Day Five: Chapters 10-12

Chapter 10

Scarlett had her fun in chapter nine–attending a bazaar and dancing–both things strictly against the rules of proper etiquette for being a widow. (A widow of less than a year at that.) And while Pittypat may be feeling a bit harsh towards Scarlett and Melly a bit too kind and understanding, Scarlett’s mind is made up. Or almost made up.

“I’m tired of sitting at home and I’m not going to do it any longer. If they all talked about me about last night, then my reputation is already gone and it won’t matter what else they say.” It did not occur to her that the idea was Rhett Butler’s. It came so patly and fitted so well with what she was thinking.

Aunt Pittypat threatens to tell Scarlett’s parents–particularly Ellen–but Scarlett feels confident that Pitty wouldn’t really tattle on her for fear that she would be taken for a bad chaperon. Melly is always quick to defend Scarlett, much to Scarlett’s irritation. “Of all the people in the world, she didn’t want Melly for a defender. She could defend herself, thank you, and if the old cats wanted to squall– well, she could get along without the old cats.”

This disagreement between the three women was interrupted by the arrival of a letter by Captain Butler. He has returned Melanie’s wedding ring–but not Scarlett’s ring–that she had given to the Cause at the Bazaar.

That WASN’T the only letter we read about in this chapter, however, Ellen has heard from someone–someone not Pittypat–about Scarlett’s spiraling reputation and impulsive behavior at the dance. “She had often heard in Charleston and Savannah that Atlanta people gossiped more and meddled in other people’s business more than any other people in the South, and now she believed it. The bazaar had taken place Monday night and today was only Thursday. Which of the old cats had taken it upon herself to write Ellen?”

Here is (in part) what the letter says:

“I am heartbroken to think that you could so soon forget your rearing. I have thought of calling you home immediately but will leave that to your father’s discretion. He will be in Atlanta Friday to speak with Captain Butler and to escort you home. I fear he will be severe with you despite my pleadings. I hope and pray it was only youth and thoughtlessness that prompted such forward conduct. No one can wish to serve our Cause more than I, and I wish my daughters to feel the same way, but to disgrace–”

Hollywood did skip over this portion, but I’ve always found it charming. Maybe charming isn’t quite the word, but somewhere between charming and amusing. Gerald comes to town to reprimand his daughter and have a stern talk with Rhett Butler. But if you remember, Gerald has a hard time being taken seriously. And he’s more talk and no action. And sure enough, his threats turn to nothing after his little visit with Mr. Butler. Gerald falls prey to his charms–drinking and gambling. Butler delivers the very drunk Gerald right to the door of Miss Pittypat’s house. Scarlett–to get her own way and stay–essentially blackmails him. After all, they’ve both “disgraced” the family because of Mr. Butler.

Chapter 11

This chapter also failed to make it into the movie. This is when Scarlett plays spy and reads some of Ashley’s letters to Melanie. (I can see why they’d skip it. I mean, it would have been heard to insert much action into the scenes. Although a montage of clips and voice overs might very well do today.)

When Scarlett first began secretly reading these letters, she had been so stricken of conscience and so fearful of discovery she could hardly open the envelopes for trembling. Now, her never- too-scrupulous sense of honor was dulled by repetition of the offense and even fear of discovery had subsided. Occasionally, she thought with a sinking heart, “What would Mother say if she knew?” She knew Ellen would rather see her dead than know her guilty of such dishonor. This had worried Scarlett at first, for she still wanted to be like her mother in every respect. But the temptation to read the letters was too great and she put the thought of Ellen out of her mind. She had become adept at putting unpleasant thoughts out of her mind these days. She had learned to say, “I won’t think of this or that bothersome thought now. I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Generally when tomorrow came, the thought either did not occur at all or it was so attenuated by the delay it was not very troublesome. So the matter of Ashley’s letters did not lie very heavily on her conscience.

What she finds frankly bores her. He doesn’t talk of love, passion, or romance–as she fears he might one day–but of the unpleasantness and atrocities of war. “But Scarlett carefully folded up the letter without finishing it and thrust it back into the envelope, too bored to read further. Besides, the tone of the letter vaguely depressed her with its foolish talk of defeat. After all, she wasn’t reading Melanie’s mail to learn Ashley’s puzzling and uninteresting ideas. She had had to listen to enough of them when he sat on the porch at Tara in days gone by.”

The reader might be wondering certainly what Scarlett sees in Ashley since she doesn’t seem to know him or understand him. But all we get is this little commentary from the narrator: “She stood for a moment holding the letters to her breast, thinking longingly of Ashley. Her emotions toward him had not changed since the day when she first fell in love with him. They were the same emotions that struck her speechless that day when she was fourteen years old and she had stood on the porch of Tara and seen Ashley ride up smiling, his hair shining silver in the morning sun. Her love was still a young girl’s adoration for a man she could not understand, a man who possessed all the qualities she did not own but which she admired. He was still a young girl’s dream of the Perfect Knight and her dream asked no more than acknowledgment of his love, went no further than hopes of a kiss.”

And this little nugget:

She was still that young and untouched. Had Charles with his fumbling awkwardness and his embarrassed intimacies tapped any of the deep vein of passionate feeling within her, her dreams of Ashley would not be ending with a kiss. But those few moonlight nights alone with Charles had not touched her emotions or ripened her to maturity. Charles had awakened no idea of what passion might be or tenderness or true intimacy of body or spirit. All that passion meant to her was servitude to inexplicable male madness, unshared by females, a painful and embarrassing process that led inevitably to the still more painful process of childbirth. That marriage should be like this was no surprise to her. Ellen had hinted before the wedding that marriage was something women must bear with dignity and
fortitude, and the whispered comments of other matrons since her widowhood had confirmed this. Scarlett was glad to be done with passion and marriage. She was done with marriage but not with love, for her love for Ashley was something different, having nothing to do with passion or marriage, something sacred and breathtakingly beautiful, an emotion that grew stealthily through the long days of her enforced silence, feeding on oft-thumbed memories and hopes.

Chapter 12

In which we get very brief glimpses but mostly generalizations of what the weeks, months, and years of the war were like for Scarlett.

Scarlett was back again where she had been before she married Charles and it was as if she had never married him, never felt the shock of his death, never borne Wade. War and marriage and childbirth had passed over her without touching any deep chord within her and she was unchanged. She had a child but he was cared for so well by the others in the red brick house she could almost forget him. In her mind and heart, she was Scarlett O’Hara again, the belle of the County. Her thoughts and activities were the same as they had been in the old days, but the field of her activities had widened immensely. Careless of the disapproval of Aunt Pitty’s friends, she behaved as she had behaved before her marriage, went to parties, danced, went riding with soldiers, flirted, did everything she had done as a girl, except stop wearing mourning. This she knew would be a straw that would break the backs of Pittypat and Melanie. She was as charming a widow as she had been a girl, pleasant when she had her own way, obliging as long as it did not discommode her, vain of her looks and her popularity.

But the chapter is good at giving us a glimpse into this semi-courtship, often love/hate relationship between Scarlett and Rhett.

For all his exasperating qualities, she grew to look forward to his calls. There was something exciting about him that she could not analyze, something different from any man she had ever known. There was something breathtaking in the grace of his big body which made his very entrance into a room like an abrupt physical impact, something in the impertinence and bland mockery of his dark eyes that challenged her spirit to subdue him.
“It’s almost like I was in love with him!” she thought, bewildered. “But I’m not and I just can’t understand it.”
But the exciting feeling persisted. When he came to call, his complete masculinity made Aunt Pitty’s well-bred and ladylike house seem small, pale and a trifle fusty. Scarlett was not the only member of the household who reacted strangely and unwillingly to his presence, for he kept Aunt Pitty in a flutter and a ferment.

The chapter spends a good deal of time on Rhett’s courtship of the young ladies and matrons of Atlanta. What people thought of him, etc. Rhett seems for a time to allow folks to think of him as this brave, dashing, romantic hero. But then he gets tired of the act and goes about setting everyone straight–determined to be thought of as a rascal once more. When Rhett starts airing his views on the war, the Cause, then folks get tired of him quickly and he’s once again an outcast. Excepting at Aunt Pittypat’s house of course because Melanie would defend him to the end.

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