Friday, May 6, 2011

Neither Rhett Nor Ashley Is the Real Deal

Well, yesterday I posted a picture of my husband and me in cartoon form, and today I decided to post the real us. I haven't been all that anxious to post a lot of pictures of my family on this blog, for reasons of privacy; but then I realized that far less people see this than they do our Facebook page, and there are tons of pictures posted on there--so what the heck, I'm posting it. I thought I'd do it in black and white, trying for that old-time glamour (one of my first posts back in March was about how I love the glamour of black and white portrait photos from the 40's and 50's), but I don't know...I look about as nerdy in black and white as I do in color. All I need is some white tape on the bridge of my glasses to complete the look. My husband, on the other hand, looks like a movie star to me. John Wayne, move over. (I'm pretty sure he was the only one in Fenway Park that day sporting a ten-gallon hat.) My husband is everything I would ever want in a man, and somehow I got him! Forget Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, or Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, or Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff, or Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler; I adore a good love story as much as the next girl, but my favorite love story of all time is my own, the one about the two characters in the picture above.

Okay, I'll take a quick breather here to apologize to my boys, several of whom are probably pretending they're about to throw up, a la Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. Moving on now.

I recently re-read a favorite book from my youth, Gone with the Wind, which I hadn't read in about 30 years. If you haven't read it and you love not only a gripping will-they-or-won't-they love story, but Civil War history as well, I highly recommend it. As Southern writer Pat Conroy says in the Preface, "I know of no other thousand-page book that reads so swiftly and grants such pleasure." It's true; I've tried to read Les Miserables--a book of similar length--twice, but found I just could not get through it. This book, on the other hand, is such a page-turner that you'll be amazed how quickly you come to the end. And if you're anything like me, when you're finished, it only leaves you wanting more!

In an earlier post ("Gone with the Wind, Revisited," March 18), I said that when I first read this book, I'd already seen the movie and so as I was reading, whenever I tried to envision Scarlett, she was Vivien Leigh; and when I envisioned Rhett, he was Clark Gable. That might have been true in 7th grade, but that was not the case this time. The wonderful thing about books is that just enough details about appearance are given that the reader can conjure up his own mental picture, and this is definitely what happened with me on this go-around. (As good as Gable was, my Rhett Butler was even better!) The other great thing is that when reading a book, one is able to get inside the heads of the characters and know what they're thinking--and although Leigh and Gable did an admirable job of embodying two of literature's most iconic characters, there is no way to really get a handle on them and the things that drove them to act the way they acted unless you read Margaret Mitchell's masterpiece. I still love the movie, but in my opinion, the book has it beat by a mile.

In the Preface, Pat Conroy says that his mother, a Southern belle who married a macho marine fighter pilot from the North, used to argue with her husband about the book. "I hate Ashley Wilkes," Conroy's father would say. "The guy's a pansy if I've ever seen one. Of course, Rhett Butler's a pansy next to me." And Conroy's mother would insist, "No matter what girls say, they'd much rather marry a man like Ashley Wilkes than Rhett Butler." I have to disagree with Conroy's mother on this one (after all, she herself married a man a lot more like Rhett than Ashley!). Ashley Wilkes is a man who may seem "honorable" because he never cheats on his wife; but he commits adultery in his heart by lusting after Scarlett and stringing her along for years, giving her the impression that she's the one he really loves. Rhett is a hard-living man: a drinker, a gambler, a ruthless and ethics-challenged businessman, a womanizer--definitely no saint; but in his way, he has more honor than Ashley. It's his pride that's his Achilles heel--that's what keeps him from revealing his true feelings to Scarlett. He's too afraid of opening himself up and being rebuffed by her. And Scarlett is not only ignorant of what love truly is, but she's too proud, too, and leaves important things unsaid. And so the two of them spend their lives at "cross purposes," to quote Rhett. This book can drive you crazy, it's so frustrating; if either one of them would ever let down his guard, they might have been happy together!

If you haven't read Gone with the Wind, you might want to give it a go. You will definitely be entertained.

And if you're female and you do read it, I'd be interested to know: whom would you pick--Ashley or Rhett? I know my answer: I would have to choose Rhett Butler, for although he's no Boy Scout, he has many of the qualities I love in my husband. Rhett's all man--a strong, brave, take-charge guy, someone you can count on in any crisis; but he can be so tender when the situation calls for it, and he has a soft spot for those who are vulnerable, especially children. These are all things that I love about the guy in the cowboy hat in this picture. He's got all of Rhett Butler's good qualities (and then some) and none of the bad! He's the whole package, the real deal. As I've said before, he's my hero.

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