Scarlett O'Hara: She-Devil Or Feminist Icon?

Scarlett O'Hara: She-Devil Or Feminist Icon?

A feminist commentary on one of American literature's most complex ladies.

Disclaimer: Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone WithThe Wind is about the Civil War and Reconstruction. It has periodically found it's way onto banned books lists at libraries throughout the United States because the n-word abounds and it portrays slavery perhaps too optimistically. Therefore, analyses of the novel often include discussions of slavery. The author recognizes this is an important issue related to the book, but has decided such discussions are beyond the scope of this particular article. Perhaps another time.

Gone With The Wind has often been hailed as one of the "great American novels" for women. Yet the heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, is also often characterized as a not-so-nice word that rhymes with witch. Some readers say she's bossy and unfeminine. Indeed, some of her own peers in the novel think so. Yet others, like Melanie in the novel, and my mother in real life, look up to her. So what's the truth? Is she a feminist icon or a she-devil?

The answer: Feminist icon. At least for the most part. Scarlett is a complex character, perhaps the most complex woman in American literature. There's no denying she makes some mistakes, but the inescapable truth is that Scarlett O'Hara is a successful woman. What's more, she is successful by herself, without the help of a man. So yeah, people are going to dislike her for that.

Scarlett owns her own business and for a good portion of the novel, she successfully ran a large piece of property, Tara, her family's plantation. Neither of these win her many friends in her own social circle. At the time the novel is set, the era of reconstruction after the Civil War, it was still extremely frowned upon for women to deal in business or property, so she was often treated as a pariah. And now, over 100 years later, readers are still more than willing to side with her critics rather than give Scarlett the benefit of the doubt.

Scarlett is a woman who does what she has to do without worrying about what other people will think. That's an admirable quality in anyone, but especially in a woman, who are so often told to do exactly the opposite, even if it keeps them vulnerable, and small. Especially if it keeps them vulnerable and small.

But not Scarlett. When Atlanta was under siege, she fled home to Tara with her friends, including Melanie, who was in the middle of a life-threatening pregnancy. Again and again on the journey she put Melanie's, a woman she did not even particularly like at the time, safety above her own. And when they arrived at Tara and found the plantation in ruins, she taught herself how to run the farm well enough to produce and sell enough cotton to feed her family for a year, all while dealing with the death of both her parents. At one point she was the only thing standing in the way of the starvation of ten other people, most of whom were not even family, but slaves turned servants, friends, and guests. That's right, through this whole ordeal Scarlett upheld Southern hospitality, and did not turn people away who came to her door looking for food or shelter.

Scarlett cared about money in a way that is unattractive. But her first goal in starting her business was to insure that her family never had to face starvation again. And considering that poverty had nearly killed her, and had killed many people she loved, her obsession becomes a little more understandable. Scarlett may have started out as a spoiled little rich girl, but she does not remain a spoiled little rich girl.

However, after she marries Rhett Butler, she does let finally having money again go to her head. She flaunts her riches and allows them to alienate her friends. This is a mistake; there's nothing else to call it. And it is a mistake she eventually realizes she has made, but it is not a mistake she is ever redeemed from.

That's another thing that makes Scarlett O'Hara a hard character for many to like. Margaret Mitchell writes her without a redemption arc. So often in novels the protagonist makes mistakes that are only bad enough to keep them relatable to readers. If they do make a grave error (aka the kind of mistake we all make at some point in our real lives) there is always a redemption arc. But guess what? In real life we don't always get redemption arcs. Margaret Mitchell writes Scarlett O'Hara as though she could be a real person. Yet the characterization that makes Jay Gatsby one of the most beloved male protagonists, makes Scarlett one of the most questioned female ones.

If I knew Scarlett in real life, would I like her? Probably not at first. She's judgmental, materialistic, and has a rude streak. But she's also loyal, savvy, and does the right thing, even when she doesn't want to or it would be easier not to.

Scarlett is a strong woman. As a woman who comes from a line of women who will drive their children slowly through the night without their headlights on to flee a polio outbreak, who will go from housewife to working single mom the same year their husband dies, who will go back to college not once, but twice to insure their own success and the success of their family, I definitely recognized a lot of myself and my heritage in Scarlett O'Hara.

If Scarlett is a bitch, she is one for the same reason too many women are today: she doesn't fit into the "woman box." She cares about others, but not at the expense of her own well being. She will make the tough call and lose popularity for it if her actions will help the most people in the end. Most importantly, if there is a man around, but he is not competent enough to do the job that needs to be done, she doesn't hesitate to take on the role.

Scarlett isn't a bitch. She is a real woman who exists outside of men. It may put some people off, but she defines herself, and that's what makes her a feminist icon and a worthy role model.

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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15 Thing Only Early 2000's Kids Will Understand

"Get connected for free, with education connection"


This is it early 2000's babies, a compilation finally made for you. This list is loaded with things that will make you swoon with nostalgia.

1. Not being accepted by the late 90's kids.


Contrary to what one may think, late 90's and early 00's kids had the same childhood, but whenever a 00's kid says they remember something on an "only 90's kids will understand" post they are ridiculed.

2. Fortune tellers.


Every day in elementary school you would whip one of these bad boys out of your desk, and proceed to tell all of your classmates what lifestyle they were going to live and who they were going to marry.


You could never read this book past 8 o'clock at night out of fear that your beloved pet rabbit would come after you.

4. Silly bands.

You vividly remember begging your parents to buy you $10 worth of cheap rubber bands that vaguely resembles the shape of an everyday object.

5. Parachutes.

The joy and excitement that washed over you whenever you saw the gym teacher pull out the huge rainbow parachute. The adrenaline that pumped through your veins whenever your gym teacher tells you the pull the chute under you and sit to make a huge "fort".

6. Putty Erasers

You always bought one whenever there was a school store.

7. iPod shuffle.

The smallest, least technological iPpd apple has made, made you the coolest kid at the bus stop.

8. "Education Connection"

You knew EVERY wood to the "Education Connection" commercials. Every. Single.Word.

9. " The Naked Brothers Band"

The "Naked Brothers Band" had a short run on Nickelodeon and wrote some absolute bangers including, "Crazy Car' and "I Don't Wanna Go To School"

10. Dance Dance Revolution

This one video game caused so many sibling, friend, and parent rivalries. This is also where you learned all of your super sick dance moves.

11. Tamagotchi

Going to school with fear of your Tamagotchi dying while you were away was your biggest worry.

12. Gym Scooters

You, or somebody you know most likely broke or jammed their finger on one of these bad boys, but it was worth it.

13. Scholastic book fairs

Begging your parents for money to buy a new book, and then actually spending it on pens, pencils, erasers, and posters.


Who knew that putting yogurt in a plastic tube made it taste so much better?

15. Slap Bracelets

Your school probably banned these for being "too dangerous".

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