Via Pursuit of Happiness
|Ellen O'Hara, a great lady|
|Ellen O'Hara and her three daughters|
We first meet Ellen in chapter II as a single young woman, the bride of Gerald O'Hara. But we officially become acquainted with her remarkable character in chapter III, a mother of nine children - three of whom she had buried in infancy. Ellen is quiet, gentle, stern, steady, calm, effective, and selfless. She is a woman of efficient service to those in need, especially the sick. And according to Scarlett, her mother had always been "a pillar of strength, a fount of wisdom, the person who knew the answers to everything."
Ellen's life was not easy, nor was it happy, but she did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was a woman's lot. It was a man's world, and she accepted it as such. The man owned the property, and the woman managed it. The man took the credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness. The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him. Men were rough of speech and often drunk. Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words. Men were rude and outspoken, women were always kind, gracious and forgiving.
She (Ellen) had been reared in the tradition of great ladies, which had taught her how to carry her burden and still retain her charm, and she intended that her three daughters should be great ladies also. (But Scarlett, child of Gerald, found the road to ladyhood hard).
The face of Ellen burned on Scarlett's conscience. She "regarded her mother as something holy and apart from all the rest of humankind. She knew that her mother was the embodiment of justice, truth, loving tenderness and profound wisdom - a great lady." Scarlett did want to be like her mother, someday.
But events are not turning out the way Scarlett had expected, and she considers every decision against her mother's ideal. All this time that she is away from Tara, out from her mother's watchful eye and leading guidance, she is thinking, "What would Mother say?" or "How would she ever explain to her mother?"
However, being away so long from Ellen may cost Scarlett all of the rearing she has received, as she is caught in the charms of Rhett. After receiving his gift, the author tells us that "Rhett pried open the prison of her widowhood and set her free to queen it over unmarried girls when her days as a belle should have been long past. Nor did she see that under his influence she had come a long way from Ellen's teachings. She did not realize that with his encouragement, she had disregarded many of the sternest injunctions of her mother concerning the proprieties, forgotten the difficult lessons in being a lady."
There was another incident with Rhett in which she had an after thought: "How could she, Ellen's daughter, with her upbringing, have sat there and listened to such debasing words and then made such a shameless reply?"
Nonetheless, Scarlett loves and respects her mother dearly and, in the mist of war, wants desperately to return to her as soon as possible; Ellen is very ill.
I do not remember the character of Ellen from the film; but whoever plays Ellen must be a perfectly, exceptional lady. Maybe if Meryl Streep dyed her hair black, she could play Ellen in a remake of the film. She is capable of coming up with one of her famous accents, something that Scarlett remembers fondly of her mother.