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Friday, December 19, 2008

Great Last Scenes: Gone With The Wind

Year: 1939
Director: Victor Flemming
Great Because... This scene pretty much encapsulates everything I love about Scarlett O'Hara. She loses Rhett, feigns being helpless, cries for a moment and then pulls herself together, picks herself up and starts to formulate a plan. That's the scrappy heroine I love!

Scarlett goes through a lot in this story: she loses Ashley to Melanie, she's widowed twice, escapes Atlanta as it burns, kills a Union soldier, loses her daughter, and realizes that she loves Rhett only when it's too late. Rhett, fed up with Scarlett's mistreatment, walks out on her, refusing to hear her out as she declares that things will be different now. When asked what she's supposed to do without him, he utters those immortal words: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

If the film had ended right there, it would be great, but it goes a step further to become classic. Rhett walks out the door and disappears into the mist, leaving a tearful Scarlett behind. She collapses on the stairs, lost - but only for a moment. She remembers her father's words about Tara, the family home: "Tara! Home. I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all... tomorrow is another day."

I love this scene because it demonstrates what I think is really admirable about Scarlett: for all her scheming and manipulation and general petulance and entitlement, she's never one to wallow in her misery. No matter how dire the circumstances, she always finds a way to pull herself through, possessing the kind of strength that female characters aren't often allowed. She might want a man, but she doesn't need one because she can take care of herself. It's the optimism, the unyielding belief in herself that is expressed in the last lines which makes Scarlett such a great character and makes this such a great ending.


Wendymoon said...

Your post made me think of what Margaret Mitchell said about her book: "If the novel has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people able to come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don't. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those who go under...? I only know that the survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about the people who had gumption and the people who didn't."

The ending to the movie definitely shows that Scarlett has gumption.

Anh Khoi Do said...

I have nothing to say for now about Gone With the Wind, but I'll wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.