"After all, tomorrow is another day!" -Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.
High-spirited, vivacious, charming, vain, ambitious and selfish, Scarlett O’Hara is by far the most iconic southern belle in literary and cinematic history. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell’s historical epic is an unforgettable tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and a people forever changed. It is the story of the spoiled and manipulative daughter of a plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to overcome the challenges she faces. But above all, it is the story of the turbulent affair between Scarlett O’Hara and the scandalous soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.
Margaret Mitchell describes the character of a young woman who posses ‘high spirits’; whose ‘vanity leaped to the aid of her desire to believe, making belief a certainty’; for whom ‘no pang of conscience at loving another woman’s husband distributed her pleasure in her youth’; and who believed that ‘the only time crying ever did any good was when there was a man around from whom you wanted favours’. All these phrases characterize the impulsive southern heroine who had a ‘hard self-honesty’ about her, yet on critical occasions behave ‘like a child who still feels that to state a desire is to gain that desire’.
As an atypical protagonist, especially as a female romantic lead in fiction, Scarlett O’Hara is presented as a calculating character. For example, Margaret Mitchell wrote; ‘Scarlett’s mind ticked on steadily… coldly and logically an idea grew in her brain. I’ll marry him, she thought…’. Scarlett’s nature demonstrates a deep and complex characterisation. This is because she ultimately thrives in her difficult situation in which she was born into, yet unprepared. As a result of this, her favourite phrases such as ‘fiddle-dee-dee’ and ‘great balls of fire’ have become modern catchphrases.
"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again". -Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.
In particular, Scarlett’s spoilt attitude is displayed through her relationship with her Mammy. For instance, when asked to eat lunch before attending the Wilkes’ BBQ, Scarlett declares “No. I’m going to have a good time today and do my eating at the BBQ. The relationship between all three O’Hara sister’s also demonstrates Scarlett’s ruthlessness when determination kicks in. Most notably in David O.Selznick’s film adaptation, Scarlett is seen to pull on her sister’s hair in order to get Suellen to “hush” and immaturely sticks her tongue out when annoyed.
With regards to finding an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in the film version of Gone With the Wind, Vivien Leigh’s claim to fame also has feminist undertones. Largely unknown at the time, the English actress shows a considerable comparison to the character of Scarlett O’Hara, apart from the fact that in the novel Scarlett is described as ‘not beautiful’. Upon reading the novel for the first time the feisty actress declared “I’m going to play Scarlett O’Hara’. Although competing with hundreds of would-be southern belles, along with leading American actresses such as Bette Davis, Vivien had set her heart of getting the role, whatever it took. She had been preparing herself for the part for years, she knew passages of the book by heart; the character was just her. She believed it was her. Vivien Leigh travelled to America with her partner Laurence Olivier, determined to get an audition. David O.Selznick was filming the burning Atlanta scene when Vivien, fully dressed as a southern belle presented herself. Vivien Leigh was cast as Scarlett O’Hara. Winning an Oscar for her portrayal of the manipulative Scarlett, the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind is considered to be the most famous and icon role in cinematic history.
"While Scarlett wasn't the most easy-going type, neither am I" -Vivien Leigh.
"Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them." -Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind.