Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Forty-Five - Gone With The Wind - Part Seven

 
Margaret Mitchell
from Biography.com






Let's talk Captain Rhett Butler, shall we? My goodness, yes. Captain Butler was "not received" in decent homes. I rather like that designation. Apparently he was out with a young woman after dark and refused to marry her! So Rhett is not received into decent society. Except for the Wilkes, who invited him to the barbecue at which Scarlett met him. Captain Butler knew a thing or ten about women. At one point, Scarlett has a bit of a rant about Rhett and his friendship with a Lady of the Evening--
Bad women and all they involved were mysterious and revolting matters to her. She knew that men patronized these women for purposes which no lady should mention — or, if she did mention them, in whispers and by indirection and euphemism. She had always thought that only common vulgar men visited such women. Before this moment, it had never occurred to her that nice men — that is, men she met at nice homes and with whom she danced — could possibly do such things. It opened up an entirely new field of thought and one that was horrifying. Perhaps all men did this! It was bad enough that they forced their wives to go through such indecent performances but to actually seek out low women and pay them for such accommodation! Oh, men were so vile, and Rhett Butler was the worst of them all!
Remember that any mention of "indecent performances" was considered trashy. Apparently it gave women the vapors. One more-- 
She could hear him chuckling softly. Sometimes he was odious. In fact, most of the time he was odious. It was awful for a man to know what women really thought about and talked about. It made a girl feel positively undressed. And no man ever learned such things from good women either. She was indignant that he had read her mind. She liked to believe herself a thing of mystery to men, but she knew Rhett thought her as transparent as glass.
Scarlett saw that as a bad thing; she was taught to always keep men guessing. Mitchell was making a point about how naive women of the late 19th century were in comparison to those of the early 20th. My, how far we have come. I'm not a huge fan of Kierkegaard but I do like "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." Unless one has, say, a time-turner or something. (I was given one as a gift but it doesn't work properly.)

I haven't "southernized" (not a real word) Scarlett's words here, and neither did Mitchell--though she did use the dialect of the slaves/former slaves. It was distracting and a bit tedious to have to read a sentence several times to comprehend its meaning.

Back to Captain Butler... Rhett saw much of the world, both good and bad. He loved intensely and showed a great deal of wisdom.
"All wars are sacred,” he said. “To those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it."
When I was a young college student, I heard from a military man that wars are fought for economic reasons. I disagreed, for I had bought into the propaganda. But no longer. "Wait a minute!" I hear you say. "What about WWII?" I would say that is the exception which proves the rule but I don't believe that old saying--doesn't it simply mean that those creating the rule didn't find a big enough rule? Or has it come to mean something beyond the original intent? In any case, I don't have an answer about WWII. 

Bet Rhett would know.


 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Forty-Five - Gone With The Wind - Part Six


It wasn't until I finished the book that I understood Scarlett. She's desperate for Ashley beyond delusion.

Scarlett decided she was in love with Ashley because of one day when she was 14 and saw him as a M.A.N. And she convinced herself that Ashley loved her in return. Oh, he may have married someone else but he really loved Scarlett. I mean, just because someone marries someone doesn't mean they're in love. (Oh wait, that's actually true.) But Scarlett even convinced herself that when Soldier Ashley wrote to Melanie, his WIFE, as long as he wasn't mushy that meant he was still secretly in love with Scarlett. (Oh yeah, Scarlett sneaked into Melanie's room and read all of Ashley's letters.) 

She reminded me of a woman I once knew who, upon hearing that the man she'd decided she was in love with slept with another woman said, "Maybe he was thinking of me." She seriously believed that. Why do women do so much rationalizing? I will admit I've fallen prey to it occasionally but some women could be in the Olympics of Denial.  

We do such a poor job of teaching young women their intrinsic worth and of teaching them to make wise choices about relationships. I've said it before but it bears repeating: as soon as a woman is through with a man and throws him back there's another woman on the opposite bank reeling him in. It must be fear of being alone. What else could it be? And why are we so afraid of being alone? In other times and even today in developing nations I can understand the need for a partner to help put food on the table. Why have our emotions and actions failed to keep up when we are certainly capable of making a living? I mean, I understand the desire to be in love--I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the desire to have someone--just about anyone--rather than be alone. Are we so unhappy with ourselves? Or do we merely need to be constantly entertained? You know the kind of person I'm talking about, the one who, while you're sitting on the beach says, "Put down that book and talk to me!" Jane Austen included characters with the need to be constantly entertained in her novels (she wrote easy to relate to characters, that's for sure).

I'm not certain Margaret Mitchell intended for readers to be sympathetic to Scarlett. I suspect she wanted to tell a story, and I haven't even discussed the politics yet. We're meant to admire Scarlett's steely resolve yet disapprove of her character, I suspect. But then, I'm generally not a fan of examining the author's intentions. It's how the book affects us personally that matters.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Book Forty-Five - Gone With The Wind - Part Five


First post about Scarlett plus a bit of history, and, oh yeah, Ellen was Scarlett's mother.
Ellen’s life was not easy, nor was it happy, but she did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was woman’s lot. It was a man’s world, and she accepted it as such. The man owned the property, and the woman managed it. The man took the credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness. The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him. Men were rough of speech and often drunk. Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words. Men were rude and outspoken, women were always kind, gracious and forgiving.
COME ON!!! Surely some women didn't buy into this. But what options did they have? Mitchell even makes a point of illustrating that, once a pregnant woman begins to show beyond what clothing can masquerade, she is confined to the house, just as Sense and Sensibility’s Charlotte Palmer was confined. A pregnant (that word was never uttered!) woman couldn’t go anywhere because someone would know she had s-e-x with her husband! OMG!!! But when she has the baby, it’s time to PARTY! Everyone is happy! Okay, but um, like, isn’t a baby also indicative of sex?
 
Also, Scarlett was not kind, gracious or forgiving. She sometimes felt badly that she didn’t measure up to her mother but sometimes resented her mother for not seeing the future and preparing Scarlett to live during a war rather than continuing her life as a belle in the Old South. Miss Scarlett could be irrational, that’s for sure.  Yet sometimes she was the most rational and practical person in the room.
When she arose at last and saw again the black ruins of Twelve Oaks, her head was raised high and something that was youth and beauty and potential tenderness had gone out of her face forever. What was past was past. Those who were dead were dead. The lazy luxury of the old days was gone, never to return. And, as Scarlett settled the heavy basket across her arm, she had settled her own mind and her own life.

There was no going back and she was going forward.

Throughout the South for fifty years there would be bitter-eyed women who looked backward, to dead times, to dead men, evoking memories that hurt and were futile, bearing poverty with bitter pride because they had those memories. But Scarlett was never to look back.
She put food on the table, picked and planted cotton, and organized everyone else at Tara. Well, bullied them, actually, but they all worked hard.

Her "I won’t think about that now" mantra is actually a survival strategy. If she stops to think about the enormity of what’s happening, she won’t be able to DO anything. Rather than fall apart and be useless, she postpones thinking about the awful things until she can stand it. There are things that can be helped and she concentrates upon those things. Excellent plan in a crisis.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Book Forty-Five - Gone With The Wind - Part Four

I miss Scarlett.

Maybe I give a damn after all. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Forty-Five - Gone With The Wind - Part Three

Finished the book - I have many notes, but the bottom line is that Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton  Kennedy Butler was an idiot. She had someone who loved her for who she is -- two people, in fact: Melanie and Rhett. Rhett saw who she truly was and loved her--not just in spite of it--but because of it! Imagine the worst of you, the things you don't like acknowledging even to yourself--and having someone who knows all about them and loves you anyway! But she held onto the dream of her Knight in Shining Armor and found 0ut too late that she didn't even know him--and when she finally realized who he really was, she didn't like what she saw. She spent years as an adult holding onto a teenage dream. I suppose Rhett had jumped through too many hoops and his love was worn down like a stream pouring over rock--over time, it changes the nature of the rock.

Granted, Scarlett went through some bad stuff. Still though--DENIAL! Seriously, Scarlett. Okay, so you were the strong one; you had to take care of everyone else. Didn't you realize it wasn't because the others didn't want to be strong--it was because they couldn't be. They did not have within them the strength you did. Melly even said  something like this to you once, but you were so selfish that you didn't half pay attention to people. You were only interested in listening when there was something in it for you. Foolish.

I know I shouldn't be so hard on Scarlett. Her world was truly torn apart. Yet there will probably be further lectures coming. Hopefully, I can be kinder to her at that time.