Gone with the Wind Summary
by Margaret Mitchell

Start Your Free Trial

Gone with the Wind Summary

Gone with the Wind is a novel by Margaret Mitchell in which Scarlett O'Hara struggles to maintain her family's plantation, which has fallen into disrepair since Atlanta was burned in the Civil War.

  • Scarlett is crushed when her childhood love marries another woman. Scarlett marries Charles Hamilton, who dies in the Civil War.

  • After the Civil War, Scarlett struggles to support herself. She marries three more times in search of financial stability.
  • Scarlett has a daughter with her fourth husband, Rhett Butler. After their daughter dies, Rhett falls out of love with Scarlett. Scarlett realizes too late that she truly loved Rhett.

Summary

Summary of the Novel
Gone with the Wind begins at Tara, the O’Hara family cotton plantation in Georgia, just prior to the Civil War. Hearing the news of Ashley’s engagement to Melanie, Scarlett O’Hara tricks Charles Hamilton into marrying her. After Charles’ death in the Confederate Army, Melanie (who returns to Atlanta after their marriage and Ashley’s enlistment) and Pittypat convince Scarlett to bring her baby for an extended stay. There, she becomes trapped by the war. On the night of Atlanta’s burning by the Union Army, with Melanie having just given birth, Scarlett realizes it is too dangerous to stay. She convinces Rhett Butler to steal a horse and wagon so they may return to Tara. They arrive, without Rhett, to find Ellen dead, Suellen and Carreen ill, Gerald out of his mind, no supplies or horses, very few slaves, and many of the neighboring plantations burned to the ground. On a return trip to Atlanta to raise the higher taxes newly demanded on Tara by the victors, Scarlett discovers Rhett is in jail. She sees him there and offers herself as collateral for the tax money. Although previously interested, his admiration for her now will not allow this, nor can he reach his money because of the political situation. Scarlett then lies to Frank Kennedy so that he will marry her. He has money and a store which promises more if Scarlett’s heartless and aggressive business methods are used. Having already been cast from society for her "unwidowlike" behavior, she has no reason not to pursue business. Marrying Frank means another separation from Tara since she will live at Pittypat’s house. Having promised herself she would never be hungry again, Scarlett finds another way of making money by buying and managing two saw mills. Afterwards, she borrows money from Rhett. Frank is not happy, but indulges her, thinking another baby will end such behavior. Ella is born but Scarlett does not convert to contentment with home and family. In Atlanta, Scarlett continues to do business, despite the dangers of Shantytown, an area through which she must travel inhabited by prostitutes, freed slaves, and lawbreakers. Archie refuses to continue as Scarlett’s bodyguard since she exploits ex-convicts who work in the mills. She is then accosted as she passes through Shantytown. Both Ashley and Frank are members of the Ku Klux Klan and feel they must protect her honor. In the fight, Frank is killed and Ashley wounded. Only Rhett’s warning and quick thinking save the rest. Widowed for the second time with two small children, Scarlett marries Rhett and befriends Scalawags and Carpetbaggers. She builds an imitation of southern society around her with Rhett’s money and these newly acquired friends. Upon Melanie’s death, Scarlett realizes she does not love Ashley but rather Rhett, only to learn that since the death of their daughter, Bonnie (for which Rhett blames himself), he has ceased to love her.

Download Gone with the Wind Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The Life and Work of Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell wrote only one book, Gone with the Wind, and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937, as well as the National Book Award. Written in 1936, Gone with the Wind set a sales record of 50,000 copies in one day and 1.5 million copies in its first year of publication, making it one of the most successful bestsellers ever written. It has been...

(The entire section is 2,330 words.)