Day One: Chapters One and Two

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

I have always thought this was a great first line. Especially in light of the movie. I mean who could not think that Scarlett O’Hara as portrayed by Vivian Leigh was beautiful? Yet the text plainly says that she was not beautiful.

It goes on to say:

“But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw.”

Anyone else having a hard time imagining just how a person could have both?

“her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line”

Can you see her now? Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett. Not Hollywood’s I mean. Thick black brows. Thick slanting brows. Square jaw. Pointed chin.

Scarlett’s appearance isn’t the only thing that Hollywood glamorized as we’ll discover as we read.

I just want to take a minute to point out something.

The first three chapters of Gone With The Wind are perhaps best considered a very long prologue. They’re used to establish the setting and the characters. They’re heavy in descriptions of the land, of the families, of the South, of the O’Hara family in particular. So if you’re thinking that Mitchell is taking a rather roundabout, rambling way to get started…you’re right in part. But the action, the plot, does pick up.

Ten Things You Learn About Scarlett in the first two chapters…

“she was not beautiful”

“she made a pretty picture”

her eyes [which were said to represent her true self (“her true self was poorly concealed”)] were “turbulent, willful, lusty with life”

“she could never long endure any conversation of which she was not the chief subject”

“when Scarlett gets mad, everybody knows it. She don’t hold herself in like some girls do.”

“she was constitutionally unable to endure any man being in love with any woman not herself.”

she has a “bright and changeable charm” meaning that beaus never “had the slightest notion” of where they stood with her

“She was as forthright and simple as the winds that blew over Tara and the yellow river that wound about it, and to the end of her days she would never be able to understand a complexity.”

“she was too young and too spoiled ever to have known defeat.”

she takes after her father who is “vital, earthy, and coarse”

A few things about Ashley Wilkes…and Scarlett’s obsession with Ashley

“She had wanted him, in that first instant, wanted him as simply and unreasoningly as she wanted food to eat, horses to ride and a soft bed on which to lay herself.”

“Too often she had surprised him when his eyes were neither drowsy nor remote, when he looked at her with a yearning and a sadness which puzzled her.”

“He was courteous always, but aloof, remote. No one could ever tell what he was thinking about, Scarlett least of all.”

“Oh, why was he so handsomely blond, so courteously aloof, so maddeningly boring with his talk about Europe and books and music and poetry and things that interested her not at all–and yet so desirable?”

“She loved him and she wanted him and she did not understand him.”

“He moved in an inner world that was more beautiful than Georgia and came back to reality with reluctance. He looked on people, and he neither liked nor disliked them. He looked on life and was neither heartened nor saddened. He accepted the universe and his place in it for what they were and, shrugging, turned to his music and books and his better world.”

Summing up chapters one and two

1) Brent and Stuart Tarleton are two of Scarlett’s beaus. The opening scene is of her being wooed or courted by the twins.

2) When the two twins let a secret slip, Scarlett’s world begins to crumble.

3) The twins go away without being invited to stay for supper. They talk a lot about war, about the community, about their neighbors, etc. Lots of things about socioeconomic class are thrown in there.

4) Scarlett still in shock from the news seeks to run away from the house and wait for her father.

5) Scarlett and her father have a heart-to-heart chat about love, marriage, life, and land. Especially interesting in this second chapter (and later on as well) are the notions of what marriage is and what marriage should be. The dos and don’ts of being a “good little wife.”

6) Scarlett is still upset at the idea that she is not going to get what she wants. What she wants is Ashley. The second chapter is FULL of descriptions about Ashley and the Wilkes family in general. Things that are important and will be important later on.

7) Hinted at above, but important none the less, there are some big themes introduced including what it means to be a lady. The dos and don’ts of society. Society’s norms and conventions and traditions. What is “proper” and “improper.” What is modest and immodest. What it means to be a “good” daughter, a “good” wife, etc. The role of women in the home, in the family, in the community, in society. Gone With the Wind is all about conventions and conformity. What happens to rule breakers, to those men and women who do NOT conform. Those individuals that express their individuality. Who make their own rules.

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