“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm…”
Margaret Mitchell’s beautifully written first line completely hooks the reader, for really, how charming could a woman be where beauty didn’t matter?
Yes, I have seen the movie, but I have read the book more than a few times since I was first introduced to it as a teenager. Now, I am compelled, as an author, to ponder how someone could craft such an intricate story around two characters as individually unlikeable as Rhett and Scarlett.
Really, they are.
Consider it. On their own, both of these characters are selfish, vain, and completely consumed in their own quest for power—however these two view power—money, prosperity, influence. Every move they make is grounded in what is best for them, at any cost.
Yet we, as the reader, view their faults and are willing to overlook them because we see Rhett and Scarlett as redeemable. The very essence of crafting a character, to ensure they are redeemable.
Was there ever a couple more made for one another? Still, because of their egocentric ways, they are unable to be successful together, and are destined to failure. We know this, but we tell ourselves to the very end…no, they will make it work some how…but they don’t. They can’t. They are who they are and Margaret Mitchell does not try to change them. She allows her audience to learn their lesson that people cannot be changed, even when we want them to.
That Rhett and Scarlett are surrounded by good people, and end up doing good, despite their own character flaws, is a both a fluke of circumstance in the timing of the story and work of genius on the part of the author.
The sad part of the movie version, for me, is the ending. Again, with the written word, Margaret Mitchell crafts near perfection in her description of Rhett and Scarlett’s parting, yet the theatrical version’s iconic line; “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” sells the whole of the story short. This ending leaves Scarlett looking weak and fragile, when it was by the book’s very first definition of her she will never be beaten, despite strangle of pain in her throat.
We also know Rhett will survive and go on and get over Scarlett. This is inevitable by his character description. The same is true for Scarlett, who understands she will return to Tara, heal, and move on, using her charm to get what she wants.
Of course, this is all just my own opinion, but really, has there ever been a better last line written than:
“After all, tomorrow is another day.”