Over break, I finally committed myself to reading Gone With the Wind. While I could talk for weeks about everything in that novel I loved (getting the excessively obsessed vibe yet?) and you will inevitably get to read another Gone With the Wind article at some point in the near future, I wanted to focus this article on people’s capacity to endure as best embodied by Scarlett. She is representative of people’s incredible capacity to endure emotional and physical devastation and never give up. Scarlett survives and, most remarkably, continues to fight in a way that is distinctly human and incredibly poignant. It is gritty and not always moral, but it feels real and it feels right.
Scarlett is selfish, cruel, and two-faced, but at the same time she is brave, resourceful, and charismatic. There is something about her that is identifiable in her faults and enviable in her strengths, which I personally believe the reason her story is so powerful. Scarlett loses her home, husbands, children, family, and true loves many times over. She faces starvation, must support her entire family, and must murder to survive. While logically any one of these events could break a person, Scarlett faces each one with gumption. She “would not know defeat, even when It stared [her] back in the face,” even when she failed and her life was crumbling (1024). With enviable pigheadedness, Scarlett focuses on tomorrow, refusing to accept there will not be a tomorrow, and counting on the fact that all pain dulls with time. Because it does.
Scarlett embodies the very reality that there is very little people cannot withstand. While some are tougher than others, people in general are capable of withstanding pretty incredible things both physically and emotionally when put to the test. There is no choice but to “bow to the inevitable” in life, but that does not mean being broken by it (709). Regardless of the tragedy, be it big or small, a death or a bad grade, the world continues to spin. The sun will continue to rise and set as surely as the moon will take its place and life will go on. For all the trials and tribulations we face throughout are life, regardless of how trivial, only one ends it. For all the rest, we will survive and we will endure. We will live on because we have to and, no matter how devastating, things are okay because they have to be; there is no other choice.
Your body, like your mind, will continue to fight for you much longer than you expect, even in mundane ways like athletics. Even on days where you’re sure you’re mentally sure your body cannot possibly run for another three hours at cross country practice, it will get done. You are capable of so much more than you realize and hopefully ever have to find out.
As one of Scarlett’s love interests, Ashley Wilkes, explains, “Life‘s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is” (915). And so we putter onward, plugging along and doing what we can, surviving.
A Note on Gone With the Wind: I know I’m a little bit behind in reading this book as most people I know, including both my sisters, read it in middle school, but I have always wanted to read Gone With the Wind. Not in the burning, passionate, I-will-read-this-in-addition-to-my-389-hours-of-work-to-the-exclusion-of-sleep-and-a-social-life type of way, but more in the I’m-moderately-curious-what-all-the-hype-is-about type of way, which is basically the way I approach most classics. I’d put authors like Dickens, Faulkner, and Hardy under a similar umbrella. Classics? Yes. Hard to complete? Inevitably. Rewarding? Likely only if you’re a literary snob.
Now none of this is to deride the literary merit of the novels written by these authors— most of them are classics for a reason— they’re just not my cup of tea. And while anyone can tell you I’m not known for my upscale taste in artistic entertainment, I know when I like literature and I am capable of distinguishing when it’s good. And let me just say, Gone With the Wind knocked my socks off. I’m not talking about being content with its place in literary history; I’m talking about holy shit, socks clean across the room adoration. And if anyone else has read it recently, please let me know what you thought. I’m beginning to feel a bit silly…