Warning! The follow-up post contains spoilers...
“You'll never be anything but misery to any man...Heaven help the man who really loves you.” --Rhett Butler about Scarlett
When Ashley rebukes her and then the war comes, Scarlett feels true panic for the first time. She is striken between the idea that Ashley will be going away to war and that he'll be marrying another. So when she's asked, she agrees to marry a man out of spite—and also, because the war is coming. During the war, she goes to stay with her sister-in-law only to become a nurse to the Civil War's dying/seriously injured/crazy men. Then Atlanta burns while her sister-in-law gives birth to her first born. Her mom dies, and her father goes crazy.
By the time Scarlett owes money on Tara, she's been widowed once. She's taking care of what's left of her family by putting them to work on the farm while she takes care of Melanie and her nephew. She even kills a Yankee with a pistol for breaking and entering her home. On the verge of losing her house, her father dies. In order to not lose the only thing her father ever cared about, she decides to use the only bargaining chip she has and goes to Rhett Butler in clothes she made out of the drapes in their house. Rhett sees through her plan almost instantly, and although Scarlett offers him the farm or pay back, she's already deceived him.
She marries Frank out of desperation—no one else has money, and without it, everyone will starve. She knows that if Frank marries Sue Ellen, Sue Ellen won't care about what happens to the rest of them, and Scarlett has to look out for herself. She goes against all good judgement by marrying a man promised to another woman, but as Scarlett tells Frank earlier in the film, he should've proposed to Sue Ellen a long time ago. In the book, Scarlett has a child of her own to look out for!
A shrewd business woman, she helps Frank with his business. When she gets attacked, Frank, Ashley, and Rhett run to her side. They create the perfect diversion and alibi—despite it being a controversial one. As it turns out, Ashley's been injured, and Frank is dead, but Rhett plays it cool getting them out of trouble.
Scarlett brings a new meaning to the words heartbreaker and maneater. Although her motives for marrying (except for her first marriage, and come on how many people make unspiteful decisions at 16?) are good ones, she is not kind to men, even the men she loves. As I mentioned earlier though, she is truly interesting and exciting, even her love for an entirely forgettable man.
“She's like me, Scarlett. She's part of my blood, and we understand each other.” --Ashley Wilkes to Scarlett about Melanie
Despite Scarlett's occasional and often superficial disgust for Melanie, she is actually closer to Melanie than nearly every other person in the movie. Melanie and Scarlett are closer to sisters than Scarlett is to her blood kin.
After Ashley calls Scarlett out on being mean to Melanie, Scarlett is never openly cruel to Melanie again. Melanie is kind to everyone she meets, and even after being insulted by Scarlett at Twelve Oaks, Melanie defends her when the other women, jealous of Scarlett's advances towards their boyfriends, speak ill of her.
Although Ashley talks of duty and honor, Melanie is the one who walks with that title. She is more Christian towards Scarlett than anyone. Melanie may trust Ashley until the end of the earth, but Melanie recognizes that Scarlett has delivered her baby, moved her away from the fire, taken care of her while she's sick, and taken her under her wing. Of all the people, Melanie's the one who helps her bury the man she shot, while coolly lying to protect everyone else from the travesty.
Even when the whole town talks of Scarlett and Ashley, Rhett makes Scarlett go to the birthday party, because he “won't deprive [Melanie] of an opportunity to publicly order [Scarlett] out of her house.” Melanie even asks Scarlett to help her receive her guests as India didn't go to the party, which leads us to believe that either India didn't have the gull to be present or more likely Melanie told her cousin that she should not come for the rumors she'd been spreading.
In a way, she's a visionary, because Melanie sees the best in everyone—qualities that Scarlett, Ashley, Rhett, and even Belle Watling don't see in themselves. She knows Scarlett loves her even if Scarlett doesn't fully realize it for a long time.
At first glance, I hated Melanie, because I liked Scarlett so much, but over time I've realized that Melanie is just as strong as Scarlett—if not stronger for holding her tongue and being nice—except as Rhett points out Melanie has heart and is a truly sweet person. The only airs that Melanie ever puts on are because she genuinely cares about people, not to impress anyone. I'm brought to tears at the benefit when she gives her only piece of jewelry to the cause.
“How could I help loving you? You who have all the passion for life that I lack? But that's not enough to make a successful marriage for two people who are as different as we are.” --Ashley Wilkes to Scarlett
Scarlett confronts Ashley time and time again. She wants what any woman wants—a definitive answer that Ashley loves her and wants to be with her. Somehow over a period of years, Ashley drags out his true feelings and instead yammers on about duty and honor. Even as a little girl, I always wondered how Scarlett could love Ashley. He's passive, with his head in the clouds, his heart never completely in anything he does (the exception being when he's with Melanie). There are inatimate objects with more personality than him. He's kind of like a boring version of Kermit the Frog, except without any excitement or song singing, and Scarlett is way more interesting and attractive than Miss Piggy. Even before the war he seems vaguely depressed and mellow about nothing and everything. His discussion with Melanie on the balcony makes me want to vomit.
This is an excellent film. It has history, romance, adventure, the whole nine yards. Don't watch it directly after a break up, because a lot of depressing moments happen in the film. The film is also tedious at times and quite lengthy, something to keep in mind. I had to shorten my last viewing over several days.