Monday, December 6, 2010

A Christmas Doll for Ella

“He [Rhett] always asked Mammy's permission to take Wade riding and consulted with her before he bought Ella dolls.” 
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XLIX

Call me a softie, but the snippet above always make me smile fondly. I love both Rhett's thoughtfulness to his stepchildren and his courteous deference to Mammy. Plus, the idea of Rhett Butler gravely consulting Mammy about which dolls to buy for Ella is just plain charming (and frankly hilarious). So to that end, if Mammy approves, we think we have an ideal Christmas gift for Rhett to buy for little Ella.   

This lovely doll comes from the December 1871 edition of Godey's Lady's Book, so it's at the very height of fashion and sure to catch the fancy of any young girl. Moreover, it's trimmed especially for Christmas with cheerful ribbon flourishes. We think Ella would adore it. 

So, take note, Rhett, and buy it for her--after conferring with Mammy, of course!

"Fancy Dress for a Doll." Godey's Lady's Book, December 1871.

Description from Godey's Lady's Book: "This plate is intended as a guide for dressing a Christmas doll. Any color of ribbon can be used to suit the taste of the owner... We give it printed in blue and pink. Our young friends can dress their dolls in whatever colors will suit them best; we merely give the idea." 


  1. Not super related but something I've always wanted to discuss: Did Ella have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

    I never gleaned it myself from reading, but others have said it and it's mentioned on the TV Tropes website. What does everyone else think?

  2. Well, I personally find this a believable theory because Mitchell makes a point of mentioning not only that Scarlett drank during the pregnancy but also that women shouldn't, that Dr. Meade could have - and should have - warned her against it. To me this was an indirect clue that Scarlett's drinking could have been partially responsible for how Ella turned out, because why mention it at all otherwise? Kind of like Chekhov's gun.

    But here's the thing: I don't think things with Ella were that bad. So even if she was affected by Scarlett's intake of alcohol, it was probably mild. And as people pointed out in the past, a lot of other things could have influenced how Ella turned out (her mother's neglect of her, to name one). So yeah, no clear answer here, but I lean towards the theory that she showed minor symptoms of FAE.

  3. I hate to even think what happened to the kids after the end of the story. Wade would have either been a nervous wreck the rest of his life, or a sociopath. And Ella... Well, I'm sure being disabled would have caused some complications.

  4. I really don't think she was disabled. I mean really four year olds can be very flighty by nature. And to suddenly have the mother that didn't give her the time of day suddenly pay attention to her would likely set her off and make her so excited that she couldn't pay attention. And I don't think that Scarlett was getting soused. She drank a little to take the edge off. Now Scarlett's poor nutrition right up to Ella's conception could play a factor. But I think that a lot of it is summed in being a silly small child. She might have had a myriad of issues such as ADD or any number of problems. But I don't think that she was disabled. It really is putting more into the story than is there, at least IMO.

  5. I agree Alica. Ella is basically a shadow in the story...maybe because MM didn't want to write about her or maybe because that was her way of saying that Scarlett never gave Ella much thought. It was obvious that she was a quiet, shy girl who was afraid of animals and lived in a world with her dolls. In contrast, Bonnie's strong and willful personality, backed by Rhett's indulgence, gave her the courage to get into everything and defy her father's edict about jumping the horse. As Rhett said, Scarlett broke Wade and Ella's spirit. In a sad irony, he then (as a manner of speaking) broke Bonnie's neck.

  6. The issue of Ella interests me greatly. Yes, she receives little written attention at MM’s hands, but is that surprising? The narrative very rarely delves into anyone’s thoughts but Scarlett’s. Scarlett was an inattentive mother, but in a sense, a dutiful mother. She had fairly conservative views of family and the role of a mother. While she wasn’t affectionate towards the kids, she made certain they had everything they needed (save love) and were taken care of. In Ripley’s Scarlett when Scarlett dumps Wade and Ella on Suellen and leaves them there for the duration of the novel – I don’t believe for an instance Scarlett would have done such a thing. She took them to Tara, she took them to Marietta she wouldn’t have abandoned her children like that. After Bonnie and Melanie died and Mammy and Rhett left, who then would Scarlett have turned to? She was virtually a social outcast, her children were all she really had left.
    As for Ella’s fetal alcohol syndrome, yes Bugsie, I agree with you. Why would MM have mentioned it if it wasn’t the case? I think if she does have it, the case is mild. Certainly Ella wasn’t disabled – if she had been there would definitely have been a reference to it in the novel. At the time Scarlett tries to get closer to both Wade and Ella (when Rhett goes away with Bonnie) we get the description of her as silly and unable to concentrate. At the time she was about four or five. It isn’t uncommon for five year olds to come across as silly. I think it’s probably more likely that she went into some kind of giddy state seeing as Scarlett was actually paying attention to her.
    There is one telling reference later in the novel. After Scarlett and the kids return to Atlanta after Scarlett’s recuperation at Tara they are in the carriage on the way home. Scarlett says that Ella showed great spirit in biting Suellen’s eldest girl, who according to Scarlett, was her mother all over. Suellen and Scarlett had then proceeded to have an “invigorating” argument, just like old times. This implies Scarlett was proud of Ella, and draws a rare parallel between mother and daughter. Early in the novel Scarlett thinks that if it weren’t for Ellen, she would’ve frequently boxed Suellen’s ears.
    There are no references to Ella’s appearance, as in colouring, save her ugliness as a baby. I imagine her with Frank’s ginger hair and possibly with brown eyes. The fact that Scarlett bought her a coral bracelet leads me to imagine her often in pink. I can imagine her growing up with a lot more spirit than Scarlett expected and being quite the rebel, due to her years of neglect. Scarlett drank while pregnant with Ella, so the taste for grog was in her. I can imagine Ella hitting the bottle when she was a bit older. Also in light of the fact Wade promised Melanie he wouldn’t drink until after university, she quite likely may have wanted to outdo her tea totalling big brother.

  7. I can definitely see Scarlett and Ella having the ultimate knock-down, drag-out, door-slamming mother/daughter relationship. And poor Wade, sitting in the corner, trying desperately to pretend he was somewhere else.

  8. I agree with your assessment of Ella and of Scarlett as a mother. I've read that fetal alcohol effects can include ADHD, autism, and epilepsy. Interestingly, I think McCaig made Ella an epileptic in RBP. I guess he did some research!

    Previously, I assumed that MM described Scarlett's alcohol use in pregnancy as another way to illustrate how far removed her actions were from the behavior expected of a woman of her station at that time. Also, it was an indication of her own growing dependence on alcohol as a coping mechanism.

  9. *cough* You mean that Mrs. McCaig did some research. *cough*


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