As a big fan of Gone with the Wind novel and movie, I find it interesting to reflect on the characters in this story.
Today I will write Melanie Wilkes character analysis.
When meeting Melanie, we see a tiny, fragile creature with huge brown eyes that looks like a child in her mother’s dress.
This 17-year-old girl has always been in the shadow of the brilliant Vivien Leigh.
Who played Melanie in Gone with the Wind?
Olivia de Havilland is best known as Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939). Her dark brown eyes and unsurpassed smile allowed the actress to play heroines whose gentle, modest, kind disposition opposes the negative hero.
Surprisingly, this role, inscribed the actress’s name in the history of cinema in golden letters, did not bring her the expected Oscar. That time Oscar for a supporting role was received by black actress Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy wonderfully. I mentioned Gone with the Wind in article 38 movies with the most Oscars.
But the audience fell in love with the heroine of Olivia de Havilland with all their hearts – her soft, all-forgiving, infinitely loving Melanie charmed the audience so much that they gave these qualities to the performer of the role herself.
However, this was a big mistake. Olivia de Havilland looked nothing like Melanie Wilkes in real life. On the contrary, she was highly purposeful, courageous, stubborn, and able to defend her interests firmly.
Let’s get to know Melanie better.
Melanie Wilkes personality.
So, Melanie Wilkes, nee Hamilton. I can say right away that I like her, unlike Scarlett.
At the very beginning of the story, Melanie Hamilton is described as a narrow-minded, not pretty, unremarkable, naive creature. It is worth noting that such a description is given from the point of view of Scarlett. The girl did not like her because she was jealous of Ashley Wilkes.
Of course, against the background of O’Hara, she did not look too beautiful and bright. But heroines like Miss Melly have a completely different charm – inner beauty.
And only later this nature begins to reveal itself to us in its true form, and it becomes clear that Melanie is an extraordinary person, extraordinary, even somewhat rare.
So Melanie is calm, refined, educated, kind… and wise. Yes exactly. At the same time, many people are sure that she is naive, almost blissful, and unable to see anything bad in others. And with this, I strongly disagree.
Why do I say that Melanie is wise? For starters, she never idealized Scarlett. At first, she saw a child in her friend. If you remember, in the first half of the novel, she calls her all the time only as “my little girl.”
She perfectly understood that Scarlett was young, that she did not know life at all and did not particularly see anything in it, and therefore, did not condemn her for dancing at the charity bazaar. So instead, Melanie decides to ease her mourning and start a more open lifestyle. And they go to work in the hospital for the same reason: not only to help the wounded but also to leave the house, ending their seclusion.
And then Melanie reveals even more. She takes money from Watling when everyone else, including the same Scarlett, advises her not to do this. And Melly was not afraid of condemnation. But, moreover: she very skillfully stopped them.
There was also a bright moment when Scarlett shot the Yankee. And it was here that Melanie demonstrated that she was not so simple, naive, and helpless. She did not fall into hysterics, did not condemn her friend, but ultimately calmly took the situation into her own hands and helped Scarlett hide the crime. Not quite typical, for a proper naive lady, an act.
And when Melanie recovered, she helped Scarlett in Tara as best she could with her abilities because she saw very well that Scarlett was “beating” alone. Melanie, after all, and for marriage with Frank Scarlett, not condemned.
Also, Miss Melly didn’t want to leave when Ashley was supposedly offered the job. Yes, because she knew her husband and perfectly understood that on his own, he was incapable of anything without the support of Scarlett and Melanie herself.
Because the world in which Ashley was supposed to exist, where everything was adjusted and worked independently of him, and he could write poetry in the garden, under the oaks, collapsed. In the new world, Ashley was useless. And Melanie, as a bright, wise woman, understood this very well.
Plus, dying, she asked Scarlett to take care not only of her son but also of her husband because she knew that Ashley himself was not capable of it.
But one trait fascinates me the most in Melanie!
Miss Melly was happy and wanted everyone around her to be happy too, or at least satisfied with their fate. Therefore, she strove to see only the best aspects of a person and always spoke kindly about people.
For these sincere and direct impulses of her generous heart, everyone loved Melanie and involuntarily reached out to her, for who can remain insensitive to the charms of such a being, who knows how to discover positive character traits in others, of which their owner himself does not even suspect? And Melanie had more girlfriends than any other woman in the city and more male friends.
The similarity between Scarlett’s mother and Melanie is interesting. Both women embody the mother, with which holiness is characterized in Christian perception. Both die so that the others may live. One becomes infected by a sick patient, and the other dies in childbirth.
Did Ashley Wilkes love Melanie?
I already wrote more about the relationship between Ashley and Melanie in the article Gone with the Wind Ashley analysis.
Here I want to recall one point.
Did Melly love her husband?
I think she herself did not know the exact answer to this question. It’s just that she learned from an early age that she was going to marry Ashley because “The Wilkes always marry their cousins.” And she, like a true lady, accustomed herself to this thought. And when life showed that it was impossible to rely on him, duty for her was above all.
In addition, I truly believe that Ashley loved Melanie. She was like a cozy and loving nest for his wounded heart.
How are Scarlett and Melanie different?
For sure, Scarlett and Melanie have different sides, but they are also very similar.
Scarlett and Melly are equally smart, determined, and true to their ideals and loved ones.
They just have different ways of going through life. And I advise you to check out my Scarlett O’Hara character analysis to understand the second heroine better.
Melanie and Scarlett are inseparable. The whole plot is completed on the similarities and opposites of these selfless, strong, and brave women in their way.
Melanie sincerely loved and admired Scarlett, as Scarlett later realized for the fact that they were “of the same blood” with her. Despite rose-colored glasses and sweetness, Melanie has the same titanic core inside, and they are like two sisters. Two giants pulled everyone around on themselves, being strong in different ways.
When Melanie died, Scarlett felt that her most important sister had died.
Did Melanie know about Scarlett and Ashley?
So, did Melanie know that Scarlett pursued her husband with her love for a long time and that he reciprocated her occasionally due to his weakness?
There are two points of view, yes and no. I’m leaning toward the version that Melanie knew.
She wasn’t a fool, and she knew about Scarlet’s feelings. But Melly understands better than Scarlet and Ashley themselves that they really do not love each other and do not fit together, that one is just a passion, and the other is a beautiful illusion. So she recognized everything and saved them from themselves.
Melanie even pushed Scarlet to understand that she needed and loved Rhett Butler.
In conclusion, I want to say that Melanie Wilks is an extraordinary heroine. She is a candle that gives warmth and light to those around her. She has a rare combination of kindness and great fortitude to prevent this kindness from being extinguished and vulgarized.
How do you feel about Miss Melly?
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NiaMarch 12, 2023 at 8:02 pm
Thank you for sharing! Melanie sounds like a great character with a lovely balance of personality traits.
HeatherMarch 13, 2023 at 4:24 am
Hi – as a fan of Gone with the Wind also – I really enjoyed this article. Ms Melly was no wallflower that’s for sure – I believe she was just duty bound.
Thanks for sharing, I look forward to reading more in your series!
Joi WhiteMarch 13, 2023 at 9:35 am
Oooo this made me want to watch a movie! I am a movie guru and I’m definitely adding this to my list!
Kae ChroniclesMarch 13, 2023 at 6:43 pm
Beautiful and thorough character analysis. Now you have me wanting to watch ‘Gone with the wind’ again. I haven’t seen it in years!