Beyond the Pretty Face

        The “pretty girl” always catches our eye. She is being crowned at junior prom, she is declaring “World peace!” through gleaming white teeth, she is the Disney princess embellishing a fourth grader’s lunch box. She makes the rest of the female population sick with envy, and legitimately so; who would not want to be prom queen, Ms. America, or something off of Disney? The two characters, Katie Scarlett from Margaret Mitchell’s 1938 Gone With the Wind, filmed in 1939 by Victor Fleming, and starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett and Catherine from Emily Brontë’s 1847 Wuthering Heights, filmed in 1939 by William Wyler, and starring Merle Oberon as Catherine, would be candidates for these positions simply because of their remarkable beauty. But what happens when this is all you become; a pretty face with a disregarded heart and soul? What happens when you are arbitrarily classified as “pretty girl” when really you vary from other attractive females through your personality? In a class lecture, it was stated that Catherine and Scarlett were similar simply because of their hot looks and temper. But beyond a little waist and a sassy tongue, we see these characters are very different, especially when they are faced with crisis. The two characters; Catherine from Wuthering Heights and Scarlett from Gone with the Wind differ in their ability to endure trauma.

        This endurance is shown through the different hardships the two characters face and how they deal with them. Scarlett O’Hara lives through the American Civil War, which destroys her entire lifestyle and kills many people she knows. Catherine’s trauma is merely interpersonal, and she does not face a nation-wide catastrophe such as a war. Nonetheless, Scarlett survives the war, yet Catherine cannot withstand her much less stressful situation. Catherine becomes clinically insane shortly after her marriage and dies immediately after her first child in the book and develops a lethal wasting illness in the movie. In addition to surviving the war, Scarlett endures through two marriages and bears one child in the movie, three in the book, all while remaining physically and mentally healthy enough to survive. She demonstrates this mental health through not only her survival but also her contribution to her plantation and will to stay alive. Catherine does not show this will.

        The two characters also differ in their ability to contribute to their situations. Growing up as a southern belle, Scarlett has no experience working a plantation; however, after the war she adapts by learning this labor and keeping her farm, even after her father dies. Catherine, however, cannot to adapt to her normal circumstances of adulthood through her failure to take on the role of a wife and stand up to her brother when he took over Wuthering Heights.

        Through their experiences, the two characters Scarlett from Gone with the Wind and Catherine from Wuthering Heights show us that attractive people vary in their will and stamina. While certain characteristics such as vanity are likely to come with beauty, beauty does not determine one’s entire character. It is important to examine each person as an individual not just by her looks but by her actions as well.

Shauna Dillon