted for her and cried throughout the last 10 chapters. LOL. When I first saw the movie over the summer, I loved how when she first saw Rhett, Cathleen was like "then there's all that business about that girl he didn't marry." Scarlett goes "tell tell!" i say that now, haha. if someones like i have to tell u something! i go telltell! haha. but i honestly don't get people who say that they want to be scarlett. or be like her. if you were like her then you would be selfish and stubborn and manipulating, and if you WERE her.... well you know that there are some (or many) downhill turns in their life. sorry for the longest comment ever. LOL.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      As a Southern girl, I've often wondered why no one seems to notice that Scarlett was an uneducated person, as were too many women of her time. Saddly, as with many fictional characters, she begins to "get it" and to grow up only as the story ends. Good lens. Good job of dissecting her character.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @MariaMontgomery: did you have anything to do when growing up in the south? i don't think she did. she went through a lot to do what she did

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love Scarlett O'hara. She's fictional, but she's reflective of many southern belles that lived like her (Mary Chestnut, for example) before the War. I don't blame or condone 'who' she was or why she behaved she did. If I'd been born in the Old South, on a grand plantation and lived luxuriously in a huge white mansion with slaves to wait on me hand and foot, I too, like most of us, would be spoiled, short-tempered, arrogant and lazy. It is better to be born of the aristocracy and wear pretty clothes and expensive dresses made for dancing and partying, while others do all of the work, than to struggle in poverty and battle the woes of life to survive. I'll take a time machine back to Tara or 12 Oaks anyday!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      I love Gone with the Wind, both the movie and the book. Classic Americana. As an artist, I appreciate what you do by taking the book apart and doing a character analysis.

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