One of my New Year’s goals is almost complete. I’m on page 1191 of Gone with the Wind (only 257 pages to go–the full length of many a smaller book).
Anyway, it’s wonderful. For all that it’s satirized or pegged as a “Civil War novel,” it’s about much more than hoop skirts and Confederate uniforms. It’s about a land, a people, and a way of life that passed away forever with the first shots of the Civil War. It’s about people sinking and swimming, learning to survive when their world turns upside-down. Also, it’s about Rhett Butler.
Not just the highly attractive love interest of the story, Rhett Butler also tells the truth to the spoiled, self-deceived Scarlett O’Hara. Both of them have the hearts of rascals–looking for personal profit and success, even if it means stepping on other people to get it. The only difference between them is that Scarlett tries to hide her inner pragmatist behind the wide skirts and courtly manners of a genteel Georgian lady, while Rhett lives his life openly, no matter who is watching.
At one point, Rhett and Scarlett end up dancing together in a candlelit ballroom. Rhett is doing just what he feels like doing, while Scarlett is acutely aware of the many watching eyes, all judging her by their complex labyrinth of Southern manners. She calculates her actions based on their approval or censure, while Rhett lives the same way before every audience–a form of integrity, wholeness, in spite of his other moral failings.
They have this brief conversation in Chapter 9:
Scarlett: “Captain Butler, you must not hold me so tightly. Everybody is looking.”
Rhett: “If no one were looking, would you care?”
Which, I think, is an interesting jumping-off point for a conversation:
What do you and I do in our lives to please the audience? Where does that exhausting performance for approval stop? What would you do differently if nobody were looking? Can we start living now as if no one were looking?
I’d love to hear your opinion! Happy Monday!