Margaret Mitchell`s novel Gone with the Wind is one of the most famous novels in American history. Published in 1936, this Pulitzer Prize winning novel was adapted as film in 1939 receiving ten Oscars and the love story between Scarlett O`Hara and Rhett Butler became a classic.
Gone with the Wind is a historical romance that takes place in Tara, a northern Georgia plantation, during the Civil War and Reconstruction years. Basically, the novel follows the life of spoiled Scarlett O`Hara and her love story with Rhett Butler.
High-tempered and strong-willed Scarlett, the eldest of three O`Hara daughters, lives an idyllic life at Tara. She loves Ashley Wilkes, but he rejects her. Their conversation is overheard by Rhett, a wealthy man with a reputation of a rogue. He congratulates her for her unladylike behavior making Scarlett furious and humiliated.
The war begins and most men are sent to fight. In order to get revenged on Ashley, 17, Scarlett marries Charles Hamilton who dies two months later leaving Scarlett a pregnant widow. She has to wear black and cannot speak to young men, restrictions that make her fall into depression.
Scarlett moves in Atlanta, with Melanie, Ashley`s wife, and starts working at an hospital. There she encounters Rhett at a dance for the Confederacy. Ashley comes home for Christmas to be with Melanie, but returns to the army. In September the next year, Atlanta is under siege and Melanie is giving birth to her boy assisted only by Scarlett, as there is no doctor to help her. In the chaos of Atlanta in flames, Scarlett sends Prissy, the young Negro servant girl, to find Rhett. Rhett accepts helping them reaching Tara, so they go on a stolen horse and small wagon while the army was retreating from Atlanta.
Rhett abandons them on the road so that he can join army. At Tara, Scarlett has to face drastic changes – her mother is dead, her father lost his mind, her sisters are sick, the slaves are gone, all the cotton is burned by the Yankees and there is no food left. She begins a long struggle for survival and rehabilitation of Tara. Facing lack of money for taxes on Tara, she decides asking Rhett`s help, but he is in jail. Scarlett seduces Frank Kennedy, her sister`s fiancée, marries him and gets the money for taxes. While Frank is away, she takes care of his business in an unladylike manner.
Still in love with Ashley, Scarlett offers him a job, so he and Melanie move to Atlanta again. Meanwhile, Scarlett gives birth to a girl and her husband dies. Rhett asks her to marry him, but she refuses at first. They get married and have a daughter, Bonnie, but their relationship starts to fall apart when Scarlett says she does not want any more children. In addition, she is still in love with Ashley and thinks he loves her too. Rhett hears rumors about a possible adultery of his wife and becomes jealous.
Rhett spends a lot of time with Bonnie, but the girl dies, he returns to drinking and leaves Scarlett. Even if love has eluded her, Scarlett comfort herself by thinking “tomorrow is another day”.
Themes and style
The main themes of Gone with the Wind are survival, love, war and slavery. There are vivid descriptions that render the transformation of Southern culture. Other themes present in the novel are willpower, the importance of land, femininity, passion and alcohol abuse.