LITERARY EXEMPLARS: SCARLETT O'HARA AS A THREE
©1998 by Judith Searle
In The Politics of Experience, R.D. Laing writes: "We can see other people's behavior, but not their experience. This has led some people to insist that psychology has nothing to do with the other person's experience, but only with his behavior."
In all Enneagram types there is a gulf between behavior and experience. We see similar behaviors in different types, but the same behaviors may arise from different, even opposite, motivations. For example, a Five and a Nine may both make strong efforts to avoid conflict. But the Five does so for fear of being engulfed by others, while the Nine does so in order to facilitate merging with others.
To fully understand a type, it is necessary to understand the pattern of tensions that characterizes it. (See my article "The Latitude and Longitude of Enneagram Fixations," Enneagram Monthly February-April 1996 for a discussion of the way these patterns of tensions operate.) Students of the Enneagram have sought to understand the inner process of each type through various meansinterviews with exemplars, analysis of therapy sessions, self-reports of insightful individuals, analysis of film and television charactersand all these techniques have greatly enriched our understanding of the system. Some writers have offered literary characters as examples of type, but this extraordinary resource has generally been underexplored.
Great fiction offers us a unique opportunity to examine the raw material of experience before it crystallizes into behavior. Through the technique of interior monologuewhich shows a character's thoughts, feelings, and instinctsfiction writers offer us a dramatic and intimate way to experience individuals as they experience themselves.
T.S. Eliot once wrote: "If we learn to read poetry properly, the poet never persuades us to believe anything. . . . What we learn from Dante or the Bhagavadgita or any other religious poetry is what it feels like to believe that religion." In a similar sense, literary exemplars offer us the experience of what it feels like to be a particular Enneagram type.
Skillfully written literary characters also allow us to witness the process of an individual's psychological change step by step, as it takes place through the course of the story. In this way, novels and short stories allow us to trace the "arc" of a character through both experience and behavior to gain a deeper understanding of the Enneagram type as a whole. The insights we can gain into the processes of growth or deterioration are far more profound than those available through simply watching the actions of a character in a film.
When describing type Three, one is especially tempted to cite characteristic behaviors rather than inner experience. Threes are much admired in American society for their behaviors: they work hard, and their achievements are impressive. But Threes are chameleons, skillful shapers of their own public image. No Enneagram type manifests a more dramatic divergence between behavior and experience. So deceptive is the image of the Three that C.G. Jung, one of the most astute observers of human nature, failed to recognize the type as distinct from the eight others he described.
The behavior of Threes is visible in many films, but in fiction Threes are rarely depicted in depth. I suspect this may be because the inner life of Threes is often obscure, due in large part to their inability to connect with emotions, both in themselves and in others. However, we do find an extraordinary portrait of a Three in Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. (Some Enneagram writers have characterized Scarlett as a Four, and I believe there are two basic reasons for this: 1) the behavior of the character in the film is deceptive, in typical Three fashion, and 2) Vivien Leigh's performance is colored by her own Four type.)
However, once one reads the interior monologue in Mitchell's novel, Scarlett's type is unmistakable. Vain, deceitful, calculating, and charming, Scarlett is the quintessential Three. Her goal-directedness, planning, and awareness of how to project an image of success are basic traits of Three. Scarlett is determined to win Ashley away from Melanie (his fiancée), and the vanity and self confidence she shows in the following passage are also characteristic of Threes.
. . . From the moment she arrived at Twelve Oaks, she would be her gayest, most spirited self. No one would suspect that she had ever been downhearted because of Ashley and Melanie. And she would flirt with every man there. That would be cruel to Ashley, but it would make him yearn for her all the more. She wouldn't overlook a man of marriageable age, from ginger-whiskered old Frank Kennedy, who was Suellen's beau, on down to shy, quiet, blushing Charles Hamilton, Melanie's brother. They would swarm around her like bees around a hive, and certainly Ashley would be drawn from Melanie to join the circle of her admirers. Then somehow she would maneuver to get a few minutes alone with him, away from the crowd. She hoped everything would work out that way, because it would be more difficult otherwise. But if Ashley didn't make the first move, she would simply have to do it herself. . . .
Why, by this time tomorrow night, she might be Mrs. Ashley Wilkes! (pp. 71-72)
After Ashley turns down Scarlett's proposal, we see her humiliation and fury:
. . .[T]he thought stung her to new rage, rage at herself, at Ashley, at the world. Because she hated herself, she hated them all with the fury of the thwarted and humiliated love of sixteen. Only a little true tenderness had been mixed into her love. Mostly it had been compounded out of vanity and complacent confidence in her own charms. Now she had lost and, greater than her sense of loss, was the fear that she had made a public spectacle of herself. (pp. 118-119)
In order to save face, Scarlett quickly marries Melanie's brother Charles, who is killed in one of the early battles of the Civil War, leaving her a widow with a son. Scarlett and Melanie go to stay with Melanie's aunt in Atlanta. When Atlanta falls, Scarlett returns to Tara, the war-torn family homestead, and finds her mother dead, her father insane, and her sisters seriously ill; her determination to do what it takes to survive and protect her family gains the reader's sympathy:
"I won't think about it any more," she decided. "It's over and done with and I'd have been a ninny not to kill him. I reckonI reckon I must have changed a little since coming home or else I couldn't have done it." She did not think of it consciously but in the back of her mind, whenever she was confronted by an unpleasant and difficult task, the idea lurked giving her strength: "I've done murder and so I can surely do this." (p. 445)
The end of the war finds Scarlett significantly changed, and her gift for managing resources and keeping her eye on cash flow becomes apparent. When threatened with losing Tara for lack of money to pay the exorbitant Reconstruction taxes, Scarlett decides that getting Rhett Butler to marry her is her best alternative, even though she hates him because he witnessed her humiliating scene of throwing herself at Ashley. When Rhett turns her down, she turns to Frank Kennedy, her sister's beau; she has no compunction about lying to him and betraying her sister in order to secure his proposal:
Once Scarlett and Frank are married, she quickly drops her demure and worshipful facade and embraces her calling as a businesswoman:
The first time Scarlett lied in this fashion she felt disconcerted and guiltydisconcerted because the lie sprang so easily and naturally to her lips, guilty because the thought flashed into her mind: What would Mother say?
There was no doubt what Ellen would say to a daughter who told lies and engaged in sharp practices. She would be stunned and incredulous and would speak gentle words that stung despite their gentleness, would talk of honor and honest and truth and duty to one's neighbor. Momentarily, Scarlett cringed as she pictured the look on her mother's face. And then the picture faded, blotted out by an impulse, hard, unscrupulous and greedy, which had been born in the lean days at Tara and was now strengthened by the present uncertainty of life. So she passed this milestone as she had passed others before itwith a sigh that she was not as Ellen would like her to be, a shrug and a repetition of her unfailing charm: "I'll think of all this later." (pp. 662-663)
In fact, Scarlett is prepared to go quite a bit beyond mere lying to achieve the success she craves. Even though she has evidence that one of her mill managers is mistreating the convicts whose labor she has leased from the state for her mill, she gives the man permission to do whatever is necessary to insure a profit.
After Frank dies, she continues to entertain fantasies of Ashley. But she is attracted to Rhett (who has become extremely rich through his blockade-running during the war), and when he proposes to her she is swept away by her feelings for the first time in her life.
Married to Rhett (an Eight with a Seven wing), her hostility toward society comes to the surface, and she has no hesitation about expressing it, which leads to her losing many of her old friends. Now that she has money and success, Scarlett wonders why she isn't happier. She thinks if only she had Ashley (a Four) everything would be perfect. However, her perspective on him begins to shift:
She is beginning to experience herself as a feeling person, a significant move toward growth for a Three. We see in her thoughts about Ashley the beginnings of empathyfeelings for him as a real person, separate from the fantasy image of him that she has been nursing. In Enneagram terms, this represents a move toward her Six security point, where feelings are real and heart connections with people bring up doubts and fear.
Scarlett's budding exploration of the realm of feelings is given a massive jolt when a drunken Rhett confronts her about her fantasies of Ashley, carries her up to bed, and makes violent love to her. The experience awakens her sexually:
Oh, she should be ashamed, should shrink from the very memory of the hot swirling darkness! A lady, a real lady, could never hold up her head after such a night. But, stronger than shame, was the memory of rapture, of the ecstasy of surrender. For the first time in her life she had felt alive, felt passion as sweeping and primitive as the fear she had known the night she fled Atlanta, as dizzy sweet as the cold hate when she had shot the Yankee. . . .
When she thought of meeting him again, face to face in the sober light of day, a nervous tingling embarrassment that carried with it an exciting pleasure enveloped her. (pp. 940-941)
Now Scarlett becomes aware for the first time in her life of the importance of allies and her own lack of them (a typical Six preoccupation):
But, somehow, these people had slipped away. She realized that it was her own fault. She had never cared until nownow that Bonnie was dead and she was lonely and afraid and she saw across her shining dinner table a swarthy sodden stranger disintegrating under her eyes. (pp. 1003-1004)
Scarlett's mind went back through the years to the still hot noon at Tara when gray smoke curled above a blue-clad body and Melanie stood at the top of the stairs with Charles' saber in her hand.
. . . .And now, as Scarlett looked sadly back, she realized that Melanie had always been there beside her with a sword in her hand, unobtrusive as her own shadow, loving her, fighting for her with blind passionate loyalty, fighting Yankees, fire, hunger, poverty, public opinion and even her beloved blood kin.
Scarlett felt her courage and self-confidence ooze from her as she realized that the sword which had flashed between her and the world was sheathed forever.
"Melly is the only woman friend I ever had," she thought forlornly, "the only woman except Mother who really loved me. She's like Mother, too. Everyone who knew her has clung to her skirts."
Suddenly it was as if Ellen were lying behind that closed door, leaving the world for a second time. Suddenly she was standing at Tara again with the world about her ears, desolate with the knowledge that she could not face life without the terrible strength of the weak, the gentle, the tender hearted. (pp. 1012-1013)
"Ah, darling," she said coming forward, hoping he would put out his arms and draw her to his knees. "Darling, I'm so sorry but I'll make it all up to you! We can be so happy, now that we know the truth andRhettlook at me, Rhett! Therethere can be other babiesnot like Bonnie but"
"Thank you, no," said Rhett, as if he were refusing a piece of bread. "I'll not risk my heart a third time." (pp. 1031-1032)
"I'll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day." (p. 1037)
And we root for her to find some way to get him back.
Through showing Scarlett's behavior in light of her experience, Mitchell's book makes it possible for us to view her character not only with understanding but with compassion. Powerful as Vivien Leigh's performance is in the film, the character of Scarlett in Mitchell's novel is infinitely more complex, credible, sympathetic, and true to type.
Fine novels like Gone with the Wind are peerless resources for the Enneagram student who seeks a "close to the bone" understanding of type.
|This article, which was published in the September 1998 issue of Enneagram Monthly, is adapted from Judith Searle's forthcoming book Using the Enneagram to Create Characters: A Guide forWriters and Actors.|