Could it be possible for a young girl, with no prior experience, to run a farm with virtually no help whatsoever? Would she be successful in her endeavors, or would her world truly collapse due to the war raging around her? Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, portrays the trials and tribulations of young Scarlett O’Hara, as she struggles to come to terms with life during the American Civil War. One discovers how circumstances transform even the most lighthearted and carefree into hardheaded, persevering individuals. Scarlett O’Hara may have started of as a free spirited, beautiful young girl, yet the responsibility and troubles that the war brought upon her left behind a bitter, cynical woman.
Prior to the Civil War, Scarlett O’Hara enjoyed a relatively comfortable life, attending parties, dinners, and the being in the constant company of adoring young boys. Her one goal in life was to gain the affections of Ashley, the man she wished to marry. Nothing else mattered to Scarlett O’Hara at the time. “Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for ’tis the only thing in this world that lasts,” her father would tell her, yet O’Hara’s head was filled with adolescent affections for Ashley, and no common sense could make her think otherwise. In her opinion, success would be to marry Ashley, no matter what the situation, and everything else would be failure. Of course, her perception of the world was limited, and was based upon the few situations she had encountered during her life.
Once the Civil War had begun, and her father’s condition had deteriorated, Scarlett O’Hara experienced infinite struggles in such a short period of time. She went from having her world sorted out for her, to being the woman who had to prevent that same world from falling apart. The farm had to be run, money had to be earned, and food had to be put on the table. During this time, Scarlett O’Hara developed a sense of tenacity and perseverance that had never before existed within her personality. The same girl, who used to have a slave dress her up and feed her, now had to take care of everything on her own. O’Hara had to grow up, or fail, and she did so in no time.
The Civil War altered the scope of thought for all southerners. Their lives were transformed and entire communities were ravaged by attacks from the Yankees, who looted and plundered wherever they could. Families were harassed, and items were stolen from their farms as well. Scarlett O’Hara witnessed a similar situation, when Yankee officers came towards her farm and demanded all her food produce, as well as when the same Yankees attacked a nearby city she had been staying at. Somehow, O’Hara managed to survive both situations, and keep her family alive. These experiences developed a strong-willed, determined characteristic in Scarlett O’Hara. She was determined to save herself and her family from the Yankees, and to survive the war in the best way possible.
O’Hara witnessed a great deal of tragedy, heartbreak, and loss as a result of her experiences during the Civil War. These moments transformed the personality of this young woman, who had been willing to sacrifice anything for her one true love, into a woman who thought of nothing but survival. “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to slick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again,” O’Hara said. Her sole mission in life, since the war, had been to keep her family alive and ensure they all made it through the day. She had witnessed so many families torn apart by the war, unable to stand on their own two feet that she simply could not bear to be one of them. Nothing else mattered to Scarlett O’Hara, and that was a direct result of the experiences she had during her life.
All in all, one realizes how the events Scarlett O’Hara experienced during her life shaped her personality. While she had been a young girl, oblivious to the goings on in the real world, she had dared to dream about her future. However, the Civil War tarnished those dreams, and broke the personality of that young, dreaming girl. The plight her family faced left Scarlett O’Hara with no choice but to work as hard as she physically could, and make a life for her family. She succeeded in doing so, yet her personality was forever altered. The dreams of yesteryear were gone, and there was no love or compassion left in her heart. The harsh realities of life and the turmoil she had witnessed around her had left Scarlett with nothing but bitterness and pragmatism. The traumatic experiences of her life shaped her personality completely.