I was talking last night to a friend who was watching Gone With The Wind (on Blu-Ray, I might add, making me a little jealous). And the conversation turned to the emulatability of the main characters.
My friend said that, when she was younger, she wanted to be Scarlett O’Hara. And, you know, she probably wasn’t alone in that regard. At first blush, Scarlett is perfect — beautiful, vivacious, independent, strong. The boys flock around her, hoping to win her favor. Men want to be with her, women want to be her.
And, yet, ultimately, she’s a tragic figure, a victim of nothing but herself. For all of those things she has going for her, she’s ultimately self-destructive. She’s hung up on what she doesn’t have, and doesn’t appreciate what she does. She uses people to fill a void in her life, to make her feel better about herself, but isn’t willing or able to truly love in return. She takes advantage of them, robbing herself of what she could have in the process. She has Rhett, and, in him, what she needs, and happiness, but she won’t let herself see it. To paraphrase a movie out now, she won’t learn to love what she needs.
And, at the end, she pays the price for her own blindness.
I made the comment to my friend that Scarlett, ultimately, is too far gone for redemption. And that, ultimately, Rhett Butler is too good for redemption.
If my friend wanted to be Scarlett, then I wanted to be Rhett. Debonair, dashing, devil-may-care. The easy, confident charm.
I was sharing something with a friend that I had seen over the weekend written about Florida coach Urban Meyer: “There is a charm that Meyer displays in public. However … Meyer is “a bundle of contradictions — at times unaffected and warm, at times calculating and smug, at times all of the above.” Without me having to say anything, my friend was amused — let’s just say that, perhaps, at diffferent times, different people might have said some of the same about me, with varying degrees of complimentariness. But, you know, you could pretty much apply all of that to Rhett Butler, and he carries it off in such a way that they are all assets. And, yeah, I wouldn’t mind having a bit of that myself.
But just as Scarlett is the victim of herself, so, too, is Rhett. Not, ultimately of her, but of himself. He’s too good for redemption, too loyal; he goes down with the sinking ship. He knows Scarlett; he knows what she is. He hopes she’ll change, learn, grow, mature, but knows he’s taking the risk that ultimately, she won’t. And, unfortunately, ultimately, she doesn’t.
My friend commented that Rhett shouldn’t have gone off to war. But he had to — Rhett Butler, for all his devil-may-careness, has to fight for the Lost Cause.
I thought that, knowing the end of the story, my friend was a bit silly for idealizing Scarlett. But, arguably, you could say the same of me wanting to be Rhett Butler.
The couple of sequels that have been written bring them back together. And there is an appeal to that — it’s a romantic notion, and, in a way, it’s “right.” They do belong together, certainly. But is it real?
What do you think? What happens after the last page, after the credits roll? What is the ultimate fate of Rhett Butler and Katie Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler?