This is a book I read when I need a moral lesson.
Scarlett O’Hara is, for me, a cautionary tale — and probably not for the reasons you’d assume. I adore Scarlett, and I see so much of myself in her — and so she is a cautionary tale about the high cost of pride, about wanting the wrong things, about not appreciating what has real value. But she also has a lot of traits I admire — and most of what she gets vilified for as a woman wouldn’t be blinked at in a man. I would love to say they wouldn’t be blinked at now, in the 21st century, but, well, women are still held to far different standards than men. She’d get further now than she got in the 1860s, though, and she’d have a lot more company. She’s ruthless and intelligent, and once she gets a taste for where that can take her, once she gets to liking independence, who can blame her for wanting to cling to it? She has charm and knows how to use it. She’s passionate and high-spirited and makes no excuses for herself. She has an iron core. She acts with plenty of self-interest, but she’s not nearly as selfish as she gets painted; if she were, she’d never take on the burdens that she does, she would never do the things she does for the people who are dependent on her. All of that, I adore her for.
[…] This book is billed as one of the greatest romances of all time, but the more I return to it, the central relationship is actually less and less about Scarlett and Rhett, and more and more about Scarlett and Melanie. The biggest shame of the story is that Scarlett realises too late what a tremendous friend she has in Melanie — but I think it’s in her subconscious. Scarlett’s biggest problem, in many ways, is that she is not reflective by nature, that she never examines anyone’s feelings, including her own, beyond the surface of what they present. And so she doesn’t really consciously notice when she starts to genuinely care for Melly — which is, I believe, in the final days of her pregnancy — or when she starts to genuinely think better of her — which is, I believe, when Melly takes up the sword with the intention of helping Scarlett kill the Yankee. Melanie really is a brilliant character — unfailingly good, but not stupid for it, nor even as impractical as her husband Ashley. And so loyal, so undyingly, wonderfully, defiantly loyal. Who doesn’t yearn for a friend like that, who will loop her arm through yours and dare the world to challenge her for it?