Gone With the Wind, Part 2

[Part 1]

Around p. 860:

Scarlett is against the Ku Klux Klan, but not because of the racism.  If I recall correctly, it’s because it keeps bringing the Yankee soldiers down on the townspeople, disturbing their lives and putting them at risk of arrest.  We soon discover that even Ashley is part of it, sweet, nonviolent Ashley.

Last week I watched a documentary on the rise of the KKK; though GWTW portrays it as protecting the women and townspeople from violent blacks, the documentary showed that even in the early days, the KKK was violent and murderous.

In her household, Scarlett is the only one who doesn’t know that even her husband Frank and Ashley are in the KKK–showing us an implied approval even by Melanie.  When Scarlett finds out, she screams,

“The Klan!  Ashley isn’t in the Klan!  Frank can’t be!  Oh, he promised me!”

Her in-law India yells at her,

Of course, Mr. Kennedy is in the Klan and Ashley, too, and all the men we know.  They are men, aren’t they?  And white men and Southerners.  You should have been proud of him instead of making him sneak out as though it were something shameful.

And indeed, this Klan avenged Scarlett’s near-rape with murder.

It’s hard to tell what exactly the author felt about the KKK, from this episode.  Scarlett and Rhett both oppose the Klan, but are also both portrayed as picking and choosing morals based on what suits them.

Rhett opposed the Klan as “foolishness,” but he himself killed a black man for insulting a white woman (the reason he ended up in the Yankee jail earlier).

Later on in the book we find that Rhett and Ashley worked to get the local KKK band disbanded, Rhett for practical and Ashley for moral reasons.  Still, Rhett speaks of “Klan outrage stories” as being slander manufactured by the Yankee governor to keep himself in power.

Even sweet Melanie, a true lady and Christian who refuses to believe anything bad about anyone (especially Scarlett)–

–hates Yankees, plans to teach her child and grandchildren to hate Yankees, and hates the thought of sending her child to school with black children.

Et tu, Melanie?

Even the rogue Huckleberry Finn decided he’d rather go to Hell for helping Jim escape slavery, than do what the locals proclaimed to be moral, and turn him in.  And Mark Twain was a Southerner who had actually lived through slavery and the Civil War.  Here is a Southerner who was against slavery and racism.  Is it so much to ask that Melanie be the same?

Melanie has always loved and supported Scarlett, and now has fiercely stood up to the townswomen for wanting to shun her, to the surprise of everyone.  She’s completely blind to Scarlett’s real feelings for her, and Scarlett’s desire to steal Ashley away from her; instead, she is staunchly on her side, no matter what.  She tells the town the heroic things Scarlett did for her and her family during the war.

You could say that Scarlett is a kind of idol for her: She will do anything for her.

Now Scarlett has snapped at her, said she doesn’t care if she visits or not, broken her heart.  What a way to repay Melanie for all she’s done!

Yet Melanie keeps standing by her.  I know how Melanie feels.  It’s tough to learn that your idol has clay feet, and I learned this quite recently about my own idol.

P. 940: Scarlett has been discovered with Ashley–but it was just a hug.  There were two times when, if they had been discovered, a scandal would be justified: One of them was an especially lusty kiss.

But no, the scandal started over a mere hug, an affectionate hug which Scarlett realized was between friends, not lovers.  And she’s fine with being friends with Ashley.

She’s also realized that she’s fallen in love with Rhett.  Unfortunately, she’s so full of pride, so afraid of being scorned, that she won’t tell Rhett how she really feels.  If only she would tell him, any trouble between them could probably be resolved.

The book is nearly done, their child Bonnie is dead, and Scarlett’s relationship with Rhett keeps deteriorating because she’s far too full of pride to show how she feels.

She’s lonely and has no old friends to comfort her because she’s alienated them all.

You want to feel sorry for her, but she brought it on herself by being mean to everyone, an old-time “mean girl.”  This is the price paid by people who decide to not care about others’ feelings, but only about their own selfish interests.

Rhett, on the other hand, has sympathetic friends everywhere because–for Bonnie’s sake–he decided to stop offending Atlanta’s Old Society.  Yet he just wants to be left alone.

But Scarlett still has Melanie.  And, finally, she’s beginning to appreciate her.

…Except that soon, Melanie is dying.

And finally it hits Scarlett and she says to Ashley as they grieve for Melanie: “Why couldn’t you see that she was worth a million of me?”

And Scarlett scolds him for not realizing sooner that he loved Melanie, not her, for stringing her along all those years, and says, “You should have seen so clearly that you loved her all the time and only wanted me like–like Rhett wants that Watling woman!”

She realizes that if he had done so long ago, she would’ve been broken-hearted, but only for a time, and then she would’ve moved on.

And now I have finished Gone With the Wind.  The ending shows real repentance from Scarlett, and I hope that she will turn herself around in days to come, become a decent human being.

She’s realized what makes a decent person, and that her selfish, mean, spiteful actions and fierce tongue have made her lonely when she most needed friends.   She’s let go of Ashley at last, realizing that what she mistook for love was just obsessive, physical infatuation.

But Rhett is gone with the…er, you know what.  She thinks she’ll get him back.

Yeah, well, people often think that right after a breakup.  Usually doesn’t happen.  It can, but usually not.  She’s abused him far too much for him to want to come back.

In any case, her best hope of ever getting him back is to let him go, since whenever he tried to go away and forget her before, he always came back.

Yes, I have read “Scarlett,” the sequel, which came out around the time I read GWTW the first time, in 1993.  It was entertaining, but since Margaret Mitchell didn’t write it, it isn’t really “canon.”  So all we can do is speculate.

Watching the movie version of GWTW….Funny how, in the movie, Rhett is far more open about being in love with Scarlett.  In the book, he guards himself because he’s seen how Scarlett abuses the ones who love her.  He tells her he WANTS her more than he’s ever wanted any other woman, not that he LOVES her more than any other woman.

And his lack of forthrightness is also what led Scarlett to hide her feelings when she finally realized she loved him, because she feared he’d laugh at her.

It’s funny how they sanitized the movie of Gone With the Wind.  So many things are changed or missing.  The slave language is changed, Rhett never asks Scarlett to be his mistress, she doesn’t offer herself as his mistress so he’ll give her the money for Tara’s taxes….

Even the kiss between Ashley and Scarlett in the field is sanitized.  You don’t get the feel that he was about to throw her down on the ground and take her right there.

Mammy gets a far more prominent role, as well: She was important in the book, but not with all these awesome lines.  And of course the most offensive of the racial struggles are missing, though the black characters are annoyingly portrayed as silly, childlike creatures.  😛

[Review written over several months and completed June 30, 2010]

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