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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Scarlett O'Hara: The Unlikeable Likeable Heroine

Why do millions of schoolgirls and women the world over love “Gone with the Wind?” Because of its main character: the scrounging, opportunistic, double-dealing, capricious Scarlett O’Hara. Why? She’s not very likeable. She cheats, she steals, she lies—all for the love of a man who doesn’t really love her back. (Ashley). She’s willing to sacrifice everything, even her own self-respect just to get Ashley back. And shuns other good men who truly love her: innocent Charles Hamilton, kindly Frank Kennedy that she steals from her sister, and finally the handsome rogue, Rhett Butler.

And yet we love her. Why? Maybe because of her pluck and determination…that ‘God is my Witness’ speech, her ability to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of war and survive, even thrive. And in the end she does learn a brutal lesson and is willing to try to change. Isn’t that all we can ever expect from a character in a story?

The author Maeve Binchy says that men like information about how things work. They like excitement in stories, not a lot of emotion, hot heroes and heroines, shorter books, and don’t like long conversations about families and love affairs. While I do like exciting stories and hot heroes and heroines, I am also bored by too much conversation but hate descriptions of how things work, so I disagree with her a little. However, she also says women like to know why someone succeeds or fails, how to get someone back who’s stopped loving you and stories about juggling work and home. All of these things pertain to our love for Scarlett and I think explain why we enjoy watching her difficult character journey more than men. How many men do you know that have ever mentioned how much they loved “Gone with the Wind?”

Who are some of your favorite unlikeable likeable characters?
Alison Chambers
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booklover0226 said...

Scarlett O'hara is my favorite, for sure!

Yes, she may have schemed and "coveted thy neighbor's husband" but you can't deny her love and loyalty to her family and land.

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Na said...

I have yet to read "Gone With the Wind" but I am planning to because it is so lengendary and I want to see for myself what it is all about.

Characters are what makes a story great for me, likeable or not. One of my favorite unlikeable likeable characters is Mac from the Fever series. To be fair I have always liked her from the beginning but some people may say she was a bit of a nitwit :) I think she's the sort of character that grows on you in time because she does develop as a person throughout the series.

LaVerne Clark said...

Oh, yes! I agree wholeheartedly. I had to buy the 'sequel' to Gone with the wind, as I couldn't stand the ending. I NEEDED that happy ending - to know that after everything she'd gone through, she continued to grow and become a better person.

I really enjoyed "Scarlett" by Alexandra Ripley and thought the author did a fantastic job with a voice similar to Margaret Mitchell's. Scarlett was softer in the follow-up book for sure, but she was older and wiser, so this suited who she'd become.

Think I'm going to have to go and reread both now!

Toni said...

I'm just horrible with these kind of quesitons. I am the kind of person who loves who she is loving now, but moves on quickly. So no real favorites that jump out at me. Now I feel lame.


Anonymous said...

Hannibal Lector! He's so charming and vile at the same time.

User1123 AT comcast DOT net

Robin said...

Also Blanche DuBuois in A Streetcar Named Desire... "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers...:

Robin D
robindpdx (at) yahoo (dot) com