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.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated June 29, 2023.

The story of Gone with the Wind begins at Tara, which is the cotton plantation of the O'Hara family in Georgia, set shortly before the Civil War. Scarlett O'Hara discovers that Ashley is getting married to Melanie, and she deceives Charles Hamilton into marrying her. However, after Charles dies serving in the Confederate Army, Melanie and Pittypat persuade Scarlett to bring her child for an extended visit to Atlanta, where Scarlett gets stuck in the middle of the war.

During the time when Atlanta was being burned by the Union Army and Melanie had just given birth, Scarlett understood that it was not safe to remain there. She persuaded Rhett Butler to take a horse and wagon so that they could go back to Tara. When they got there, Rhett had left, and they discovered that Ellen had died, Suellen and Carreen were unwell, Gerald had lost his sanity, and they had scarce resources, few horses, and a small number of slaves. Furthermore, many of the nearby plantations had been destroyed by fire.

During a trip back to Atlanta to collect the increased taxes demanded on Tara by the victorious side, Scarlett learns that Rhett has been imprisoned. When she visits him, she offers to use herself as collateral to obtain the required tax money, despite her past romantic interest in him. However, Rhett, who now holds a greater admiration for her, refuses to accept her offer since he cannot access his funds due to the political turmoil.

Scarlett deceives Frank Kennedy into marrying her, as he possesses wealth and a business that could generate more profits if she employs her unscrupulous and forceful business tactics. As she has already been ostracized by society for her unladylike actions, she sees no harm in pursuing business opportunities. However, marrying Frank would necessitate her departure from Tara, as she would reside at Pittypat's residence.

Scarlett, who made a vow to never go hungry again, discovers an alternative method of earning income by purchasing and running two sawmills. She then obtains a loan from Rhett, causing Frank to become displeased, but he allows it in hopes that having another child will dissuade her from pursuing further ventures. Although Scarlett gives birth to a baby girl named Ella, she remains discontented with the role of a homemaker and continues to seek other opportunities.

Despite the risks of traveling through Shantytown, an area populated by prostitutes, freed slaves, and criminals, Scarlett persists in conducting her business in Atlanta. However, Archie declines to continue serving as her bodyguard due to her exploitation of ex-convicts who work in the mills. During one of her trips through Shantytown, she is confronted by a group of people. To safeguard her reputation, Ashley and Frank, who are affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, feel compelled to provide protection.

During the conflict, Frank dies, and Ashley is injured, but Rhett's timely warning and clever actions protect the others. Scarlett, who has lost her second husband and has two young children, marries Rhett and becomes friends with Scalawags and Carpetbaggers. With Rhett's financial support and her new companions, she creates a replica of Southern society.

When Melanie passes away, Scarlett discovers that her true love is Rhett, not Ashley. However, she also learns that Rhett no longer loves her because of the death of their daughter, Bonnie, which he blames himself for.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Chapter Summaries