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Scarlett O'Hara

Scarlett O'Hara, as she appears in Gone With the Wind.
Appears in Gone With the Wind (book)
Gone With the Wind (film)
Scarlett
Gender Female
Homeland Georgia
Hometown Tara
Family Ellen O'Hara
(mother, deceased)
Gerald O'Hara
(father, deceased)
Charles Hamilton
(1st husband; deceased)
Wade Hampton Hamilton
(son)
Frank Kennedy
(2nd husband; deceased)
Ella Lorena Kennedy
(daughter)
Rhett Bulter
(3rd husband)
Eugenie "Bonnie Blue" Victoria Butler
(daughter; deceased)
Katie "Cat" Colum Butler
(daughter in Scarlett)
Race Caucasian
Age 16 - 28 (Gone With the Wind)
c. 30s (Scarlett)
Affiliations Confederate States of America
Fayette Female Academy
Death and taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them!

—Scarlett O'Hara, Chapter 38


Scarlett O'Hara, born Katie Scarlett O' Hara (credited as Scarlett Hamilton - Kennedy - Butler), is the protagonist in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and in the later film of the same name.

She is 16 at the opening of the novel, indicating the year of her birth is 1845.

She is also the main character in the 1970 musical Scarlett and the 1991 book Scarlett, considered a vastly inferior sequel to Gone with the Wind written under contract by Alexandra Ripley and adapted for a television mini-series in 1994. Initially, author Mitchell referred to her heroine as "Pansy" until just before publication.  Upon advice from her editor, who felt readers would relate to the firey character better under a  more dramatic name, she changed the name "Scarlett".

Character DevelopmentEdit

In the novel's opening line Margaret Mitchell declares that Scarlett O'Hara is not beautiful in a conventional sense.  Instead she is described as a charming Southern belle who grew up in Georgia on a Clayton County named Tara in the years before the American Civil War. Scarlett is the oldest of her parent's three daughters. Her two younger sisters are the lazy and whiny Susan Elinor ("Suellen") and the gentle and kind Caroline Irene ("Carreen"). Her mother also gave birth to three younger sons, who were all named Gerald Jr. and died as infants.

Shrewd and vain, but lacking in insight or analytical skills, Scarlett inherits the strong will of her Irish father Gerald O'Hara, but deeply desires to please her well-bred, gentle French American mother Ellen Robillard, from an aristocratic Savannah, Georgia family. Scarlett is secretly in love with Ashley Wilkes, son and scion to the neighboring plantation Twelve Oaks.  Despite the wisdom of her father and her Mammy who insist that Ashley would make her a poor husband even if he were willing to flout convention to marry her, Scarlett is determined to try to win him.  The attempt is a humiliating failure, made worse when she realizes her confession, rejection and resultant temper tantrum were all witnessed by the smug Rhett Butler.   When Ashley's engagement to meek and mild-mannered Melanie Hamilton is announced, out of hurt and spite she retaliates by marrying Melanie's brother, the shy and mild-mannered Charles Hamilton.   Only a few weeks into the war her new husband dies, not in combat but of measles.  

Soon after Scarlett disgustedly finds herself pregnant from her brief, ill-fated marriage and in time gives birth to a son she names Wade Hampton Hamilton.  She does not fit well into either molds of grieving widow or blissful young mother.  Upon advice of her mother she moves to Atlanta to stay with Melanie and her ineffective, childlike Aunt Pittypat.  Following a Christmas visit from Ashley, Melanie too becomes pregnant, but lacking Scarlett's robust constitution, the pregancy goes hard on her.  Scarlett's patience, never her strong suit, is tried to the limit as Melanie's failing strength requires near constant nursing.  She goes into labor just as General Sherman begins his advance on the City.  Scarlett, unable to get the overburdened local doctor to come help with the birth and learning that her personal slave, Prissy, has lied about her own knowlege, reluctantly stays by Melanie's side.  Her rough and insincere encouragement somehow help Melanie through.  Scarlett inexpertly but effectively delivers her son.  The labor, birth and lack of either sanitary or knowledgeable care take a terrible toll on the new mother but in the face of enemy invasion immediate evacuation is essential.  Panicstricken, Scarlett immediately--not for the first time or the last--turns to Rhett for help.

With Rhett's guidence and theiving skills she acquires what is probably the last horse in Atlanta, a diseased old thing as well as a rickety wagon.  Thus begins a nightmarish trek back to Atlanta for Scarlett, Melanie, the newborn, Scarlett's toddler son, and Prissy.  Harrassed by troops on either side, hungry and prey to the weather, insects and rough roads, the wretched group painfully traverse the twenty five miles to Tara.  Alas, Tara has fallen into the marauding hands of the Yankees.  All the valuables, valuables, all gold, harvested crops and livestock are gone.

In the face of hardship, the spoiled Scarlett shoulders the troubles of her family and friends, but the near starvation and backbreaking, endless work change her forever.  She grows hard and calculating.  An attack from an enemy deserter forces her hand and she shoots him in self-defense.  Sick as she is, Melanie assists Scarlett in hiding the body and cleaning up.  Although on the surface Melanie is as sweet and loving as ever, hard times have wrought changes upon her character, too.

As the remainder of the former Southern army troop home, some familiar faces return.  

A former overseer and his new wife, poor white Emmy Slatterly (whose name is synonymous with her loose-moraled character) come "calling" with an eye to purchase Tara for themselves, Scarlett learns that her home will soon be put up for auction due to tax debts.  Now hardened, she is willing to do whatever she has to, including selling her body to Rhett, to raise the tax money.  Her plan is a dismal failure as Rhett sees through it right away and eventually the not-so-grieving widow marries her sister's beau, Frank Kennedy,for the funds to pay the taxes. Her hardened, practical nature has driven her to steal her own sister's beau.  It doesn't end there.

As one of the most colorful characters in literature, Scarlett challenges the prescribed women's roles of her time.  She pays a steep price in the form of ostracism by her Atlanta acquaintences. The story's driving force continues to be Scarlett's ongoing internal conflict between her feelings and the expected behavior for a woman of her age and class. .

 Searching for ScarlettEdit

The 1939 film version of Gone With the Wind Scarlett O'Hara is strongly similar to the character in the original novel in looks, character and behavior but there are some noticeable plot differences. In the book, Scarlett gives birth to three children: Wade Hampton Hamilton, Ella Lorena Kennedy, and Eugenie Victoria "Bonnie Blue" Butler. In the film version only Bonnie is featured. 

Almost universally, the studio and the public agreed that the part of Rhett Butler should go to Clark Gable.  The exception being Clark Gable himself.  Casting for the role of Scarlett was a little harder. The search for an actress to play Scarlett in the film version of the novel famously drew the biggest names in the history of cinema, such as Bette Davis (whose casting as a Southern belle in 1937's Jezebel took her out of contention), and Katharine Hepburn, who went so far as demanding an appointment with producer David O. Selznick and saying, "I am Scarlett O'Hara! The role is practically written for me."  David replied rather bluntly, "I can't imagine Rhett Butler chasing you for ten years." Jean Arthur and Lucille Ball were also considered, as well as relatively unknown actress Doris Davenport. Susan Hayward was "discovered" when she tested for the part, and the career of Lana Turner developed quickly after her screen test. Joan Bennett was widely considered to be the most likely choice until she was supplanted by Paulette Goddard.

The young English actress Vivien Leigh, virtually unknown in America, saw that several English actors, including Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard, were in consideration for the male leads in Gone with the Wind. Her agent happened to be the London representative of the Myron Selznick talent agency, headed by David Selznick's brother, a co-owner of Selznick International Pictures. Leigh asked her agent to put her name into consideration as Scarlett on the eve of the American release of her picture Fire Over England in February 1938. David Selznick watched both Fire Over England and her most recent picture, A Yank at Oxford, that month, and from that time onward, Leigh had the inside track for the role of Scarlett. Selznick began highly confidential negotiations with Alexander Korda, to whom Leigh was under contract, for her services later that year. Leigh was informed of Selznick's interest, and told that she would not need to screen test for the role at present as he would view her movies.

For publicity purposes, David Selznick arranged to first meet Leigh on the night in December 1938 when the burning of the Atlanta Depot was being filmed on the Forty Acres backlot that Selznick International and RKO shared. The story was invented for the press that Leigh and Laurence Olivier were just visiting as guests of Myron Selznick, who was also Olivier's agent, and that Leigh was in Hollywood hoping for a part in Olivier's current movie, Wuthering Heights. In a letter to Selznick's wife two days later, he admitted that Leigh was "the Scarlett dark horse," and after a series of screen tests, her casting was announced on January 13, 1939. Just before the shooting of the film, Selznick informed Ed Sullivan: "Scarlett O'Hara's parents were French and Irish. Identically, Miss Leigh's parents are French and Irish.


In any case, Leigh was cast—despite public protest that the role was too "American" for an English actress—and Leigh eventually won an Academy Award for her performance. Adaptations

In the 1994 TV mini-series based on the sequel Scarlett, the character was played by English actress Joanne Whalley.

In the Margaret Martin musical Friday, the role of Scarlett O'Hara was originated by Jill Paice.

CharacteristicsEdit

Scarlett O'Hara

Scarlett O'Hara, as she appears in Gone With the Wind.
Appears in Gone With the Wind (book)
Gone With the Wind (film)
Scarlett
Gender Female
Homeland Georgia
Hometown Tara
Family Ellen O'Hara
(mother, deceased)
Gerald O'Hara
(father; deceased)
Charles Hamilton
(1st husband; deceased)
Wade Hampton Hamilton
(son)
Frank Kennedy
(2nd husband; deceased)
Ella Lorena Kennedy
(daughter)
Rhett Bulter
(3rd husband)
Eugenie "Bonnie Blue" Victoria Butler
(daughter; deceased)
Katie "Cat" Colum Butler
(daughter in Scarlett)
Race Caucasian
Age 16 - 28 (Gone With the Wind)
c. 30s (Scarlett)
Affiliations Confederate States of America
Fayette Female Academy
Death and taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them!

—Scarlett O'Hara, Chapter 38

Scarlett O'Hara, born Katie Scarlett O' Hara (credited as Scarlett Hamilton - Kennedy - Butler), is the protagonist in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and in the later film of the same name.

She also is the main character in the 1970 musical Scarlett and the 1991 book Scarlett, a sequel to Gone with the Wind that was written under contract by Alexandra Ripley and adapted for a television mini-series in 1994. Generally, reviewers regard both as vastly inferior to the original.

Character DevelopmentEdit

Scarlett O'Hara is not beautiful in a conventional sense, as indicated by Margaret Mitchell's opening line, but a charming Southern belle who grows up on a Clayton County, Georgia plantation named after Tara in the years before the American Civil War. Scarlett is described as being sixteen years old at the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, which would put her approximate birth date in early 1845 [1]. She is the oldest of three daughters. Her two younger sisters are the lazy and whiny Susan Elinor ("Suellen") and the gentle and kind Caroline Irene ("Carreen"). Her mother also gave birth to three younger sons, who were all named Gerald Jr. and died as infants. Shrewd and vain, Scarlett inherits the strong will of her Irish father Gerald O'Hara, but also desires to please her well-bred, gentle French American mother Ellen Robillard, from a good and well respected Savannah, Georgia family. Scarlett is secretly in love with Ashley Wilkes,but when his engagement to meek and mild-mannered Melanie Hamilton is announced, she marries Melanie's brother, Charles Hamilton, out of spite. Her new husband dies early in the war of measles, and Tara falls into the marauding hands of the Yankees. In the face of hardship, the spoiled Scarlett shoulders the troubles of her family and friends, and eventually the not-so-grieving widow marries her sister's beau, Frank Kennedy, in order to get funds to pay the taxes on and save her family's beloved home. Her practical nature leads to a willingness to step on anyone who doesn't have her family's best interests at heart, including her own sister. One of the most richly developed female characters of the time on film and in literature, she repeatedly challenges the prescribed women's roles of her time. As a result, she becomes very disliked by the people of Atlanta, Georgia. Scarlett's ongoing internal conflict between her feelings for the Southern gentleman Ashley and her attraction to the sardonic, opportunistic Rhett Butler—who becomes her third husband—embodies the general position of The South in the Civil War era. Scarlett, a sequel written after Mitchell's death by Alexandra Ripley, was a controversial best-seller after its publication in 1991.

 Searching for ScarlettEdit

In the 1939 film version of Gone With the Wind , Scarlett O'Hara is similar to the character in the original novel, but there are some noticeable differences. In the book, Scarlett gives birth to three children: Wade Hampton Hamilton, Ella Lorena Kennedy, and Eugenie Victoria "Bonnie Blue" Butler. In the film version, only Bonnie is featured. In the sequel book, Scarlett, she has another daughter with Rhett, Katie Colum O'Hara more commonly known as "Cat".

While the studio and the public agreed that the part of Rhett Butler should go to Clark Gable (except for Clark Gable himself), casting for the role of Scarlett was a little harder. The search for an actress to play Scarlett in the film version of the novel famously drew the biggest names in the history of cinema, such as Bette Davis (whose casting as a Southern belle in Jezebel in 1937 took her out of contention), and Katharine Hepburn, who went so far as demanding an appointment with producer David O. Selznick and saying, "I am Scarlett O'Hara! The role is practically written for me." David replied rather bluntly, "I can't imagine Rhett Butler chasing you for ten years." Jean Arthur and Lucille Ball were also considered, as well as relatively unknown actress Doris Davenport. Susan Hayward was "discovered" when she tested for the part, and the career of Lana Turner developed quickly after her screen test. Joan Bennett was widely considered to be the most likely choice until she was supplanted by Paulette Goddard.

The young English actress Vivien Leigh, virtually unknown in America, saw that several English actors, including Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard, were in consideration for the male leads in Gone with the Wind. Her agent happened to be the London representative of the Myron Selznick talent agency, headed by David Selznick's brother, a co-owner of Selznick International Pictures. Leigh asked her agent to put her name into consideration as Scarlett on the eve of the American release of her picture Fire Over England in February 1938. David Selznick watched both Fire Over England and her most recent picture, A Yank at Oxford, that month, and from that time onward, Leigh had the inside track for the role of Scarlett. Selznick began highly confidential negotiations with Alexander Korda, to whom Leigh was under contract, for her services later that year. Leigh was informed of Selznick's interest, and told that she would not need to screen test for the role at present as he would view her movies.

For publicity purposes, David Selznick arranged to first meet Leigh on the night in December 1938 when the burning of the Atlanta Depot was being filmed on the Forty Acres backlot that Selznick International and RKO shared. The story was invented for the press that Leigh and Laurence Olivier were just visiting as guests of Myron Selznick, who was also Olivier's agent, and that Leigh was in Hollywood hoping for a part in Olivier's current movie, Wuthering Heights. In a letter to Selznick's wife two days later, he admitted that Leigh was "the Scarlett dark horse," and after a series of screen tests, her casting was announced on January 13, 1939. Just before the shooting of the film, Selznick informed Ed Sullivan: "Scarlett O'Hara's parents were French and Irish. Identically, Miss Leigh's parents are French and Irish.

In any case, Leigh was cast—despite public protest that the role was too "American" for an English actress—and Leigh eventually won an Academy Award for her performance. Adaptations

In the 1994 TV mini-series based on the sequel Scarlett, the character was played by English actress Joanne Whalley.

In the Margaret Martin musical Friday, the role of Scarlett O'Hara was originated by Jill Paice.

CharacteristicsEdit

Scarlett's enduring charm is her strength and what has come to be seen as a form of proto-feminism.  Critics have complained that many events in the novel are degrading to women. Rhett's ravishment (in which it is suggested that Scarlett experiences her first orgasm), Scarlett's seemingly near-constant need of a man, Melanie's sweet but submissive character, the pro-South viewpoint of the novel and the truly offensive descriptions of relations between the races.  It should be borne in mind that these people have to be taken within the framework of the time and the society in which they live.

Apologists believe that defenses for the characters are neccessary.  They are not.  They are true to their time and place when peoplse truly believed that one race, class or gender was somehow superior to another.   Within her time and class Melanie is not offensive to anyone.  She is traditional, non-threatening and frequently dismissed by the more aggressive Scarlett as mealy-mouthed and prim.  But Scarlett, as frequently described by the author, lacks an analytical mind.   Melanie's determination is as unbending and relentless as Scarlett's (When Scarlett kills a Northern soldier bent on sexual assault looting of the house; Melanie first distracts the other family members frightened by the gunshot and then, sick as she is, helps bur the corpse; all the while reassuring Scarlett that the murder was necessary and good).    Much later the 'rape scene' between Rhett and Scarlett quickly becomes consensual.  Bear in mind that Scarlett's era had many confused notions about female sexuality and few, if any, of them were communicated to women themselves.   This theory is backed by the novel and is vaguely described euphomistically.   Scarlett, as an individual character, does not need a man in the usual sense, she needs the freedoms and priveleges a man can bring her, which her society forbids her to have on her own.  Indeed, her three marriages each have an ulterior motive, the Hamilton marriage as a means to remain near the man she really wants, the Kennedy marriage for escape from labor and to achieve relief from the overwhelming tax burden, and the Butler marriage for "fun" and for finacial freedom.

As the central character, Scarlett is by far the most developed character in Gone with the Wind. She stands out by virtue of her strength, determination and rebellous nature. She habitually challenges nineteenth-century society's gender roles, approaching the man she wants despite his upcoming engagement to another, appearing in public and dancing while recently widowed, returning home through enemy li nes following  the Northern invasion of Atlanta, facing the loss of her mother and breakdown of her father and taking charge of postwar Tara,  even running a store and two lumber mills to keep her Atlanta and Tara homes going   Scarlett makes the surface attempt to behave in the accepted stereotypically feminine model of women, and the apparently more traditional Melanie Wilkes is in many ways both her foil and her guide. But it's Scarlett who survives the war, often dragging Melanie and all the other dependents with her.  She survives three marriages, the births of three children, and a miscarriage at a time when health care and medicine were very primitive. Melanie, on the other hand, struggles with fragile health, (which is nearly completely destroyed by her first and only experience with childbirth--exaserbated by Scarlett's inexpert assistance), and her own innately shy nature. Without Melanie Wilkes, Scarlett would lack a governor for her own impulive nature.  But Scarlett's nature allows her to present a fresh, deep, complex female characterization; she ultimately thrives despite being unprepared for the difficult period of history into which she was born.  So much so that her favorite phrases, "Fiddle-dee-dee!," "Tomorrow is another day," "Great balls of fire!" and "I'll never go hungry again!", have become modern catchphrases.

Some similarities between Scarlett and Vivien Leigh, the actress who played her are striking: Both were ambitious, both wanted little to do with motherhood. both swore they would never again have a child.  Scarlett and Leigh came from similar Irish/French backgrounds.  Both were hailed as great beauties--although author Margaret Mitchell made sure to state that Scarlett was no beauty in the traditional sense.  Neither lasted well in long-term, traditional relationships and found friedships equally hard to sustain.  However, Viven Leigh suffered from complex mental illnesses that are difficult to picture plaguing the indomitable Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler.



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