When I first read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, I was completely blown away by her historical saga and a coming-of-age story of survival and endurance. Despite the length of the book (Over 1000 pages), the pace never turns sluggish. I finished it in less than a week. Then, I eagerly waited for other members of my book club to finish reading it. Everyone loved the book but not for the reasons I imagined they would love. I was appalled to realize everyone else loved it because of Scarlett’s proto-feminist badass characters.
Surely Scarlett is a strong, passionate, and brave woman. She is self-willed and a survivor. But she is also cold, calculative, and utterly manipulative. She is shallow and insensitive. She cannot respond to genuine emotions of those who love her and pursues Ashley Wilkes throughout her three marriages for reasons that at most could be called inconsequential and vain. She literally seems incapable of feeling genuine emotions. Her behaviour is considerate only in case of matters non-vital.
Scarlett O’Hara is a spoiled, selfish girl in the beginning. The adversities of the Civil War turn her into a hardened individual. Melanie never loose her humility despite going through the same set of adversities as Scarlet goes through. It’s shocking to realize that many people dismissed Melanie’s goodness, her self-sacrificing nature, and her gentleness as a weakness of character.
For me, Scarlett came out as a negative character. I disliked her all through the book. I was relieved to know that Mitchel didn’t change her throughout the book. I don’t think a person can really change, not the soul at least. Change of attitude, behaviour, habits, and interest do occur; that’s just personal growth over a period of time. But a person’s soul, the inner core deep down, it never changes. I loved Mitchel for that. She took a negative character and made it her protagonist. Now if we look at the general definition of a psychopath, a psychopath is a person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, etc. If not a complete psychopath, Scarlett definitely exhibited enough personality traits to be put in the category of partial psychopaths. Many people would argue that she was considerate enough; however, her consideration was limited to superfluous matters. The things that mattered most, she couldn’t care enough.
In an interview with a Sunday Journal that was broadcasted on radio in 1936, in answer to a question about Scarlett’s character, Margaret Mitchel clarified how hardship, poverty, and sorrow of the war changed Scarlett from a selfish, egocentric, but otherwise normal Southern girl to a hardened adventuress. That officially should clear the matter for those who perceive and suggest that Mitchel wrote a flawless character in Scarlet.
Until a few years earlier, only the term ‘feminist’ was considered trendy. The era where a woman was celebrated for her accomplishments. Nowadays, the term ‘badass feminist’ has become a trend. The term ‘badass’ originated in the 1950s: from the adjective bad + ass. Badass is defined as either—a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person—or a formidably impressive person. Nowhere, it’s defined as a selfish, egocentric, corrupt person.
Badass feminism implies celebrating the women for their kick-ass attitude, but seemingly, it is purposely, insistently, and widely misrepresented and misunderstood. Instead of idolising a selfish and awful protagonist like Scarlett how about idolising Charlotte Bronte’s Jane of Jane Eyre or L. M. Montgomery’s Anne from Anne of Green Gables or Louisa May Alcott’s Jo from Little Women and of course Melanie! The list goes on and on. It’s disheartening to think how people in general prefer a Scarlett over a Melanie.
Neena lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, two children, a highly energetic German Shepherd, and a lifetime collection of her favorite books.
A hermit at heart, she’s a permissive mother, a reluctant housekeeper, a superb cook, and a hard-core reader.
Tied to Deceit is her debut novel.
Want to know more about Tied to Deceit? Check here
Read a free excerpt from Tied to Deceit here