A friend of mine recently mused, “In this life there are Scarletts, and there are Melanies.” What followed was the predictable rush of women to assert that they were Scarletts, they had gumption, they were independent, and one may fairly assume that they were captivatingly gorgeous as well……..
But my friend and I got into a side conversation about Miss Melly, a character who as I grow older I find all the more incredible and in fact the true heroine of Gone with the Wind. (I noticed right away that my friend never judged one or the other, but it was immediately assumed she was lifting up Scarlett as cooler and more preferable.)
If you recall, Melanie’s portrayal as “mealy mouthed” and basically a big loser comes only from Scarlett, her chief rival for Ashley Wilkes’ love. If you discount Scarlett’s obvious bias against her and just judge her on the merits of her actions and her approach to life, she is a complete rock star.
She is incredibly kind. She never has a bad word to say about anyone, and in fact rushes to Scarlett’s public defense, calling her “sister,” when anyone else would have let her crumble under the much-deserved public scorn she heaps upon herself. She knocks out a Civil War childbirth with no medical help. She is able to talk Rhett, rendered incoherent and insane with grief, off the proverbial ledge when his child dies. I have some vague recollection of her dragging a sword to Scarlett’s rescue when she can barely walk herself. There is more, but these are my favorite memories of Miss Melly in Gone With the Wind…….
I don’t need to tell you what a repulsive person Scarlett O’Hara is. Yes, she is stubborn. She is a fighter and a survivor. But she wouldn’t know love or friendship if they slapped her in the face, and unless someone is serving her in the manner she wants to be served and worshipped, she has no use for them.
So yes, I think I might want a Scarlett if I need someone to do absolutely anything necessary to never be hungry again. But I want a Melanie beside me in life for the long haul.
Thankfully, I have many.
This post first appeared on the original Esse Diem on October 30, 2009. I am grateful to my friend Em B who recently asked, “Are you a Ginger or a Mary Ann?” It reminded me that I’ve always wanted to re-post this here.