Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rhett Butler: Cad, Lecher, Pimp

Gone with the Wind
Everyone knows the love story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, the Pulitzer Prize Winning novel by Margaret Mitchell. But who is that "other woman", Belle Watling?

Belle WatlingThe movie tends to water-down some of the less savory aspects of the story — and Gone with the Wind is certainly not *about* adultery — ; yet “rape, drunkenness, moral dissipation and adultery” (the usual description) are clearly emblematic of a disfuncational relationship and of society generally.

Some have actually asserted that a Rhett Butler would go to a whorehouse after an argument with his wife for the conversation alone. Here are a few such arguments from the original novel by Margaret Mitchell. This conversation indicates that Rhett doesn't consider Scarlett his wife (so it really isn't cheating).

Rhett and Belle together“And as for you being my wife-you haven’t been much of a wife since Bonnie came, have you? You’ve been a poor investment, Scarlett. Belle’s been a better one.”

“Investment? You mean you gave her-?”

“ ‘Set her up in business’ is the correct term, I believe. Belle’s a smart woman. I wanted to see her get ahead and all she needed was money to start a house of her own. You ought to know what miracles a woman can perform when she has a bit of cash. Look at yourself.”

“You compare me-”

“Well, you are both hard-headed business women and both successful. Belle’s got the edge on you, of course, because she’s a kind-hearted, good-natured soul-”

“Will you get out of this room?”

So we see that Rhett not only has a relationship with Belle, but actually funds her operations. No wonder she has such a nice whorehouse. As Mitchell narrates,

Belle Watling, Lady of the NightBelle Watling was the most notorious of the madams... This house was something that the matrons of Atlanta whispered about furtively and ministers preached against in guarded terms as a cesspool of iniquity, a hissing and a reproach. Everyone knew that a woman of Belle’s type couldn’t have made enough money by herself to set up such a luxurious establishment. She had to have a backer and a rich one at that. And Rhett Butler had never had the decency to conceal his relations with her, so it was obvious that he and no other must be that backer.

And the clincher,

Matrons whisperIf he went to Belle Watling’s house at all, he went by night and by stealth as did more respectable townsmen, instead of leaving his horse hitched in front of her door in the afternoons as an advertisement of his presence within.
The DanceThis is the Mitchell's view of Southern culture. The seedy side exists, but everyone pretends it doesn't.

(More in comments.)

Labels: ,

8 Comments:

At 2/11/2006 8:53 AM , Blogger Zachriel said...

Scarlett: “I had naturally suspected what your relations with that creature were.”

Rhett: “Only suspected? Why didn’t you ask me and satisfy your curiosity? I’d have told you. I’ve been living with her ever since the day you and Ashley Wilkes decided that we should have separate bedrooms.”

Scarlett: “You have the gall to stand there and boast to me, your wife, that-”

Rhett: “Oh, spare me your moral indignation.”

 
At 2/11/2006 8:54 AM , Blogger Zachriel said...

Belle Watling was the most notorious of the madams. She had opened a new house of her own, a large two-story building that made neighboring houses in the district look like shabby rabbit warrens. There was a long barroom downstairs, elegantly hung with oil paintings, and a negro orchestra played every night. The upstairs, so rumor said, was fitted out with the finest of plush upholstered furniture, heavy lace curtains and imported mirrors in gilt frames. The dozen young ladies with whom the house was furnished were comely, if brightly painted, and comported themselves more quietly than those of other houses. At least, the police were seldom summoned to Belle’s.

This house was something that the matrons of Atlanta whispered about furtively and ministers preached against in guarded terms as a cesspool of iniquity, a hissing and a reproach. Everyone knew that a woman of Belle’s type couldn’t have made enough money by herself to set up such a luxurious establishment. She had to have a backer and a rich one at that. And Rhett Butler had never had the decency to conceal his relations with her, so it was obvious that he and no other must be that backer.

 
At 2/11/2006 8:54 AM , Blogger Zachriel said...

For the first time, Scarlett was glad there was such a person as Belle Watling. Glad there was some other place than this house to shelter Rhett until his glittering, murderous mood had passed. That was wrong, being glad a husband was at the house of a prostitute, but she could not help it.

 
At 2/11/2006 8:55 AM , Blogger Zachriel said...

Rhett: "I couldn’t sit across the table from you every night, knowing you wished Ashley was sitting there in my place. And I couldn’t hold you in my arms at night and know that-well, it doesn’t matter now. I wonder, now, why it hurt. That’s what drove me to Belle. There is a certain swinish comfort in being with a woman who loves you utterly and respects you for being a fine gentleman-even if she is an illiterate whore. It soothed my vanity. You’ve never been very soothing, my dear."

 
At 2/11/2006 8:56 AM , Blogger Zachriel said...

Rhett: “Scarlett, I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken-and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived. Perhaps, if I were younger-” he sighed.

“But I’m too old to believe in such sentimentalities as clean slates and starting all over. I’m too old to shoulder the burden of constant lies that go with living in polite disillusionment. I couldn’t live with you and lie to you and I certainly couldn’t lie to myself. I can’t even lie to you now. I wish I could care what you do or where you go, but I can’t.”

He drew a short breath and said lightly but softly: “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

 
At 2/11/2006 8:57 AM , Blogger Zachriel said...

Of course, then there was the time Rhett committed marital rape (She ran swiftly into the dark hall, fleeing as though demons were upon her. Oh, if she could only reach her room!), the most famous scene in this classic bodice-ripping romance novel, but we had best leave that for another time so as to avoid hurting the tender sensibilities of the ladies present.

 
At 3/05/2006 2:26 PM , Blogger Rodrigo Sobota said...

This film, and the book, are the perfect portrait of the southern aristocracy before the American Civil War. They are shown with all their morality, beliefs, hopes and lifestyle in a world that has literally "gone with the wind"; because slavery and the boom of cotton exports disappeared a long time ago when slavery was abolished. The aristocratic families had already suffered with the devastation of the war, after America was reunited they would not survive the end of slave labor. That was literally all their economic basis.

So, I guess this is the reason for the name "Gone with the wind".

 
At 9/04/2009 8:28 AM , Blogger Oliver said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Margaret

http://cardrawing.net

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home