Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gone With the Wind Group Read, Week Two Question: a Character

Via Pursuit of Happiness

Write about a character you find interesting so far in Gone with the Wind. This character doesn’t have to be your favorite character. Perhaps your least favorite or a minor one.

For over a week now I have known the character on my mind: Ellen O'Hara, Scarlett's mother.  In these first twenty chapters I have read, Ellen doesn't make much of a physical presence; but rather she weighs heavy on Scarlett's conscience often enough.  

Ellen O'Hara, a great lady

Ellen transformed Tara, her home with Gerald.  "She quickly brought order, dignity and grace into Gerald's household, and she gave to Tara a beauty it had never had before.  She was the "best-loved neighbor in the County."  (It doesn't get any better than that.)  And she was a "good mother and devoted wife."  

Ellen O'Hara and her three daughters

We first meet Ellen in chapter II as a single young woman, the bride of Gerald O'Hara.  But we officially become acquainted with her remarkable character in chapter III, a mother of nine children - three of whom she had buried in infancy.  Ellen is quiet, gentle, stern, steady, calm, effective, and selfless. She is a woman of efficient service to those in need, especially the sick. And according to Scarlett, her mother had always been "a pillar of strength, a fount of wisdom, the person who knew the answers to everything."

The quote I used last week gives a good picture of Ellen: 
Ellen's life was not easy, nor was it happy, but she did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was a woman's lot.  It was a man's world, and she accepted it as such. The man owned the property, and the woman managed it.  The man took the credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness.  The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him.  Men were rough of speech and often drunk.  Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words.  Men were rude and outspoken, women were always kind, gracious and forgiving.  
She (Ellen) had been reared in the tradition of great ladies, which had taught her how to carry her burden and still retain her charm, and she intended that her three daughters should be great ladies also.   (But Scarlett, child of Gerald, found the road to ladyhood hard).  
The face of Ellen burned on Scarlett's conscience.  She "regarded her mother as something holy and apart from all the rest of humankind.  She knew that her mother was the embodiment of justice, truth, loving tenderness and profound wisdom - a great lady."  Scarlett did want to be like her mother, someday.

But events are not turning out the way Scarlett had expected, and she considers every decision against her mother's ideal.  All this time that she is away from Tara, out from her mother's watchful eye and leading guidance, she is thinking, "What would Mother say?" or "How would she ever explain to her mother?"  

However, being away so long from Ellen may cost Scarlett all of the rearing she has received, as she is caught in the charms of Rhett.  After receiving his gift, the author tells us that "Rhett pried open the prison of her widowhood and set her free to queen it over unmarried girls when her days as a belle should have been long past.  Nor did she see that under his influence she had come a long way from Ellen's teachings.  She did not realize that with his encouragement, she had disregarded many of the sternest injunctions of her mother concerning the proprieties, forgotten the difficult lessons in being a lady."  

There was another incident with Rhett in which she had an after thought: "How could she, Ellen's daughter, with her upbringing, have sat there and listened to such debasing words and then made such a shameless reply?"  

Nonetheless, Scarlett loves and respects her mother dearly and, in the mist of war, wants desperately to return to her as soon as possible; Ellen is very ill.  

If you have seen the movie version of Gone with the Wind, does the character in the film match the character in the book in your view? If they were going to remake the film today, whom would you choose to play this character?
Meryl Streep
I do not remember the character of Ellen from the film; but whoever plays Ellen must be a perfectly, exceptional lady.  Maybe if Meryl Streep dyed her hair black, she could play Ellen in a remake of the film.  She is capable of coming up with one of her famous accents, something that Scarlett remembers fondly of her mother.


Jillian said...

Meryl Streep is my favorite actress. It'd be excellent to see her play Ellen! I think she'd give her an incredible dimension. :)

Ruth said...

She is my favorite, too! I recently watched Out of Africa, and her accents are memorable. I tried reading the book (but since put it down), and I couldn't help hearing her narrate it.

Jillian said...

Oh, me either. I love the book, but Meryl Streep read the whole thing to me. I think she's an incredible actor. She's very, very good in Sophie's Choice too.

Unknown said...

Yes! I can totally see Meryl Streep as Ellen!

Deborah said...

Ruth, I enjoyed reading your character study on Ellen. She is a fine lady and a pillar of strength. I can't remember the name of the actress who played Ellen in the movie, but I remember loving the way she was portrayed. I think Meryl Streep would be an excellent choice too!

Ruth said...

Thanks. I am definitely going to watch GWTW again after this read and see what I think about the character of Ellen in the film.

Unknown said...

I am curious about GWTW. I have not read it, but I did see the movie on TV. Now I wonder if I ought to read it, especially to see if it does or does not factor into my thematic approach (e.g., see my blog, God and the American Writer); in other words, is religion much of an issue in GWTW?

Ruth said...

The only religion I find in GWTW is that there is a Catholic element, but religion is only employed when there is a need for a prayer request, like when someone is on their death bed. Scarlett talks about the religious practices and ideas she was taught by her mother. But other than that, I cannot remember much more. (I'm only half way through.) So to answer your question, the religious element is light, but it is just religion and not much theology or faith.