A Fierce Woman


I was in fourth-year high school when I got hold of a copy of Gone with the Wind. I barely knew anything about the book except that there was a series playing on TV with the same title. What I remembered, though, was the infamous line uttered by the dashing Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Rejection, for anyone, is simply heartbreaking. For a high school girl like me, it was devastating. At that age, I felt that my abruptly interrupted love affair was at par with, or even rivaled, Scarlett O’Hara’s.

He was my crush way back in elementary school. When I found out he wanted to court me, we were M.U. (mag-un) instantly. I knew nothing about relationships with the opposite sex then. Needless to say, it was a very short-lived affair which unceremoniously ended when I saw him with a high school senior.

Like Scarlett, I maintained friendly ties with my Ashley Wilkes and his Melanie Hamilton. Meanwhile I, on the other hand, had my own version of innocent flirtation. Nevertheless, my small teenage world revolved around him. He became the constant gauge that I measured every man-boy against.

But after three years of constantly wishing and hoping for a miracle in our relationship, I just had to give up the dream, wake up and smell the coffee. It wasn’t easy to wean myself away from him.

It was heartbreak all over again for me when I woke up in the middle of the night with tears in my eyes. Regine Velasquez’s rendition of “Babalik Kang Muli” was playing on the radio. I knew right then that Scarlett had beaten me on this one point. Whereas she knew that she still loved Ashley, even after two marriages, I was still in denial. Deep inside, I still harbored a secret wish for us to be together again.

Never mind that it was only after 10 years that I fully understood the social context of the book, set at the brink of a social revolution, amidst a crumbling civilization with the advent of a new one. Never mind that I believed in the Ku Klux Klan justice system, avenger-style. The story was primarily a story of unrequited love. And it was on this level that I deeply connected with Gone with the Wind.

But seeing the movie later, in my “wisened” age, it took on a different meaning.

Scarlett was barely out of her teens when the American Civil War broke out. She had a lot of growing up to do in such a short time. In a single declaration of war, everything turned upside down.

Instead of numerous dance partners, this Southern belle had to tend to unshaven Confederate men who hadn’t taken a bath in ages! Not only that, she had to dress their wounds, make their beds, and comfort the poor creatures. Instead of her imported perfumes, she wore the stench of death and despondence that pervaded the whole South. And to her chagrin, as a widow of a Confederate soldier, Scarlett had to forego her very colorful, even outlandish, wardrobe and don drab grays and blacks, even to charity balls. As for Ashley Wilkes, instead of the much-awaited proposal of love, he made her promise that she would take care of his wife, as she was visibly stronger than Mely, who remained a Southern lady — meek, mild and innocent — whereas Scarlett was street-wise and iron-willed, no Southern lady by their standards.

To make matters worse, Atlanta, the city they all thought would never fall into Yankee hands, did. Scarlett was just coming home from an especially grueling day at the makeshift hospital. Outside, news spread of the impending fall of Atlanta and every sensible Southern was planning an exit. But Scarlett, after much thought, decided to stay and deliver Mely’s baby herself, before she could seriously consider flight from the city. With the help of a stolen wagon, her household and Rhett, they fled Atlanta. A few miles before Tara, Rhett said his goodbye and went off to join the Confederate Army at the 11th hour. Scarlett was left all by herself to ensure that their pitiful entourage — Mely, the baby, Prissy and her — reaches Tara, her refuge, safely.

But alas! Not even Tara was spared from the ravages of war. What Scarlett came home to wasn’t what she remembered. With her mother dead, her father at the brink of lunacy, her two sisters just recovering from typhoid fever, their cotton fields untended, their numerous field hands set free, and almost a dozen people to feed, Scarlett had the whole world on her alabaster-white shoulders to carry. But she wasn’t fazed. The love for Tara, her roots, were deeply ingrained in her by her Irish father. She was willing to sell her soul to the devil if that would save Tara, and be able to put food on the table, and that’s what she did — she married her sister’s beau so she could raise the tax money.

All told, I wonder why it was only now that I appreciate a woman of her mettle. What echoes much more strongly than her persistent infatuation is the resilience, hard work and unwavering spirit that Scarlett O’Hara displayed amidst death and destruction, from her broken heart and her marriages, to Tara and all the things she grew up believing in. She wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty, steal if needed, kill even, if it meant food on the table and a sense of security for everyone. She did everything she could to keep things running when almost everyone was still reeling from their lost civilization. Scarlett is survival personified. She may be a bit unconventional for her time, but that’s what I admire most about her. She may not be perfect but she has strength of character that defies the rules that society has imposed on her.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with Wind has ceased to be a mere book on my reading list. It has taken on a life of its own, showing me the different facets of life and love. It has provided me a peek into a slave society that until then only existed as vague historical data. It touches on the norms of society that we defy at our own risk. More importantly, it celebrates the essence of a woman — the resilient fighter — seen especially at a world’s end, when everything had gone with the wind.

I  was in fourth-year high school when I got hold of a copy of Gone with the Wind. I barely knew anything about the book except that there was a series playing on TV with the same title. What I remembered, though, was the infamous line uttered by the dashing Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Rejection, for anyone, is simply heartbreaking. For a high school girl like me, it was devastating. At that age, I felt that my abruptly interrupted love affair was at par with, or even rivaled, Scarlett O’Hara’s.

He was my crush way back in elementary school. When I found out he wanted to court me, we were M.U. (mag-un) instantly. I knew nothing about relationships with the opposite sex then. Needless to say, it was a very short-lived affair which unceremoniously ended when I saw him with a high school senior.

Like Scarlett, I maintained friendly ties with my Ashley Wilkes and his Melanie Hamilton. Meanwhile I, on the other hand, had my own version of innocent flirtation. Nevertheless, my small teenage world revolved around him. He became the constant gauge that I measured every man-boy against.

But after three years of constantly wishing and hoping for a miracle in our relationship, I just had to give up the dream, wake up and smell the coffee. It wasn’t easy to wean myself away from him.

It was heartbreak all over again for me when I woke up in the middle of the night with tears in my eyes. Regine Velasquez’s rendition of “Babalik Kang Muli” was playing on the radio. I knew right then that Scarlett had beaten me on this one point. Whereas she knew that she still loved Ashley, even after two marriages, I was still in denial. Deep inside, I still harbored a secret wish for us to be together again.

Never mind that it was only after 10 years that I fully understood the social context of the book, set at the brink of a social revolution,  amidst a crumbling civilization with the advent of a new one. Never mind that I believed in the Ku Klux Klan justice system, avenger-style. The story was primarily a story of unrequited love. And it was on this level that I deeply connected with Gone with the Wind.

But seeing the movie later, in my “wisened” age, it took on a different meaning.

Scarlett was barely out of her teens when the American Civil War broke out. She had a lot of growing up to do in such a short time. In a single declaration of war, everything turned upside down.

Instead of numerous dance partners, this Southern belle had to tend to unshaven Confederate men who hadn’t taken a bath in ages! Not only that, she had to dress their wounds, make their beds, and comfort the poor creatures. Instead of her imported perfumes, she wore the stench of death and despondence that pervaded the whole South. And to her chagrin, as a widow of a Confederate soldier, Scarlett had to forego her very colorful, even outlandish, wardrobe and don drab grays and blacks, even to charity balls. As for Ashley Wilkes, instead of the much-awaited proposal of love, he made her promise that she would take care of his wife, as she was visibly stronger than Mely, who remained a Southern lady — meek, mild and innocent — whereas Scarlett was street-wise and iron-willed, no Southern lady by their standards.

To make matters worse, Atlanta, the city they all thought would never fall into Yankee hands, did. Scarlett was just coming home from an especially grueling day at the makeshift hospital. Outside, news spread of the impending fall of Atlanta and every sensible Southern was planning an exit. But Scarlett, after much thought, decided to stay and deliver Mely’s baby herself, before she could seriously consider flight from the city. With the help of a stolen wagon, her household and Rhett, they fled Atlanta. A few miles before Tara, Rhett said his goodbye and went off to join the Confederate Army at the 11th hour. Scarlett was left all by herself to ensure that their pitiful entourage — Mely, the baby, Prissy and her — reaches Tara, her refuge, safely.

But alas! Not even Tara was spared from the ravages of war. What Scarlett came home to wasn’t what she remembered. With her mother dead, her father at the brink of lunacy, her two sisters just recovering from typhoid fever, their cotton fields untended, their numerous field hands set free, and almost a dozen people to feed, Scarlett had the whole world on her alabaster-white shoulders to carry. But she wasn’t fazed. The love for Tara, her roots, were deeply ingrained in her by her Irish father. She was willing to sell her soul to the devil if that would save Tara, and be able to put food on the table, and that’s what she did — she married her sister’s beau so she could raise the tax money.

All told, I wonder why it was only now that I appreciate a woman of her mettle. What echoes much more strongly than her persistent infatuation is the resilience, hard work and unwavering spirit that Scarlett O’Hara displayed amidst death and destruction, from her broken heart and her marriages, to Tara and all the things she grew up believing in. She wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty, steal if needed, kill even, if it meant food on the table and a sense of security for everyone. She did everything she could to keep things running when almost everyone was still reeling from their lost civilization. Scarlett is survival personified. She may be a bit unconventional for her time, but that’s what I admire most about her. She may not be perfect but she has strength of character that defies the rules that society has imposed on her.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with Wind has ceased to be a mere book on my reading list. It has taken on a life of its own, showing me the different facets of life and love. It has provided me a peek into a slave society that until then only existed as vague historical data. It touches on the norms of society that we defy at our own risk. More importantly, it celebrates the essence of a woman — the resilient fighter — seen especially at a world’s end, when everything had gone with the wind.

*nailathala sa The Philippine Star

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One response to “A Fierce Woman

  1. RaiulBaztepo

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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