Gone with the Wind Additional Summary

Margaret Mitchell


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Gone with the Wind, perhaps the most famous American novel of the twentieth century, tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern woman trying to maintain her identity as her world is torn apart by the United States Civil War. Upon publication, the novel attained instant popularity, and the premiere of the film version in 1939 met with equal enthusiasm.

The story begins when Scarlett, at age sixteen, experiences the first real disappointment of her pampered life. Ashley Wilkes, the man she loves, marries Melanie Hamilton, a soft-spoken and gentle woman whom Scarlett despises. Scarlett irrationally marries Melanie’s brother, but he dies a few months later, leaving Scarlett to discover that widowhood is the most restrictive of all female roles in her Southern society. The upheaval caused by the war, however, gives Scarlett some opportunities for independence. She eventually marries Frank Kennedy and manages a successful lumber business, but is widowed once again. Scarlett then marries an unprecedented third time, to the dashing but socially unrespectable Rhett Butler. Unwilling to admit her sexual attraction for Rhett, Scarlett convinces herself she is marrying him for his money. She continues to pursue Ashley, until she finally realizes, perhaps too late, that she loves Rhett.

Gone with the Wind is a long, sweeping tale and as such encompasses a variety of issues. The views on slavery held by most Southerners at the time...

(The entire section is 427 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Scarlett O’Hara, sixteen years old, is the most popular belle in Clayton County, Georgia, where her family’s plantation, Tara, is located. The daughter of fiery Gerald O’Hara and Ellen Robillard O’Hara, Scarlett has her father’s courage and temper, which her genteel mother and her slave Mammy try to “refine.”

The best families in the county are invited to nearby Twelve Oaks plantation for Ashley Wilkes’s birthday party in April, 1861, where talk concerns whether the South would secede from the Union. Ashley announces his engagement to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton. When Scarlett tells Ashley she loves him, he says that Wilkeses always marry cousins. Scarlett later realizes that Rhett Butler, a scoundrel from Charleston, has been eavesdropping.

Upset by Ashley’s rejection, Scarlett accepts the proposal of Melanie’s brother, Charles. The party dissolves in chaos at the announcement that Union troops had fired on Fort Sumter. Both weddings occur immediately, so that the men can go fight for the Confederacy. Charles becomes ill and dies in the army, leaving Scarlett pregnant with their son, Wade Hampton. Scarlett then goes to stay with Melanie at her Aunt Pittypat’s in Atlanta, where the two young women nurse sick and wounded soldiers, a task Scarlett hates. Rhett, now a blockade runner, frequently visits the women.

As Union soldiers shell Atlanta, Melanie goes into labor, and Scarlett has to deliver the baby. Then she, Melanie, the baby, and their slave Prissy escape the burning city, aided by Rhett, who leaves them to join the Confederate army. Scarlett goes to Tara, where she finds her mother dead, her sisters sick, her father insane (he is later killed in a fall from his horse), most of the slaves gone, and the food and money stolen by Union soldiers. Most of the neighboring plantations have been burned.

Scarlett’s family, with the help of Mammy, Pork, and Dilcey, their former slaves, scrounge for food and farm. When a Yankee soldier comes into the house to pillage, Scarlett kills him. Other Union soldiers try to burn Tara, but Scarlett and Melanie extinguish the fire.

The war ends, and Ashley returns from a Northern prison camp. He helps farm, as does a wounded soldier the O’Haras had nursed back to health. The Yankees had burned their cotton, however, and their work does not yield enough to pay the...

(The entire section is 974 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Twilight of the Old South
Scarlett O' Hara is the antiheroine of Gone with the Wind, a character who breaks the...

(The entire section is 937 words.)