Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the similarity between the O’Haras of Gone With the Wind and the Crawleys of Downton Abbey? Here are just a few similarities.
- Both are wealthy families living on large family estates (or plantation as it is called in Gone With the Wind), have three daughters, but no male offspring that have lived to adulthood.
- Big difference: The O’Hara daughters can inherit their father’s estate, but the Crawley estate is entailed away from the daughters.
- Both stories start prior to a war that eventually shatters their worlds. We’re still waiting to see post-WWI Crawleys, so more comparisons in a year or so.
- The stories have large ensembles of characters, but a lot of focus and life of the story is driven by the eldest daughter.
- Both have “upstairs” and “downstairs” characters. Oddly, the slaves in Gone With the Wind interact more personally with the family than the most of the servants in Downton Abbey.
- American mother (Ellen O’Hara and Cora Crowley) married to estate-owning man from another country (Gerald O’Hara <Irishman living in US> and Robert Crawley <Englishman>).
- Neither father is able to fight in the war, and this is a burden to both. Both love their “land” and their daughters. Gerald dies during the course of the story, and Robert basically dies emotionally. Difference: Personality-wise, Gerald and Robert are very different. Also, Gerald is a self-made man, whereas Robert goes to great lengths to explain to his eldest daughter that his is a custodian…carrying on the tradition.
Scarlett O’Hara is described with the following lines from Wikipedia, and I’d say they describe Mary Crawley also:
- “She is vain, somewhat spoiled, has a high intellect, and makes surface efforts to live up to the expectations her culture demands, but fears discovery by society of her true self.” This describes both women, however, Scarlett is street smart and literature stupid, where as Mary is literature smart, but not exactly street smart.
- “extremely money-conscious and materialistic” Scarlett comes to this attitude after nearly starving to death in the U.S. Civil War and vows that she will never be hungry or poor again. And she goes full force with the grace of a bulldozer to succeed at this vow. Mary gives lip service to this attitude and it plays a small part (I think) in her hesitation over Matthew’s proposal; however, the jury is still out on how far she’ll push materialism over other needs, such as love.
- “is only aware of how much she cares for other” when it is too late. Scarlett doesn’t realize how much Melanie means to her till Melanie’s death. Scarlett doesn’t realize she loves Rhett till he leaves her. Mary doesn’t realize the full extent of her love for Matthew until he withdraws his proposal and (SPOILER: he returns engaged to someone else).
- Both eldest daughters are haughty, cool, beautiful, flirtatious, and yet, they are the care givers in their family. During the course of the novel, Scarlett is fully or partially financially supporting and caring for 20-30 people…yet she is seen as, and often is, hard and uncaring. Yet she is the backbone of the family and keeps many people alive during and after the war. Mary, not quite up to Scarlett’s care-giving level (it might be coming), is the person that goes to an injured Sybil and, we’re told, is with her mother after Cora’s miscarriage. She is also the only person that makes sure William sees his mother before her death. Nobody expects or calls for Edith in these times of need. Whether Mary in someway ends up a primary care giver is yet to be seen. (S2 spoiler: It is Mary that nurses Matthew in the early stages of his war wounds.)
- Scarlett and Mary are both in love with a blond dude who goes off to war and is engaged to another woman. (I’ll make no other comparison between Ashley and Matthew; they are not similar.)
- Scarlett protects and cares for Melanie (who is married to Ashley). In fact, Scarlett stays in Atlanta during the Siege to care for Melanie after Melanie’s own blood-relatives abandon her and because of this, Scarlett never sees her mother alive again. Also, Melanie is Scarlett’s biggest supporter (though in a different way) and ally. Mary protects Lavinia (who is engaged to Matthew) from her aunt and grandmother. It will be interesting to see if Mary can become the great care giver and supporter that Scarlett is, but also if Lavinia will be an ally to Mary if the need arises. (Sir Julian Fellowes may not give Mary the opportunity because he’s too busy with other <weaker> story lines.) (S2 spoiler: Lavinia never turns into the wonderful character that Melanie is. Too bad! Lavinia doesn’t have much personality and never does support Mary in any way. In fact, on her death bed, Lavinia takes a jab at Mary claiming she is the better caregiver. HA!)
- The comparison list goes on….
- There are some differences, I hope. For example, I hope Mary does not end up as hard and mean as Scarlett often is. Scarlett wastes a good part of her life believing she loves Ashley, when it’s really Rhett that she loves and who is man enough to be her equal in a relationship. I think Mary truly is in love with Matthew and he, like Rhett, is man enough to be her partner. I hope Mary doesn’t marry three times and treat her children with great indifference. I hope Mary does end up with her true love.
- Both middle daughters cause serious damage to their family with selfish, poorly thought-out actions. Suellen’s desire for money and social standing led to rash decisions that cause her father’s reckless behavior and his death. Edith writes a letter exposing misdeeds of her eldest sister and the consequences are still piling up.
- Differences: (SPOILER: Suellen hates working the land, Edith seems to enjoy it. Of course, Edith mostly just drove a tractor and Suellen was picking cotton in a field in the heat of the south as she was practically starving.)
Both Suellen O’Hara and Edith Crawley are jealous of their prettier and more vivacious elder sister. Their relationship with their elder sister is full of strife and animosity; with the middle sister usually coming out of the “battles” worse for wear.
Suellen loves and wants to marry Frank Kennedy, but he marries the eldest daughter. Edith loves Patrick Crawley, but he is engaged to the eldest daughter at the time of his death. (S2 spoiler: Or is he dead??? Snort.)
Carreen O’Hara and Sybil Crawley are both prettier than the middle sister, but not as pretty as the eldest daughter.
- The age gap between youngest is greater than the age gap between the two elder sisters.
- These youngest daughters get along with both their sisters, but seem closer to the eldest sister at beginning of story. Oldest sister is kinder to the younger sister, not middle sister, in both cases too.
- Youngest daughter enters service: Carreen enters a convent to serve the church, Sybil serves as a nurse during WWI. (Note: Scarlett serves as a nurse during the U.S. Civil War, but not very happily.)
- Differences: (SPOILER: The man Carreen loves dies while fighting during the war, Sybil isn’t sure yet that she loves Branson and since he can’t go to war, he isn’t going to die on the battle field.)
They even chose actresses with similar appearances! I expect Downton Abbey S2 and S3 will unfold with even more similarities between the families. For example, typhoid hits and kills some of the characters in Gone With the Wind. Surely the Spanish flu epidemic will play a similar roll in Downton Abbey? (S2 spoiler: It did!) High taxes are a threat after the Civil War, and are in Great Britain after the WWI…so surely that too will play a roll in future Downton Abbey episodes.
To be continued as Downton Abbey continues, but in the meantime, your thoughts? (Rip to pieces if you’d like.)