There are good men.
There are bad boys.
And, then, there are good men who were once bad boys.
Huh? You don’t believe such a creature exists? That he’s right up there with unicorns and centaurs? Well, think again. No, no…he wasn’t redeemed by the pure, sparkling love of the perfect woman, although his mother’s unfailing faith in him might have helped along the way. Life offered this Peter Pan difficult lessons in maturity that nothing else could and growing up just happened.
Yesterday, we began exploring the world of the better men that populate books, movies and t.v. and I shared one of my ideal men here: https://denisedufresne.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/separating-the-boys-from-the-men-day-one-of-seven-days-of-good-men-in-movies-on-tv-and-in-print/
Today, it’s all about those guys – those men that still have that ‘bad boy” energy, but have their feet firmly planted in ‘good man’ ground. Today, I’m going to talk about Rhett Butler.Looking at Rhett’s development in Gone With The Wind backwards from the minute he walks away at the end of the book to the minute he first sees Scarlett O’Hara at Twelve Oaks at the beginning of the book, you see what I mean. Rhett has always been a good man, practical, clear thinking, respectful and very aware of the damage he can inflict on another human being (think of his refusal to duel with Charles Hamilton or when he informs Scarlett – after years of emotional warfare between them – that he could crush her head without a whole lot of effort.) He was once a bad boy, though – and that reputation colors his actions and the way he is seen throughout the novel by the people around him. However, he doesn’t discuss the good work he does, he frames his work as a blockade runner as a means for profit (which it was, but think about the risk vs. reward a minute.) He understands the rules of his society, and recognizes the qualities in people that make them truly worth respecting. His regard for Melanie Wilkes and Belle Watling, the respectful way he treats them both, is key to seeing how Rhett ticks. He’s a man that understands his boundaries and does not want to overstep them.
He loves Scarlett from just about the minute he first sees her, and continues to, as she slams her way through Atlanta. He gets her to relative safety during Sherman’s invasion, goes out to stop those closest to her from certain disaster and he tries to give her the best life he can, even while he believes she doesn’t love him. Rhett gives Scarlett everything he has, with nothing in return. Finally, their daughter and their dear friend Melanie Wilkes dead, Rhett recognizes his defeat. There’s only the realization that he’s invested everything he can into a relationship with a woman who is not ever going to be the wife and friend he’d hoped for. (A post on toxic women should probably follow this series at some point, it’s fair and necessary). He gives her what he thinks she wants as a final gift: an end to their marriage, and doesn’t back off when Scarlett finally says everything Rhett has been waiting to hear. By then, all he can do is take his dignity and go.
More tomorrow – hint, we’re visiting Regency England!