These Names are Not Gone With the Wind
Some authors have a genuine knack for character naming, usually spread over their entire oeuvre. In the case of Margaret Mitchell, it was all focused on her only novel–Gone With the Wind–whose character names still resonate today. The 1933 book (almost titled Tomorrow is Another Day) was an unprecedented smash, selling 30 million copies and winning a Pulitzer Prize, as was the movie, released in 1939 and receiving a then-record ten Oscars. Its frequent revivals and TV screenings have kept it alive for later generations. So how have its characters’ names fared for babies over the years?
SCARLETT O’Hara. For four years following the debut of the film, Scarlett sneaked onto the bottom edge of the Social Security list. It took a glamorous young, modern movie star–Ms. Johansson–to propel it to the upper echelons. A stylish color name, it’s now in the Top 300 and sure to move higher.
RHETT Butler. So closely connected to the Clark Gable persona, it took Rhett a long time to make it into the mainstream, which it finally started to do in the fifties, along with similar names like Brett and Brent, all of which have pretty much faded.
ASHLEY Wilkes. At the time of the book’s writing, Ashley was very much a Southern gentleman’s name. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s that it really crossed the genderline, when it started to appear as female characters on soap operas like The Young and the Restless. Margaret Mitchell would have been shocked to see it beome the #1 girls’ name in America in 1991.
MELANIE Hamilton Wilkes. The name of this sweet and noble character inspired a generation of Melanies. It jumped onto the list in 1938, no doubt because of the novel’s colossal success, and remains viable today.
INDIA Wilkes. The name of Ashley‘s sister is one of the most distinctive in the book and movie. Heard to some extent during the Civil War period of the story, it dropped off the charts, coming back with the resurgence of place names in the 1980s and is still an exotically appealing choice.
BEAU Wilkes. The name of Ashley and Melanie‘s young son was another strictly Southern name, hardly heard in the rest of the country despite its handsome image. It’s been picking up some steam in the last few years, chosen by several celeb parents.
BELLE Watling. Another name with an attractive meaning, it was for a long time associated with slightly wanton women like this one and Mae West-type seductresses, but now with the growing popularity of Bella, it has been making a comeback, especially as a middle name.
BONNIE BLUE Butler. Although this wasn’t her given name, everyone thought of it as that of Scarlett and Rhett‘s little daughter, and Bonnie–yet another GWTW name that means pretty–had a long run on the pop charts, reaching #32 in 1942, and still hanging on in the Top 1000.
CARREEN (born Caroline Irene) and SUELLEN (Susan Elinor) O’Hara, Scarlett‘s sisters; Suellen began to be used the year after the film’s release, and came back split in two–as Sue Ellen on the popular nighttime soap, Dallas. Carreen, with all its double letters, never caught fire.
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on April 27th, 2009 at 8:50 am
Ooh, I forgot about Eulalie in GWTW! That might be where I picked it up! India’s a firm favorite, despite the impreious colonial overtones.
My mother once mentioned that once she honed in on Laura as a name for me, Pop suggested Lorena, which Mom thought was “terribly southern for a yankee girl”. 🙂 Still makes me smile. I actually an friends with a Susan Ellen (Sue-Ellen) but she got the Ellen becuase her Mom’s a Helen, not because of GWTW.
Beau charms me, he feels quite dashing and is really handsome. Art Garfunkel’s boy is a Beau. Cute kid!
on April 27th, 2009 at 12:04 pm
Carreen’s full name was Caroline Irene, and Suellen was Susan Elinor. Thought readers might be interested, since you included Bonnie’s full name.
on April 27th, 2009 at 1:00 pm
on April 27th, 2009 at 9:55 pm
Great topic! Love a lot of those names. My fave is India.
on April 27th, 2009 at 10:26 pm
As you can see from my Username I love GWTW!
Some other names from the novel are Honey (Ashley’s other sister who doesn’t appear in the movie- Honey is actually a pet name but she is known as this), Prissy (Scarlett’s maid), Maybelle (Maybelle Merewether, a minor character in Atlanta) and Gerald (Scarlett’s father’s name). Scarlett’s full name is Katie Scarlett ( named after her grandmother) which I think is pretty. Diehard GWTW fans could also consider using the names Mimosa or Marietta(place names that occur in the novel). Love this topic. Happy name hunting everyone!
on April 27th, 2009 at 11:34 pm
I love the name Scarlett so much I named my first child Scarlett Eliora. We’re expecting a boy any day now (due april 27th) and his name is going to be Finn. If we ever have another daughter I’m naming her India, it’s absolutely beautiful.
on April 28th, 2009 at 1:20 pm
It’s amazing how a lot of people get names from books. And these names are great!
Scarlett is such a gorgeous name, and I love Rhett, too.
But, I actually got most of my favorite names from books.
Remy – from “This Lullaby” by Sarah Dessen
Annabel – Sarah Dessen book
Macy – Sarah Dessen book
Holden – Catcher in the Rye
Lennie – Of Mice and Men (but I prefer it spelled Leni and for a girl)
on April 30th, 2009 at 4:38 pm
I will always prefer Ashley for a boy. Thankfully, here in the UK, it is still mainly a boy’s name although is also used for girls.
on May 3rd, 2009 at 10:06 pm
It’s fascinating to see how many of these were popularised by the book and film. I still don’t think many people realise that Bonnie, India etcetera were used before both. I think Prissy makes a perfect cat’s name.
S. Johnson Said
on May 18th, 2009 at 12:14 pm
I’ve been searching on the search engines for sites like these. So glad I found it because it’s really informative. Do you have an rss feed so I don’t have to keep logging in?
on June 23rd, 2009 at 1:42 pm
Anglea–please contact us at email@example.com
on April 3rd, 2011 at 10:05 pm
My name is Tara after Gone With The Wind. My mom’s name is Scarlett and my grandma’s name is Bonnie. I love that my name is from Gone With The Wind and want to name my children after it to, I guess to keep the tradition going.
on November 20th, 2012 at 11:13 pm
I think Bonnie’s full name is actually Eugenie Victoria instead of Eugenia, but it doesn’t make much difference. They are both beautiful, and I think Eugenia Victoria sounds better than Eugenie Victoria.
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