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Old 03-02-2010, 10:58 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by Sparrow View Post
Her problem seemed to be that she didn't know who she was in love with when.
She was just as caustic with Rhett as he was to her. He was the only male character who cast aside social convention and dealt with her on her own terms; ultimately beating her at her own game.
It raises an interesting question...who is to blame for Rhett and Scarlett's failure to make the marriage work? I think it is possible to look at it from both sides and see the good and bad (like in real life, although in real life it is more difficult to put yourself in others emotional shoes and not just perform an intellectual exercise). What event set them down this self-destructive path? Was there one moment that could have changed it? The book leads you to believe that the aftermath of their passionate union was the turning point - towards love for Scarlett and away from love for Rhett. Did the marriage fail because Rhett couldn't forgive himself for all the mistakes he made? He claims to have known Scarlett inside and out and even in the beginning he correctly surmised that Scarlett's love for Ashley was no more than a juvenile fantasy built on smoke. Yet he still couldn't get past it. Was he right to judge that withholding his feelings was the only way to keep her attention or did this habit of keeping her at arms length and condescending to her eventually become the chasm that drove him out of love. He seemed to want her to be "a great lady" yet he only ever encouraged her to frivolity, pique and excess. He wanted her to be completely honest with him but he never was with her, he always withheld.

Scarlett, of course, is also not blameless in this. It takes two as they say. She was selfish, thoughtless, neglectful, insulting and cold. Still, from the beginning of their relationship she was always true to who she was and what she believed. (Of course what she believed and what was true were not the same - she believed she loved Ashley with a passion of the ages for example). She behaved immaturely but he went into it knowing her immaturity, indeed he even encouraged it. In the end it seems he wasn't willing to wait for her to grow up - however, since he treated her like a child I'm not sure whose fault that is.

So, ends my second staunch defence of Scarlett I guess. Of course, as you said it is easy to defend with the voice of a culture that has permitted women to be educated, voting, informed and equal members of society. The times, even when the book was being written, never mind during the actual historical period being portrayed, were different. One of the thing Rhett teaches us is that if you don't want to end up alone you have to make an effort to fit in so the fact that Scarlett is so bereft at the end is in large part her own fault.

It occurred to me when writing this that Mitchell must have been influenced by and able to draw some interesting parallels with World War I and the effect it had on cultural norms as they applied to women's work.

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