Sunday, February 22, 2009

Then & Now

Probably one of my all time favorite literary characters is Scarlett O'Hara from Margaret Mitchell's book, Gone with the Wind.

The character of Scarlett has become a bit of a caricature in modern culture thanks to the movie version of the book, but the essential elements that made Scarlett a formidable woman in spite of overwhelming circumstances where real. There really was a Civil War- or rather the War of Northern Aggression, depending on your viewpoint. And following the War, there was complete economic chaos in the South. People at that time had to dig deep within themselves to find the will to survive- just as they had during the War.

Margaret Mitchell set Scarlett's home Tara on the south side of Atlanta, even though stories such as Scarlett's were being enacted all over the state of Georgia- in fact, it was a common tale in most any area affected by the War. That a reader could be taken to Tara, both the pre-War and post-War versions is a testament to Mitchell. Through her words we can see the grandeur and contrast it with the poverty. We can taste the joys and despair of the people during this time. We can smell the fields in bloom and the acrid smoke when Atlanta burned.

But overall, what makes Scarlett such a remarkable literary character is that she was born from the life of a real woman, Rebecca Felton. Margaret Mitchell and Rebecca Felton had a writing relationship and it was from the real life tales of Mrs. Felton's portrayal of life following the War that Mitchell based Scarlett on.

The spirit of survival, patriotism, and being a uniquely Southern female comes alive in Scarlett, and can be paralleled to the hardships and uncertainties we are facing now with our current economic instability- we don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I know that I can look to Scarlett as an example to draw strength that tomorrow is another day.

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