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.

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