Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
If I had to handpick my favorite heroine, it has to be Scarlett O’Hara. Hands down. I’ve certainly read my share of headstrong and willful heroines, but many of them fell flat when compared to Scarlett. You see, I have a soft spot for literary villains and, if the bad guy is well-drawn, multi-dimensional, and sympathic, I will root for the bad guy over the bland good guy any day. Unapologetically selfish, vain, narcissistic, pragmatic to the point of cutthroat, scheming and conniving, Scarlett O’Hara is no heroine; she’s a bonafide anti-heroine. She’s a force, an original, and now I truly understand why she’s the most beloved character of all time.
Since brevity is the soul of wit, I won’t get too much into the plot. I’ll assume you’ve seen the movie. In case you haven’t seen the movie, I ask you this: how can you call yourself my book/film soul mate and not have seen my all time favorite film? Tsk. Tsk. I lower my head in shame. You better rectify this breach in our relationship. *Shakes virtual fist* Rectify…
Okay. Enough threats. I decided to pick up Gone with the Wind because I was disappointed by all the pansy heroines out in the market today. Though I will not name names, you know the sissy girls of which I speak: the clumsy waifs driven hither and dither by the plot instead of DRIVING the plot.
Although Scarlett didn’t start the Civil War, it’s to her credit (more so the author’s) that the war read like it was created to inconvenience Scarlett’s Ashley-coveting endeavors. The magic of perspective, yo.
Scarlett is uber-selfish and her narcissism forbids her to suffer any conversation that doesn’t involve her as the center, and she’s something of a malicious beau-snatcher. So why you ask, do I admire her so? Because she unwillingly performs selfless and heroic deeds like staying with an ailing Melaine during the Yankee siege on Atlanta or looking after her kinfolks in the lean days after the war or whoring herself out to Rhett Butler to pay the taxes on Tara. So what if her heart wasn’t in it and she was more than reluctant to do good? It’s the deeds that matter! That said, if it came down to choosing teams—like in soccer—I want Scarlett on my team, then Rhett, then Melly. Um. Ashley will probably be the last person picked; he is as useless as “a turtle flipped on his back.”
The prose was flawless: unobtrusive enough to suck me in, elegant enough to warrant praise. Some authors have to slave to be good; some authors are just born talented. Margaret Mitchell falls in the latter category. I am one part in awe and two parts jealous of Mitchell’s writing superpowers.
P.S. I wish that there were more characters like Scarlett out in the market, particularly in the YA market. Am I the only one who thinks the YA genre could benefit with say, a vile scheming high schooler defending her turf against all odds? YA heroes/heroines could still come of age, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if they came-of-age AND had strong wills AND did non-virtuous things BUT performed redeemable deeds? Character complexity, people. Just a suggestion….