Ooops, have I been derelict in my blogging duties last week? It looks like I've skipped on our Quotable Rhett Butler series, so we'll have to fix that today. But first I have a quiz for you. Can you name one similarity between Ashley Wilkes and Catherine Earnshaw, the heroine from Wuthering Heights? The answer, related to this week's quote, after the jump, at the end.
And now let's turn to our eloquent hero. The line I had selected for last week came from the famous "no more babies" scene. This is Rhett's cryptic reply when Scarlett announces him that she wants separate bedrooms:
"You like dogs, don't you, Scarlett? Do you prefer them in kennels or mangers?" --Gone with the Wind, Chapter LI
As his previous question ( "You've been to the lumber office this afternoon, haven't you?") indicates, Rhett is aware of the part Ashley Wilkes played in Scarlett's decision, and he lets her know about it by alluding to the expression "dog in a manger," which perfectly defines their situation. Well, tries to let her know, since Scarlett obviously misses the implication, but still...
I myself had to google for the expression the first time I read Gone with the Wind in English, and the fable from which it was derived struck me as quite ironically adequate to the circumstances. (Okay, so substituting Rhett for the ox and Ashley for the dog made me giggle. Did I ever claim I went above the mental age of 5?) Here's the fable:
"A Dog looking out for its afternoon nap jumped into the Manger of an Ox and lay there cosily upon the straw. But soon the Ox, returning from its afternoon work, came up to the Manger and wanted to eat some of the straw. The Dog in a rage, being awakened from its slumber, stood up and barked at the Ox, and whenever it came near attempted to bite it. At last the Ox had to give up the hope of getting at the straw, and went away muttering:'Ah, people often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves.'"--Aesop, Fables
Not a particularly hard to follow allusion, since the phrase "dog in a manger" was and is in common use. Even Scarlett would have probably caught it if not for her anger and disappointment at her husband's reaction (though one can wonder, what did she expect?) and the only remarkable thing about it was the extent to which Rhett kept his cool in this scene. Such a difference between the Rhett in the book, who is able to find a stinging elaborate comeback in any situation and perfectly hide his true feelings, and the Rhett in the movie, who kicks doors and hurls glasses. (Note the depth of my hatred for that particular scene.)
What gave me a thrill, though, was to later find the expression Rhett used in a similar jealousy/love triangle context in Wuthering Heights. See what that context is after the jump (minor spoilers if you haven't read the book).
The phrase occurs during a fight between Isabella and Catherine, in Chapter X of the novel. Isabella, smitten with Heathcliff, is frustrated that Cathy always sends her off when he comes to visit, and she accuses her sister-in-law of being a dog in the manger ("You are a dog in the manger, Cathy, and desire no one to be loved but yourself!").
And there you have it. Both Ashley and Cathy, though married, try to keep their love interests tied to them, which makes them dogs in other people's mangers. I bet you thought I was going to say they are both married to mealy-mouthed ninnies, didn't you?
PS: since we're on the topic of Wuthering Heights, if you haven't done so already, please be sure to cast your vote on the TCM page for the 1939 adaptation of Wuthering Heights to be released on DVD in the United States. It currently ranks 18 in their waiting line, help bring it closer to #1! If you're still not convinced, check out and Kendra's review and the wonderful materials on this film from vivandlarry.com.