Gone with the Wind is a hundred-year-old classic. Much like Jane Austen (Read my Article on What Emma and Elizabeth Taught Me), Margaret Mitchell paints a story of chivalry and class that is replaced with the hard-faced American culture in place today. Mitchell shows the fall of the southern belle and rise of the concept of modern day American women who demand equality from their counterparts.
Scarlett O’Hara is the example of a modern day working woman trying to make the best of a bad situation. Scarlett lived in a time where a woman did not work unless her situation was desperate. And even then, only from within the confines of her home. Scarlett defies all these rules and steps out of her house to make money. Not just enough to get by, but to get back everything she lost. She is widowed twice, and both times she is left with a child from her most recent husband. Yet this does not hold her back from breaking the confines of society to achieve her goals.
Scarlett is also willing to get her hands dirty. Many of her neighbors lose their houses and land because there are no slaves to maintain the crop. All these people believe themselves to be gentry and do not want to stoop to the level of doing menial work. Because of this many families lose their farms to the bank or other money lenders and must move into the city and find other work. Many of them live in run down homes opposed to their formerly grand mansions, and must do all their housework alone. Meanwhile, Scarlett goes out in the fields herself to work and bring in a harvest. No matter the weather or how her health fares, Scarlett is out in the fields every day taking care of her crops. She refuses to hold onto pretentious ideas about class. She learns how to maintain a farm by working the land and selling what she can to support her family. Scarlett’s family lost all their slaves much like their neighbors. However, Scarlett manages to accumulate even more property then what she would have had before the war.
Scarlett does not let the confines and rules of society hold her down. Even during the Civil War she disregarded her personal safety for the welfare of her family. While the city of Atlanta is being bombed she runs around looking for a doctor. When no one is found, she delivers her sister in-law’s baby herself, then loads her up into a wagon and drives through Sherman’s army to go home to Tara. Even an army of thousands of men with guns, bombs and canons could not stop Scarlett from getting home. Afterwards, when Scarlett is living in Atlanta with her new husband Frank, she drives herself through the slums to get to her wood factory and make sure that she can make enough money to support her family in the city as well as maintain Tara in the countryside. She does not rely on her husband’s store to maintain her house. In fact, Scarlett trusts Frank even less because he allows buyers to use credit at his store lowering his own income. Scarlett’s fear of her family going hungry drives her to work hard and become a successful business woman.
Scarlett even earns the respect of many of the northern women who have moved south after the war. They are all astounded by Scarlett’s drive to succeed and willingness to work under any condition — even while she is pregnant. Scarlett drives herself across town every day to look after her wood mills despite being late into her pregnancy, making her an easy target for many of the gangs of freed slaves going around raping women who travel alone to exact revenge against slavery. She is attacked at one time, which results in her husband Franks death, yet this does not deter Scarlett. Although she is sorry to see Frank die she strengthens her resolve to work even harder and make even more money so that no one can take anything from her again. Her drive to accumulate money makes her marry Rhett Butler so she can finally feel financially safe.
Scarlett is one of the strongest women presented in recent literature, yet so many times her strengths are forgotten due to her love story with Rhett. She does not rely on men to take care of her, rather, they become the footstools of her rise in success. Charles, Frank and Rhett are all stepping stones for Scarlett’s search and rise to financial success. No matter what life presents, Scarlett comes out of it stronger than before. She is widowed multiple times, loses her mother and father at a young age and still manages to care for her entire family. Her keen aptitude for business makes her one of the richest women in the United States while majority of the country is suffering from a recession and starving on the streets. She does not let any man control her. Scarlett’s original purpose of simply making money is forgotten once she realizes the allure of having her own property and power which give her a voice that cannot be silenced by a man. She uses money as a weapon to speak her mind and dominate in a world that laughed at and ridiculed her for seeking success.
Leave a comment below on your opinions of Scarlett’s headstrong attitude.