July 31, 2021

The Wind (Errata naturae), by Dorothy Scarborough

Lillian Gish had been deeply impressed with The wind (Errata naturae), written by Dorothy Scarborough (1878-1935), although published, in the first instance, anonymously in 1925. He proposed to Irving Thalberg, at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, that it should be adapted to the cinema. Thalberg gave the star free rein and Gish chose the director, Victor Sjostrom, who had directed it in The scarlet letter (1926), and its leading actor, Lars Hanson, also Swedish. The screenwriter who adapted the novel was Frances Marion, later winner of two Oscars in 1931 and 1932 (screenplay by George W. Hill’s The Big House, and plot by King Vidor’s The Champion). Not many variations were made with respect to the dramatic development of the novel, apart from certain relevant modifications in relation to the character of Wirt Roddy, and the conclusion (which did not satisfy neither the director nor the actress). The result, in 1928, one of the most beautiful works of silent cinema, and why not, of the History of cinema. The novel is just as dazzling.

The wind is matter, presence, but it is also a symbol. He was taken aback by the strangeness of the whole. For no reason, a comment he had once heard from an old man came to his mind: “All symbols crumble in Texas.”. To that desert area of ​​Texas, in which the wild and lawless abandon, and the symbols crumble, travels young Letty. The wind represents fear. The fear of a change. He has had to leave behind the lush lands of Virginia, teeming with life, to face an unknown region, with scarce flora and fauna, due to the difficulty of survival, but also sparsely inhabited by humans (they can separate twelve kilometers between ranch and ranch ). When there was nothing left to turn to, except a past broken by pain and separation, a future that did not know what it promised, and a train trip like everything present, what could be done, apart from dreaming?. It comes from the comfortable security of forecasting in the open for the unforeseen, to the ranch of his cousin Bev, who left Virginia to try to consolidate a life of his own, on the edge of precariousness, depending on the survival of the livestock to be able to feed his wife. and four children It is not the life scenario that Letty had dreamed of, quite the opposite. Letty felt a strange sadness whose origin she did not know, as if she were plunging into space without moving from her seat. Was there life beyond the wagon? Was there time beyond the present moment? What did the world hold for him behind the curtains of the future, in that land unlike anything he had seen so far? Would it still be the same? .

Fear is also of men, and in fact, on the train trip the fear of the wind is inoculated by another traveler, Wirt Roddy, for whom for a long time, while he cannot adapt to his new life, he will not know how to elucidate what he feels. for him, if she yearns for him because she is in love with him or because he represents the possibility of an escape (from the outset, in her imagination, from the monotony of her arid life). He is himself the wind for that indefinite condition (for Letty). Because Letty, mainly, as primary luggage brings her dreams, and it is difficult to get rid of those fantasies, to renounce them, as a protective refuge. For this reason, the wind, because it represents a threat, is also, according to a legend, a black stallion, a mythical horse, invested with a demonic condition, the horse that nobody caught, the wild and anarchic. It even transcends the same singular concretion of Letty’s experience. In the old days, the wind was the enemy of women. Did he hate them because he saw in them the symbol of that civilization that would gradually undermine his own power? Because it was for women that men built houses – just as they once built shelters – enlarged herds and turned the plains into farms, plowing through the land that since the night of time had not known any plow?. We are in the territory of myth. It was a cursed region, outside of time and space, the victim of a spell. In fact, Dorothy Scarborough aroused notorious admiration, after earning her Ph.D., for her dissertation The supernatural in modern English fiction (1917).

Letty faces her ghosts, her fears. In principle, those of disappointment. Life can end otherwise. She fears that her life will end in that bad weather in which she does not see any horizon but an arid routine of fatigue and sacrifices. That is why she evokes the friend who was waiting, because she loved him, for her cousin to return. But it did not. He is afraid of becoming her, someone who must step out of his dreams. Threats of storms, or the storms themselves, are accompanied by conflicts between the characters. Wind, the choleric and elemental, reflects the swing and movement of emotions but not only those of Letty. For Cora, Bev’s wife, her presence is an interference, and even a rival for her husband’s affection for his cousin, so she should be removed from his territory, since she must be the center of stage attention. Letty rambles with her emotions regarding Wirt, but does his absence bother her because she feels something singular for him or simply because she ignores her, and therefore makes her feel irrelevant? Even if your fear casts it on the wind, and on the shocks or upheavals that your own presence causes in the lives of others, in Bev and Cora’s marriage, or in the friendship of their courtiers Lige and Sourdough, should you not resist the pressure? And marry someone she doesn’t love? Or would she do it in part out of spite at Wirt’s inattention?

He had to discard his ideal of love, just as we dispose of the clothes of the dead when they leave us. Dreams that are not going to materialize have to be discarded. The chivalrous figure that the magic wand of time had reserved for him vanished into nothingness before he even had a body or a name. Both his past and his future would be relegated in favor of a meaningless present. His youth was coming to an end before it had even begun …

But he did not protest or cry. Undaunted, she accepted her fate. So the wind had decreed.

The wind, like any story that imagination, or fear, concocts, is an excuse for not looking at each other in the face, while we continue to be determined to hold the wind between your fists: Sometimes we throw something away out of cowardice, out of incorrigible selfishness, or to satisfy our own conscience, because we know we are incapable of dealing with it properly. Dorothy feels that she lives in a remote place, but tries to take refuge in the remoteness of dreams, or fairy tales, until she begins to assume that there are many aspects in which the reality of the novel differss, and face that she obtained an illusory consolation from the inner mirages that she created for herself, pleasant images that she searched in her past, scenes of beauty and happiness in the midst of which she moved. And, on the other hand, that here the only splendor that nature offered carried a threat. A threat that projects outside but that does not stop struggling inside. That is the main battle, the one that must be discarded, in a definitive way, from the lies and evasions to face that it is very complicated hold the wind between your fists.