At first, Melanie serves primarily as an example of everything Scarlett is not. Kind instead of cutting, quiet instead of bold, thoughtful instead of self-centered, naïve instead of wily, Melanie dies as Scarlett once again rises from the ashes. Throughout her life Melanie thinks the best of everyone, and though some consider her outlook foolish it allows her to see a side of Rhett and Belle that most are unable to. It also allows her to have a far more pleasant and affectionate relationship with Scarlett than any other character in the film.
As the film progresses, Melanie’s determined kindness and perpetual calm give strength to the characters in the film. Though Scarlett is the one who always forges ahead, it is Melanie who refuses to leave anyone behind, emotionally supporting Ashley even as she soothes Scarlett’s sisters and brings compassion into Rhett’s life. It is Melanie’s calm, cool wisdom rather than Scarlett’s assertiveness that soothes the characters after the raid on the shantytown, and it is Melanie’s name that Mammy calls in times of crisis. Even Scarlett realizes how much she has come to rely on the unfailing support of the woman whom she viewed as a rival for so long.