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« Embracing maturity | Main | Daily Readings - John 12:44-50 »
Wednesday
Jun212017

Re-visiting Scarlett

When I was 15 years old, a local theatre held screenings of David Selznick's Gone With the Wind, and I went with my mother. Following seeing the movie, I read the book by Margaret Mitchell, and loved it. Over the years, I read it a few more times. Recently, I picked it up again after having watched the movie on TCM.

It's always interesting reading years later a book one loved as a young person. Some reactions are the same, and others are different. I still found the attitude toward the African American population shocking and disturbing. The story really is about Scarlett, and not the slaves, but reading in 2017, one knows of the brutality of slavery. Mitchell's depiction of slavery reflects the reality that she was born only 35 years after the end of the Civil War. She was from Atlanta herself, so she grew up in the culture of Reconstruction. While I cringed at much of what I read, I recognize that the story it is a reflection of its author.

This time around, I saw something else. Scarlett lives in a world where there are clearly defined rules of conduct; rules based entirely on arbitrary judgments, not on any sort of reason, and certainly not based on anything biblical. Scarlett struggles to fit in with other women because she questions the prescribed rules she must follow. Before the war, she accepts them, even while she secretly resents them. After the war, to survive, she must reject those norms. Not only is she engaged in business, but she consorts with Yankees. If that isn't bad enough, she is good at it. Surely, there is something inherently unwomanly about being good at trade. She is outside the circle of acceptable conduct for women, and she is not to be trusted. Women who do not reject those norms judge her:

These women, so swift to kindness, so tender to the sorrowing, so untiring in times of stress, could be as impacable as furies to any renegade who broke one small law of their unwritten code. This code was simple. Reverence for the Confederacy, honor to the veterans, loyalty to old forms, pride in poverty, open hands to friends and undying hatred to Yankees. Between them, Scarlett and Rhett had outraged every tenet of this code.

We have many unwritten codes for Christian womanhood, different depending on which group one belongs to. Women who favour more progressive attitudes have a code and women who are more traditional in their approach have their code. Is it "unwomanly" to love theology as it was "unwomanly" for Scarlett to be good at business? Sometimes, I identify with Scarlett because like her, I am selfish and vain. Other times, I identify with her because I feel frustration that the unwritten codes often have more influence on how women conduct themselves than does biblical teaching.

I don't know how long it will be until I read Gone With the Wind again. But I will read it again. Perhaps if I live to be 80, I'll pick it up again. And I'll be curious about what looks different at that time.

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