Of all the women I’ve written about for my series Women Who Wow Wednesday, Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara has to be the only one who stokes fear in my heart. She is the perfect incarnation of the devil himself on this earth. Yes, them’s fightin’ words. No, I ain’t takin’m back.
What could be so horrific about a woman wanting to ensure her survival by swearing an oath? “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
To understand the villainy behind this woman, let me transport you to the Ol’ South. To a time when blacks were slaves and the aristocrats ruled the land with a rod of iron.
Katie Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), as everyone knows her, is all but sixteen when she sets her eyes on neighbor Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). In all of the county, and of all of the girls, she is the prettiest. Yet her beauty comes with a price. Inside, she is vain, self-centered, and somewhat spoiled. As intelligent as she is, she can flip into becoming babyish and overthink the little things.
Now, as for Scarlett’s fancy for Ashley, in private quarters, she declares her love for him. But Ashley intends to marry Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), Scarlett’s cousin. This doesn’t sit well with Scarlett. Not one bit. She berates him. How dare he make her believe he loved her? So enraged, when he leaves the parlor, she swears she would hate him forever and throws a vase at the wall. At this point, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a visitor from South Carolina, emerges from behind the couch. He wonders if the war had started. Well, Scarlett wasn’t going to have any of his disrespect and defends Ashley, who moments ago she’d cut down to a nub. Her strong-willed nature prompts Rhett to pursue the wild-tempered woman. At the same time, Scarlett finds Rhett liberating.
Once the war is over, Scarlett’s heart hardens. The insecurities she felt growing up come back to haunt her as she battles her fear of homelessness and starvation. Money becomes her god, and she turns to questionable business practices to get ahead. This leads her to pursue high profit margins at the expense of forced labor.
All very well and fine in business, but her family life, and the loss of her true self catches up with her. Melanie dies leaving Scarlett to pine for Ashley’s affection once again. A broken man, Ashley tells Scarlett that Melanie was always his true love. He never loved Scarlett. In the meantime, Rhett leaves Scarlett because he realizes she never really loved him. To make matters worse, Scarlett now understands she’s loved Rhett right from the beginning.
Complicated, isn’t it?
The thing that makes Scarlett is Scarlett. No one else matters in her world except Scarlett. That’s what scares me the most about her. That’s why I placed her in the Women Who Wow Wednesday series. She’s on the opposite end of the spectrum of righteousness. I say wow! because of her inordinate talent for survival. I also say wow! because in her world, no one else matters. She’s headstrong, indifferent, and cares less about anyone who’d dare become friends with her.
Meet Scarlett O’Hara, Women Who Wow Wednesday’s first true villain.
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Ever see Gone with the Wind? What did you think of Scarlett?