A Paragon of Loyalty, Courage, and Kindness
Margaret Mitchell?s epic novel Gone with the Wind chronicles the drastic changes imposed on Southern society and civilization by the Civil War. The heroine, Scarlett O?Hara, sees her home and position in society destroyed but struggles to adapt to the demands of war-torn Georgia. She marries Rhett Butler, a dashing blockade runner, but clings to a romantic obsession for Ashley Wilkes. Melanie Wilkes, Ashley?s wife and Scarlett?s faithful friend, clings to the old traditions. ?Melanie refused to change, refused even to admit that there was any reason to change in a changing world.? (Mitchell, 725) Melanie?s most distinct characteristics, which include loyalty, courage, and kindness, remain a constant force throughout the entire novel.
Melanie Wilkes?s strongest characteristic is her fierce loyalty to those she loves, especially to Scarlett. Scarlett?s headstrong personality makes her unpopular, and she is accepted by Atlanta society solely because people will not risk offending Melanie.
Melanie?s defense of Scarlett shields her from the dislike of other people. When Belle Watling, the town prostitute, helps prevent the arrest of a number of Atlanta men by permitting them to use her house of ill repute as an alibi for their whereabouts, Melanie rushes to Belle to thank her for saving her husband?s life. As Melanie is leaving, Belle unwittingly insults Scarlett. Melanie?s warm disposition immediately fades and she jumps to Scarlett?s defense. ??You must not say unkind things about my sister-in-law.? Melanie stiffened coldly.? (811) An example of Melanie?s loyalty to her husband occurs when Rhett Butler?s cynicism about the Southern cause offends many Atlanta citizens. Although no one else will receive Rhett into their homes, Melanie stands by him. ??I won?t be rude to him because of what he said, because ? It was...