Is Rhett Butler suggesting he is like Robin Hood when he asks Scarlett why she doesn't steal from the rich instead of the poor?The theme of rich vs. poor seems very strong in the novel.
In Chapter XLIII, Rhett Butler returns after having been gone for some time, and Scarlett is happy to see him. However, she fears that Rhett will learn that she has used the money Rhett has lent her to purchase the mill to help Ashley by hiring him as a manager. When Rhett informs her that he will not lend her any more money, Scarlett peevishly tells him she can do without his money,
"I'm making money out of Johnnie Gallegher's mill, plenty of it, now that I don't use free darkies and I have some money out on mortgages and we are coining cash at the store from the darky trade."
It is at this point that Rhett sarcastically remarks,
..."how clever of you to rook the helpless and the wido and the orphan and the ignorant! But if you must steal, Scarlett, why not steal from the rich and strong instead of the poor and weak? From Robin Hood on down to now, that's been considered highly moral."
To Rhett who has made money from only Carpetbaggers and Scallawags and Yankees--all those who themselves exploit others-- the idea of exploiting the Southern convicts and cheating the poor by purchasing their mortgages is roguish. Rhett's behavior does is commendable because, like Robin Hood, he cheats those who profit from the South. But, Scarlett exploits Southerners themselves,