Rhett. From the first time he appears on the page, I think my eye was drawn to him as often as Scarlett's was. He is handsome and physically powerful, but he has a commanding presence as well. He seems to dominate the room easily when he wants to, but he's capable of sitting back and observing and blending in until he blinds someone with a pithy, sarcastic remark.
"As she chattered and laughed and cast quick glances into the house and the yard, her eyes fell on a stranger, standing alone in the hall, staring at her in a cool impertinent way that brought her up sharply with a mingled feeling of feminine pleasure that she had attracted a man and an embarrassed sensation that her dress was too low in the bosom. He looked quite old, at least thirty-five. He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with such wide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eye caught his, he smiled, showing animal-white teeth below a close-clipped black mustache. He was dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate's appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished. There was a cool recklessness in his face and a cynical humor in his mouth as he smiled at her, and Scarlett caught her breath. She felt that she should be insulted by such a look and was annoyed with herself because she did not feel insulted. She did not know who he could be, but there was undeniably a look of good blood in his dark face. It showed in the thin hawk nose over the full red lips, the high forehead and the wide-set eyes."The man is intelligent too. Maybe not book-smart in the way of Ashley Wilkes, but street-smart. He knows exactly which way the wind is blowing during the Civil War and he doesn't hesitate to make his fortune from it. At first you think he's a traitorous rogue, and he is, but he also has some good reasons for his actions.
He goes around doing exactly what he wants without worrying what "everyone" will think. If he wants to dance with Scarlett, he dances with her, even if she is supposed to be in deep mourning. He thinks it's a ridiculous rule, so he overlooks it. He doesn't care that his neighbors think he's a turncoat for dealing with the Yankees. He never believed in the Glorious Cause, so he has no intention of going hungry for it. If he can make money off them, he's going to do it.
He is drawn to genuine goodness though, almost in spite of himself. He deeply admires Melanie Wilkes, a woman with a frail frame and an enormous heart. He frequently calls her one of the truly great women he knows. He loves children, and is surprisingly good with them.
Scarlett scandalizes Atlanta society by working outside the home, and thriving in that environment. I don't think we ever really know what Rhett thinks of it, but I think he admires her for it, at least a little bit. He's not hypocritical enough to judge a woman harshly for trying to make sure food is on the table when he's doing the same thing on a larger scale. I like him for being man enough not to be threatened by her.
And then there's the way he treats Scarlett. Hmmm. This is where I'm going to have to be careful about spoilers. I loved him at first for standing up to her. He is apparently the first person to get the better of her in a verbal duel in her whole life. And over all the years they know each other, she never once wins. He doesn't let her pretty face stop him from saying what he thinks. He teases her mercilessly when she needs teasing, and she frequently does. But then there are hints of what Rhett is capable of doing for a woman he loves and who treats him right. He would move the Earth for her.
I don't think that Rhett is a man that I would ever feel particularly comfortable around, but as long as he's inside the pages of a book and his barbs are pointed at Scarlett, I feel pretty safe admiring him from a distance.
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