From Our Readers

On Becoming Scarlett O'Hara

Long before the time of Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen, there was Scarlett O’Hara. A hardheaded Georgia peach, who was perhaps the OG of willful women. How many people have seen/read Gone With the Wind? My first foray into antebellum Georgia was in 8th grade. Our flamboyant social studies teacher insisted we watch the four hour movie in class. It took a week, and in no way should that be taken as a complaint. From Mammy’s first “Mmm, mmm, mmm” and Scarlett’s “Fiddle dee dee”, I was hooked.

Scarlett O’Hara. Whether you’re familiar with the story or not, the name evokes a certain image – a Southern belle, beautiful and charming. But when writing her epic novel, Margaret Mitchell made sure the reader knew there was more to her female protagonist than meets the eye. Her character has always fascinated me; and I’m sure I’m not alone in my captivation. Admittedly, I can identify with the Irish stubbornness and temper, but I think we can all learn a great deal from Scarlett’s other admirable qualities.

Loyalty. “HOLD UP!” says everyone who has read/seen the story. Scarlett kissed her friend’s husband, married her sister’s fiancee and performed countless other acts to disprove that quality… but, she was always loyal to the things that mattered most to her, things that deserved her loyalty – Tara, the plantation her father started with his bare hands; the Wilkeses, whom she housed as if they were her own family, even coaching Melanie through childbirth while Atlanta was under siege; the precarious Rhett Butler, the only husband she ever married for love, who always loved and came back to protect her.

Scarlett was also a forward thinker. The most memorable quote (second – okay, maybe third, it’s a great movie, can you blame AFI?!) from the movie is Scarlett’s, “After all, tomorrow is another day!” Much like the obnoxiously overused “YOLO” today, she carries that notion with her throughout the 12 year span of the movie. She makes a point not to dwell on the past, and moves forward, compelled by her own will and tenacity. She makes a vow to God and herself to never let her family starve, no matter what it takes; driven by this promise, the opportunities that arise in the rebuilding of a country and an unconventional thought process for a woman of her time, she is able to run a store and lumber mill. While other Southerners are dreaming of the slow lifestyle filled with barbecues and balls, Scarlett has two flourishing businesses. For a woman in that time, being an entrepreneur was a social taboo. Scarlett O’Hara set an example for smart, empowered, modern women.

The most obvious and all-encompassing of her characteristics is courage. Every obstacle she encountered, she faced head-on. Some of her bravery is prominent; she shot a man who tried to rob her at point blank, she birthed a baby on her own, then rode across war-torn and enemy-ridden territory to get to a safer place. Its counterpart is quieter – to be herself in a world that is telling her it isn’t proper; to start over when it seems that all hope is lost. That type of fortitude is most valuable in a person.

Recently it seems the news channels are being inundated with stories of bullying, stories of devastating natural disasters, so I think it’s important to get this message out: It gets better. When times are tough, no matter what, just look forward and you WILL get through it. Channel your inner Scarlett O’Hara – it’s there, even if you don’t know it. Find something that gives you strength and hold on to it. Be strong, be yourself.

And last but certainly not least, watch the movie if you haven’t yet. It’s a classic, and it takes places near where Honey Boo Boo actually lives. So there’s that.

You can follow Kayleigh Townsend on Twitter.

Feature image via.

  • Oriol Garcia Casas

    this article this intersante Because I am not American, I’m Spanish, and the American Civil War, is fascinating in many aspect. You reflex the aspect of the woman, would not be strange Scarlett O’Hara That was an activist for women’s suffrage. But my fascinated me, the defeat of the romantic ideals of honor and nobility, by other more pragmatic and realistic, as veneficio, opportunism.

  • Oriol Garcia Casas

    sorry I meant veneficio, rather than benefit

  • Stephanie Davidson

    Yay!! Finally someone who understands! This is 100% how i see Scarlett. Ive been hooked. On this movie and book since 7th grade and always saw her as role model. I wouldnt marry my. Sisters bf, but really she was doing whatever it took to survive.
    People say she iss selfish and a bitch but i think they are looking at her all wrong.

    • Alle Connell

      I mean, in a lot of ways she IS selfish…and in practically all ways she’s also a bitch. But I think both of those things are only a bad thing if you MAKE them be a bad thing. Her entire family, and probably several other families, too, would have been long dead if she was anything less.

  • Jenny Daggett

    She looks so much like Emily Deschanel

  • Tali Stein

    I’ve been hooked since age 11 when I read the book through. I did not put it down except when my mother forced me to eat or took it away from me at night, and that feeling has never gone away for me when it comes to Gone with the Wind. I love Scarlet because she has such a strong and fierce spirit, but she’s one of my favorite characters of all time because she’s also very flawed.

  • Laura Wanggaard

    You had me at “The OG of willful women”.
    I love this book (and movie) more and more every time that I read it. Scarlett is an icon of a time where every move that she made was for her survival. And the survival of her life as she knew it. She did whatever it took, acknowledging that this course of action was not always the best thing to do. (especially in the man-thieving from her sisters). I also love the juxtaposition between her and Melanie Wilkes. Everything that Scarlett fakes comes to Melanie naturally, and Melanie would never have survived without Scarlett looking out for the two of them. Damn, I’m gonna go re-read again… Thanks for bringing her back into the spotlight. Hooray for strong female characters. Young girls, go read for a role model. TV can’t touch the way a character may resonate with you.

  • Kayleigh Townsend

    Thanks for the input everyone. Keep it coming! : )

  • Ju Li

    Thanks very much for writing that article! Scarlett truly is an inspiration! (And moreover, the GWTW movie ranks on #1 in my all-time-favourites movie list!)

  • Jennifer Edmondson

    For white women, she is definitely a role model. My black friends would disagree.

  • Ximena Santillan Guerra

    SCARLET O’HARA IS MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER EVER WRITTEN !! SHE’S MY ROLE MODEL Her confidence of getting what she wants even though she has to get into trouble, makes me realise woman can be strong and determined and Her progression from a naive girl to a strong woman, showed me if you don´t fight for something you can´t succeed in life.

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