From the beginning, GONE WITH THE WIND depicts Papa as generally arrogant. However, he seldom was, unless he was with Scarlett. When it came to courting Scarlett, his arrogance was purposeful. His best advantage was to keep her outraged. Otherwise she’d have been as shrewd as she was with the Tarletons and Charles Hamilton. This strategy won Papa his first kiss from Scarlett.
Prior to that day, Papa had nobly refrained from the language of seduction in her presence. In this manner he showed respect to her as well as her husbands, Charles and Frank. But later, after she was widowed, she sought favors from Papa, such as rides around town in his buggy, and Papa endeavored to get the best of her.
As GONE WITH THE WIND tells it, the needful kiss occurred when Scarlett had been “volunteering” her services at the hospital. Courtesy wasn’t the only reason why Papa, heretofore, had avoided the language of seduction in her presence. He knew Scarlett was the master of that art - - flirtation - - since it was her main occupation at that time in her life. If he gave her the chance, she’d manipulate him to his knees before he knew what happened. She had tried in vain to whisper to Rhett in the privacy of Miss PittyPat’s parlor, and hadn’t relented unless he had insulted or otherwise distracted her from the mood. Papa sought a public place to talk with her, like Five Points in broad summer daylight - - no place for whispering, seducing, or kissing - - safe for raising the subject of romance. Even she was too timid to seduce him in public.
I’ll digress here, for Scarlett’s sake, to describe her passion for Rhett, lest the reader should perceive that her life was bereft of tenderness. In private, Scarlett deeply indulged in kissing. She’d run to him and lay on his arm like a tango dancer and look up, only to be stared down again by him, till her hair swept the floorboards beneath her.
Rhett could subdue anyone with his wit, and Scarlett was more vulnerable to his wit than anyone else, since she never shied of him. She’d blurt out her nags and protests without hesitation, whereas Rhett never spoke without thinking, even in the midst of a panic.
She seemed to believe she was his match, no matter how often he made a fool of her. Other times, however, she was strangely meek towards him, not to say submissive. These occasions were such a pleasant surprise to me that I pondered the change in her. Was she “under the weather?” Clues to Rhett’s secret power domination were probably obvious at the time, but I was too young to recognize adult lust.
What prompted Papa to give Scarlett the needful kiss were Scarlett’s obvious signs of frustration, which he recognized. He offered the remedy, when he said, “You should be kissed, and by someone who knows how.” He implied that kisses from novices wouldn’t help her, which was undeniable. Moreover, Ashley Wilkes was too intimidated by her to attempt a kiss, and Charles Hamilton never had his way with her. They’d have never consummated their marriage if Scarlett hadn’t seen to it.
Only Rhett was her match in wits. Indeed, Rhett wasn’t talking of kissing at all when he told her what she needed. The word was a euphemism for grown-up, uninhibited sex.
Scarlett didn’t deny she needed Rhett, since it was undeniable. “Her eyes fell in sudden confusion” because she wasn’t accustomed to submission. He had subdued her verbally, and won the first bout of a very long contest between them.