Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Quotable Rhett Butler: A Certain Mrs. Dives

Introducing today another weekly feature of our blog: The Quotable Rhett Butler. (If you think we're terribly fond of series, well, you are right.) Our aim is to build an inventory of Rhett's lines, with short explanations for his mythological, historical, literary—you name it references and allusions (some of which, I'll admit, took me years to comprehend). And, since he was such an eloquent fellow, we'll definitely have a lot of material to cover.

So, without further ado, our quote for today is:
“Thanks for the crumbs from your table, Mrs. Dives.”
                                     --Gone with the Wind, Chapter XLVIII
As you probably know, the scene in which the line was uttered takes place on the last night of the Butlers' honeymoon. Rhett is comforting Scarlett after her nightmare by assuring her that he's going to tend to her safety and well-being. Scarlett, the ever mistress of thanks and compliments, replies with “Rhett, you are so nice.”, which earns her the above-quoted witticism from her husband. 

By calling her Mrs. Dives, he's alluding to the biblical parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The Latin noun for the former was “dives,” and in many later translations of the Bible the word “Dives” was kept as a proper noun, and the parable referred to as the story of Dives and Lazarus. Dives, the rich man, “dressed in purple and fine linen,” denied the dying beggar Lazarus even the crumbs from his table. And of course, he got his punishment for that after his death when he went to Hell, while Lazarus presumably had a good time up in Heaven.

I knew the parable but wasn't aware of the Dives/rich man connection, and so for a long time I didn't understand Rhett's line. And when I first read the explanation, it actually made his joke bittersweet for me. For some reason I couldn't stop thinking that, while he was clearly (and lovingly) mocking his wife's attitude there, the comparison he chose was actually pretty close to how he must have seen their relationship for most of their marriage, distributing himself in the role of the virtuous beggar and Scarlett as the indifferent rich woman that more often than not didn't spare him the crumbs from her table. 

Then again, does she look like she'd give anyone the crumbs from her table?


  1. One of my most favorite Rhett quotes ever...I use it all the time :) I never knew all this stuff about it though...this was awesome :)

  2. For a man who didn't seem much inclined to believe, Rhett used a number of biblical references. Again, amazing research.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I love this idea and can't wait to see what you come up with every week. I must admit that in the days before the internet, it was hard for me to try and track down the meaning behind some of Rhett's comments. Google has made it easier, but I know there are still nuances I've missed.

    I also find it interesting how many Biblical references Rhett used. I think it was partly just another jab at Scarlett because he knew she didn't have "any religion left."

    Keep up the excellent work! I'm in love with this blog.

  4. Ladies I am loving this blog! Especially this topic and Rhett's travel map! Hmm I wonder what the correlation is... ;) I'll admit to looking this line up myself a few years ago because I did not understand it. I really look forward to seeing what other lines and references you come up with! Thanks for sharing your blog. It shows that you both have put a lot of hard work into it.

  5. What is most wonderful is when you do a google search for Mrs. Dives, your blog comes up! Fantastic!! Now if you ladies could give me the winning numbers for next week's lottery, we really would be cooking.

  6. @Bella. Oh, we get funny Google searches. Not over the top funny, but we did get a handful of "how to catch rich bachelors" after this post, so perhaps lottery numbers are not far behind :p

    I just nod in approval when someone gets here searching for "rhett butler's wisdom."


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