“Do you remember what happened to the little girl in Gone With the Wind?”
~Betty Draper (no Francis yet), For Those Who Think Young.
Spare a little candle, save some light for me.
Figures up ahead moving in the trees.
White skin in linen, perfume on my wrist,
And the full moon that hangs over these dreams in the mist.
Darkness on the edge, Shadows where I stand
I search for the time on a watch with no hands,
I want to see you clearly, come closer than this
But all I remember are the dreams in the mist
The sweetest song is silence that I’ve ever heard.
Funny how your feet in dreams never touch the Earth.
In a wood full of princes, freedom is a kiss.
But the Prince hides his face from dreams in the mist.
“Where’s Don? … Where is he? … Bullshit! He’s never where you expect him to be! … Someone call him? I don’t want to be here.”
~Betty Draper (still no Francis), The Fog.
You don’t want to hear it now — Scarlett O’Hara.
~Gene Hofstadt, The Arrangements. (Thanks, Bling!)
…And something terrifying was pursuing her and she was running till her heart was bursting, running in a thick swimming fog, crying out blindly seeking that nameless, unknown haven of safety that was somewhere in the mist around her.
Rhett was leaning over her when she woke, and without a word he picked her up in his arms like a child and held her close, his hard muscles comforting, his wordless murmuring soothing, until her sobbing ceased.
“Oh, Rhett, I was so cold and so hungry and so tired that I couldn’t find it. I ran through the mist and I ran but I couldn’t find it.”
“Find what, honey?”
“I don’t know. I wish I did know.”
He gently placed her on the bed, fumbled in the darkness and lit a candle … Scarlett, still shaking with fright, thought how strong and unyielding that chest was, and she whispered: “Hold me, Rhett.”
“Darling!” he said swiftly, and picking her up he sat down in a large chair, cradling her body against him.
“Rhett, do you ever think I’ll get there to safety?”
“No, he said, smoothing her hair. “I don’t. Dreams aren’t like that. But I do think that if you get used to being safe and warm and well-fed in your everyday life, you’ll stop dreaming that dream. And, Scarlett, I’m going to see that you’re safe.”
~Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind.
(Before I begin, I know a lot of people don’t like Betty. I know they see her as pampered and spoiled and weak. They are welcome, as much as it’ll frustrate me, to comment. I share many of the same frustrations as the most vociferous of her detractors, but I also do seem to understand her on some level and continue to find her interesting. That means that this entry will nor be without sympathy.)
Betty thinks she wants to be rescued. The little girl in her, and some say she’s all little girl, wants to feel safe and protected and loved. Beautiful, raised on fairy tales, she is the princess in need of rescue. She is the heroine of her own life — aren’t we all? She’s looking for her Rhett Butler.
Here’s the truth of it though. There are men who have the swagger and caustic humor of Rhett, but they’re rarely the ones who’ll hold you when you wake up crying because something keeps eluding you in the mist. Well, sometimes maybe. An Ashley Wilkes or a Henry Francis, they’ll be there, but as generations of women know know, Ashley is no Rhett.
Henry Francis saw a princess in need of rescue and thought, “I can be that! I can be the good guy who rescues her!” What I think happened in The Summer Man is that he realized she doesn’t really want to be rescued from Don. It could make a good guy feel like a real chump to have spent a relationship thinking if you love someone enough that the bad dreams will go away, only to discover she’s eager to go back to sleep.
Betty loves and hates Don. I won’t speculate on which emotion is stronger — okay, hate — but she’s not letting him go. We spend a lot of time figuring out when Don is Dick and Dick is Don, I do it too, but we’re really splitting hairs. Betty’s first husband lied to her, a lot, but it would be silly to say that there was nothing real there. Betty loved and desired the man she knew as Don Draper, and I think the thing that pissed her off most of all before the big revelation was that he was never completely hers. That is NOT the way fairy tales work. What pissed her off after she found out his lies was, of course, the betrayal. The being played for a fool. But it was also that he didn’t trust her and it was also…
“I want to scream at you — for ruining all of this. But then you’d try to fix it, and there is no point. There’s no point, Don.”
That scene from The Grown-Ups, complete with Betty’s cold “I don’t love you,” is easy to watch from Don’s perspective. Even now, watching it a minute ago to get the quote, my heart goes out to him in much the same way it did in The Suitcase. The feeling that must have settled in the pit of his gut. But Betty’s got a right to those words, that anger.
She’s pissed at this man not just because he’s not the runaway football hero, but because her anger at him is so intense, her pain at his betrayal so agonizing, that he kisses her and she feels — nothing. This is the man she couldn’t wait to see at the end of the day, and now he kisses her and she’s numb. Dick Whitman stole her husband from her in a way that Bobbie Barrett couldn’t.
Betty has a right to every feeling she’s ever shown on the show, but the way she handles those feelings is what makes the viewer angry more than anything else. Also, the simplistic thought that if Don is the hero, she must be the villain, but that’s a post for another day.
She can’t let the past go, Don go, or the house go because she cares too much. The hatred and anger she feels is real, but only because she did love him. She fully invested in the dollhouse fantasy, the storybook ending. She was in the market for all of it, but Don convinced her he was the prince. And then wouldn’t even be there for her when she grieved her mother.
I think of the scene early on when Don calls her at her father’s house to tell her about Roger’s heart attack and she’s preoccupied with the-woman-who-is-not-her-mother. Don ends up going to Rachel. I’ve seen it interpreted as Betty’s self-involvement making him seek out comfort, but they mutually failed to reach out to one another, hear the other person’s pain. Betty couldn’t let her mother go and Don probably just wants to give her the “it never happened” speech, and she ends up the “bad guy.”
We can sit her all day talking about what Betty needs and a lot of the suggestions would be a variation on a good, swift kick in the ass. Ya know, can’t disagree. All the things I think she needs the very most are based on being from different generation and are represented in the people who wonder why she can’t be stronger and more independent. I’d love for Betty to get stronger and more proactive. I’d also love for her to have a real partner in a relationship who will comfort her and with whom she can share.
Now, yeah, Henry Francis could be that guy. Except that what she probably needs to share is the real reason she’s so angry at Don, the real reason she won’t leave the house they shared, how she really felt when she saw him with Gene. It’s debatable if she even knows completely how she feels about it, and she seemed to fool Henry in the end. However, when he crashed into those boxes I think his vision was 20/20.
Gone With The Wind, book version and movie version, shows Scarlett running in the mist toward Rhett. It’s her dream come to life, and now she knows what what eluded her before. When she finds him and he sees her, her heart feels like it stops, because he looks at her devoid of passion. She notes that “drink and dissipation had done their work on the coin-clean profile and now it was no longer the head of a young pagan prince on new-minted gold, but a decadent, tired Caesar on copper debased on long usage.” Of course, when she tells him this, that it was never Ashley, he looks at her and tells her that this is now her misfortune — to have figured it out, but too late. He tells her that even the most deathless love can wear out.
Henry Francis thought he was Rhett, but he’s really Ashley, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, because one of the great rediscoveries of GWTW as an adult is that Melanie was pretty awesome and that the only problem with Ashley is that he’s not the hero of the piece. I think Henry and Ashley are destined to have the words “pales in comparison” attached to their descriptions.
Betty, like Scarlett, thinks she wants an Ashley when she wants a Rhett. Betty, like Scarlett, really doesn’t need either — only Betty has never fully figured that out. Hey, Scarlett lived it more than understood it and the book ends with her still not understanding it. Betty seemed to be getting there during her separation from Don. She realized how alone she’d been even when they were together and she told him life wasn’t all that different without him. There was a moment there when she almost figured it out, understood what she really needed and who she could be. And then she found out she was carrying Gene. She could have told Don to go pee up a rope, she could have taken him back on her own terms and demanded more from him and from herself. Instead, she was a daughter of her time and so she chose the fog.
What Scarlett discovers in the end is that she didn’t understand Rhett, never fully knew him. Nearly everything he seemed to disdain was what he wanted and valued. We all remember Rhett’s last line, but this is what came before it in the novel:
“Scarlett, I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken — and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.”
Betty is a woman who strives for perfection. She would be the first one to see the glued together parts of a broken vase. “I want to scream at you — for ruining all of this. But then you’d try to fix it, and there is no point. There’s no point, Don.” Of course, that means she’s more Rhett Butler than she could ever see — longing for lost days, the perfect symmetry of Grecian art, and only seeing imperfections. A second marriage means something was irreparably broken.
I think that an adult reading of Gone With The Wind, at least a reading separate from a romance novel interpretation — and I love romance novels — is that Scarlett brought about her own pain, and that Rhett might be gone for good. I think the standard reaction is to think that Scarlett will get him to come back to her, but the truth is that the relationship might be beyond repair, and to think otherwise is to do herself further harm. I do think there’s a lesson in this for Betty too about moving on.
I think Betty’s dress and hair at the party are telling. She’s looked older than her years much of this season. Matronly. Trying to age herself up to a man with adult children. At the end of The Summer Man she looks like the mother of a two year old, the Betty Draper we met her at the end of “Smoke.” Henry makes a tentative move to protect a house and, let’s face it, a woman who isn’t his. Betty hands Gene to Don with a “say ‘Hi’ to daddy,” and Don sure does make a handsome daddy — and for a moment she remembers what it’s like to feel whole as Henry fades into the background.
Francine: How was it?
Betty: You know. It was all a fog.