I grew up in the South and lived there until I was 53-years-old. Gone with the Wind is almost as important to me as the Bible. I believe that it speaks many truths and one of those truths has to do with true strength, as opposed to weakness. In the above scene, Scarlett O’Hara [you’ve gotta love that name] has returned to discover that her homeplace Tara has been burned to the ground, and she seems to have nothing left.
She rummages around, trying to salvage any turnips that might be left in the field, and she rises to proclaim: “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again.”
When we see our Southern Seductress hungry and desperate, we might be tempted to believe that it is in this episode that Scarlett becomes hard and power-hungry, but that is not the case. Scarlett was always selfish and devious.
She used and discarded men and other people like they were paper plates.
She only wanted Ashely Wilkes because she couldn’t have him. He was betrothed to Miss Melanie, who is depicted as frail and weak. But was Miss Melanie actually the weaker of this pair of Southern ladies? In my opinion, she was not. Certainly, Melanie was frail, but she was unquestionably good. Nothing about Scarlett was good, and in opinion, she was also not strong. Scarlett O’Hara was nothing more than a driven narcissist, and while narcissists may win at more games and while they may amass greater fortunes and power during their lives. I don’t believe that they ever are truly strong. They simply fool people for a long, long time.
Being Successful Is Not the Same As Being Correct
Because many of the most successful and powerful people among us–the corporate demigods–are severe narcissists, the lines become fuzzy. Too often, we correlate being successful with being correct.
Narcissists Are Masters of Deception
Another confusing detail is that when it is to a narcissist’s advantage, he/she can be relentlessly charming. That is the narcissist’s most powerful weapon. Since other people seem to love the narcissist, we begin to doubt ourselves and not the narcissist. Keep in mind that the narcissist is charming. Perhaps, in the narcissist’s mind, the other person was worth charming and you were not.
Take a look at the characteristics of a narcissist Here.
Even Rhett Butler finally saw through Scarlett, and he was was a scoundrel, too. But Rhett never pretended to be someone that he was not.Scarlett, on the other hand, was the Queen of Mean.
That being said, I do admire what Scarlett did with a pair of drapes.
[I hate to do this, but I must make a quick detour here. Carol Burnett did a great comedy routine about the drapery scene in Gone with the Wind.]
Let’s put the fun aside again and talk about the characteristics of a truly strong person. The problem with looking at the older epochs of history is that I am not sure that we can look at the people before now and know whether they were actually strong people or whether they were tyrants. As I have said before, even the people here and now are great at fooling us.
That being said, I believe that Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks were strong women, and I feel like Joan of Arch was a strong woman. Mother Teresa was a figure of more recent history, and from what I know, she was genuinely strong. I don’t see Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama as strong people, but I have no doubt that they are shrewd and powerful. On the other hand, I believe that the quieter and less abrasive Barbara Bush was a strong First Lady. Yet, I cannot know all there is to know about any of these ladies’ motives and character. That is why I like literature and movies. If the storyteller has done a good job, we can be surer of the good guys are. Therefore, I’ll tell you about some women that I admire in books and movies. We can use this as a guideline to better appraise the people that we actually know.
In the movie Places in the Heart, Sally Field’s husband was accidentally shot and she was left with little hope of saving her little farm in Texas. The opposite of Scarlett O’Hara, Edna Spalding does not use or deceive anyone, but she works her fingers to the bone and manages to survive. From the moment that I first viewed Places in the Heart, both the movie and Sally Fields became part of my list of all-time favorites. Neither has moved from that list.
In a similar movie Country, Jessica Lange plays the part of a farmer’s wife who desperately tries to help save her family’s farm. The character is not deceitful or power-hungry; she is simply compellingly strong.
In the book and the movie The Color Purple, Celie initially seems frail, but by the end of the story, she has risen above her circumstances, and we see that she is actually strong.
Certainly, my best examples of strength are fictional characters, but they represent people that all of us know–people who have been dealt a bad set of circumstances and who manage to prevail, without destroying another person to do so. In my opinion, these are the truly strong people in the world; and the Scarlett O’Hara’s are simply selfish and mean. In my opinion, meanness is never a strength.In fact, the mean are probably the weakest people around.
©Jacki Kellum July 18, 2016