Sunday, 15 April 2012

War is Over. What now?

The war has ended. This should really be good news, however now the plantation is inundated with wounded, starving soldiers on their way “home” from the front. Feeding her small household has been difficult enough, and to now have to feed stray men passing through is near impossible. It is the Southern way to help thy neighbour, and not one is put out, much to Scarlett’s dismay at having to share their precious food. One soldier, Will, stays on at Tara to help run the plantation. He has no family to return to, and Scarlett is utterly grateful to have someone competent to run Tara by her side (Will is quite a prominent character in the book, yet he is completely written out of the movie. He is not hugely pivotal to Scarlett’s journey, only as a sort of brother figure, and so you can understand why the screen writers felt he wasn’t needed in the movie).

A small part of the story, which I feel is quite an important one of the development between Scarlett and Melanie, is when a Yankee soldier breaks into the house to steal from them. The others are out in the fields planting cotton, and Scarlett sneaks down the stairs and shoots the soldier point blank. She turns to find the still extremely ill Melly at the top of the stairs in her nightgown with Charles’ sabre, ready to defend the house. Melanie is at once proud of and grateful to Scarlett for killing the soldier, and then helps her rob and remove the body from the house so that the others won’t see it. Scarlett is highly impressed with how Melly reacts to the murder and her help in concealing it, and Scarlett begins to have some respect for her sister in law.

Melanie helps Scarlett rob the Yankee.

Finally, after months of not knowing if he is even alive, Ashley returns to Tara. Melanie and Scarlett are overcome with joy, but it is all too apparent that this is not the same man they sent off to war. Ashley is a shadow of his former self, yet so pleased to be home with his family, even if it is not at Twelve Oaks. He immediately begins work in the fields, and it is soon obvious that he is not a farming man, and he is weak and clumsy. He becomes agitated at his own incompetence, and is deeply depressed at the loss of the  “old South” in which he as grown up, and is all he knows. Whereas Scarlett is set on surviving and making money to keep the plantation, Ashley feels hopeless and sad about their world changing forever. The difference between the two is never more apparent than in this scene in the field at Tara. Whereas Scarlett is still so passionate, Ashley is so sedate.

Scarlett wants to run to the returning Ashely.

Scarlett feels that she has nothing if she does not have Ashley, and yet even though he loves her, he will not dishonour or hurt Melanie by leaving her. Scarlett makes up her mind to never put Ashley in the position where he will take Melly and leave her because of her throwing herself at him, and so she resolves to focus on keeping Tara, instead of relying on Ashley to keep her.

Always with Ashley and Scarlett, and how weak he is when it comes to her. What do you think about Scarlett loving Ashley more than anything? Or do you think he is right, that she loves Tara more than anything?

Soon, more trouble comes their way. When the Yankees take over the county, certain dishonourable Southerners take up with them, and start devising a plan to bulk up the taxes for the remaining plantations so that the original owners will have to sell them at auction. Scarlett gets news of the taxes rising and she runs to Ashley for help in raising the money, but he is useless to her. 

Scarlett goes to Ashley in the field.

Instead, she decides to do the unthinkable and go to Atlanta to find Rhett Butler and beg him for the money. Rhett has always been extremely well off, even during the war, and she knows he must have the money. She will even agree to be his mistress if he will only give her the money to save Tara. Scarlett decides that she must not look desolate, and must act like everything is perfectly fine at Tara otherwise he will cotton on to her scheme, so she makes a new dress from the velvet draperies in the house and heads to Atlanta to find Rhett.

Scarlett and Mammy in Atlanta.

Mitchell, M .(1974). 'Gone With The Wind'. Pan Books Ltd, Cavaye Place, London, MacMillan London Ltd.

All still frames and movie clips courtesy of Selznick International Pictures and MGM. 

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