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Gone With the Wind  
File:Gone with the Wind cover.jpg
1936 original cover of Gone with the Wind
Author Margaret Mitchell
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Historical fiction, Romance, Drama, Novel
Publisher Macmillan Publishers
Publication date May 1936
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 1037 (first edition)
1024 (Warner Books paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-446-36538-6 (Warner)
OCLC Number 28491920
Followed by Scarlett

Gone with the Wind, first published in May 1936, is a romantic novel written by Margaret Mitchell. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia and Atlanta, Georgia during the American Civil War and Reconstruction[1] and depicts the experiences of Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner. The novel is the source of the extremely popular 1939 film of the same name.


The title is taken from the first line of the third stanza of the poem Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae[2] by Ernest Dowson: "I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind". The novel's protagonist, Scarlett O'Hara, also uses the title phrase in a line in the book: when her home area is overtaken by the Yankees, she wonders to herself if her home, a plantation called Tara, is still standing, or if it was "also gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia". More generally, the title has been interpreted as referring to the entire way of life of the antebellum South as having "Gone with the Wind". The prologue of the movie refers to the old way of life in the South as "gone with the wind…."

The title for the novel was a problem for Mitchell. She initially titled the book "Pansy", the original name for the character of Scarlett O'Hara. Although never seriously considered, the title "Pansy" was dropped once MacMillan persuaded Mitchell to rename the main character. Other proposed titles included "Tote the Weary Load" and "Tomorrow is Another Day", the latter taken from the last line in the book; however, the publisher noted that there were several books close to the same title at the time, so Mitchell was asked to find another title, and "Gone with the Wind" was chosen.



Scarlett O'Hara is the daughter of an Irish immigrant who has risen from humble origins to become materially and socially successful in the deep south of 1861. He owns a plantation named Tara in Georgia. Scarlett is infatuated with Ashley Wilkes, who, although attracted to her(at least she thinks so), marries his cousin, Melanie Hamilton. Wilkes is genuinely ambiguous about his feelings toward Scarlett. He knows his feelings run deep, and are both emotional and sexual in nature; but he never resolves whether to act upon his feelings, or to renounce them and definitively reject Scarlett’s flirtations, in favor of his wife and his social position. And though he never sins in the flesh, the novel clearly implies that he does so in his heart, leading Scarlett along; limited only by his weakness in making a decision as to what ultimately, he should do.

At the party announcing Ashley's engagement to Melanie, Scarlett meets Rhett Butler, who has a reputation as a rogue. As the Civil War begins, Scarlett accepts( in fact entices Charles into it, partly to be near Ashley and partly to take revenge from his sisters who were gossiping about her loose manners) a proposal of marriage from Melanie's brother, Charles Hamilton, who soon dies of disease in training. Scarlett's main concern regarding his death is not grief but that she is required to wear black which she hates, and above all cannot attend parties. After the war, Scarlett inherits Tara and manages to keep the place going. When Scarlett cannot get money from Rhett to pay the taxes on Tara, she marries her sister's fiancé, Frank Kennedy, takes control of his business, and increases its profitability with business practices that make many Atlantians resent her. Frank is killed when he and other Ku Klux Klan members raid a shanty town where Scarlet was assaulted while driving alone. Remorseful after Frank's death, Scarlett marries Rhett, who is aware of her passion for Ashley(witnessed at Ashley and Melanie's engagement) but hopes that one day she will come to love him instead. Scarlett eventually comes to realize that she does love Rhett, but only once the couple has been through so much that Rhett has fallen out of love with her.

Part one[]

Scarlett O'Hara is the belle of the County. Her flirtatiousness and charm won the hearts of many men in Clayton County, Georgia. At sixteen years old, however, she begins the trials that will completely overtake her life for the next twelve years. She does this by having an impromptu marriage with the bashful Charles Hamilton to save face and make her real love—Ashley Wilkes—jealous. However, soon after their wedding, Charles and all the other men in Georgia who are able to bear arms, go to war against the Yankees at the start of the Civil War. After six weeks of being in camp, Charles dies of measles. With Charles's death, Scarlett's main concern is that, in order to conform to society, she must dress in black mourning clothes and attend no parties.

Parts two and three[]

Scarlett moves to Atlanta to stay with her sister-in-law and Ashley’s wife, Melanie Wilkes and Melanie's Aunt Pittypat. Melanie grows to love Scarlett like a sister; however, Scarlett is very self-centered and resents Melanie. Scarlett meets Rhett Butler again while in Atlanta; he is attentive to her and she uses him (and his money) when it is convenient. Rhett has a bad reputation and is "not received" in polite society. Ashley is able to come home for Christmas from the war and stay with the ladies. At the end of his stay, Scarlett promises him that she will keep Melanie safe. With the help of Rhett and her personal slave, Prissy, Scarlett delivers Melanie's child Beau in the middle of a battle and leads Melanie, the baby and Prissy to safety back at Tara. The Civil War is ending and the northern army is marching through Georgia laying waste to the country. Upon her arrival, Scarlett hears the news of the death of her beloved mother, Ellen, of typhoid. Scarlett stays at Tara Plantation and tries to keep it solvent and care for its inhabitants.

Part four[]

Scarlett hears that Tara is about to be charged an enormous amount of tax by the new corrupt local government which she cannot pay. She decides to go to Atlanta and charm Rhett into paying the bill. After offering herself to Rhett who is in jail, as his mistress and being refused,since he can not disclose his fortunes for fear of being dispossessed. However, Scarlett marries Frank Kennedy, who has enough money to pay the tax on Tara. Frank is the fiancé of Scarlett's sister Suellen so she deceives him into thinking that Suellen is engaged to someone else in Clayton County.

With money borrowed from and then repaid to Rhett, Scarlett buys two timber mills and proceeds to make them very profitable. Her actions are considered very inappropriate for a woman by Atlanta society. As she travels home from one of her mills, one night, she is attacked by blacks near a shanty. Frank, Ashley, and many other men in the newly formed Ku Klux Klan avenge her attack. In the fight, Frank is killed.

A few months later Scarlett marries Rhett, who has become very rich by dubious means during the War.

Part five[]

Scarlett and Rhett start to enjoy their new life together. They have a child named Eugenia Victoria "Bonnie Blue" Butler, who becomes Rhett’s pride and joy. They live happily until Scarlett’s old infatuation with Ashley takes over. When Bonnie is killed in a riding accident Scarlett in the first flush of grief tells Rhett that she blames him. Rhett is heartbroken over the death of his beloved daughter. He drinks heavily and finally decides, after the death of Melanie Wilkes, to leave Scarlett forever. However, Scarlett realizes that she loves Rhett and never truly loved Ashley, but merely an idea of him. She confesses this to Rhett, but he is adamant. The book ends on an ambiguous note, as she decided to return to the familiarity of her beloved Tara, where she will find a way to win Rhett back: "Tomorrow is another day!".


Butler family[]

  • Rhett Butler – Scarlett's love interest and third husband, often publicly shunned for scandalous behavior, sometimes accepted for his charm. He is financially a very shrewd man and initially appears to love Scarlett dearly.
  • Eugenia Victoria "Bonnie Blue" Butler – Scarlett and Rhett's pretty, beloved daughter,

miscarried baby after Scarlett's fall, and later Katie Colum "Cat" O'Hara in Scarlett.

Wilkes family[]

  • Ashley Wilkes – The gallant Ashley married his unglamourous cousin, Melanie, because she represented all that he loved and wanted in life, that is, the quiet and happy life of a Southern gentleman of the "Twelve Oaks" plantation. Ashley Wilkes marries Melanie Hamilton as an arranged marriage between the Wilkes-Hamilton families; in which the marriage of cousins (which Ashley and Melanie are) is the practice; when necessary to preserve the blood line and social position of the family. As such, Wilkes is not, in the strictest sense, brought to marriage by love, money, or sexual infatuation; but by a sense of duty to preserve the socio-economic status quo of a world which he personally enjoys and agrees with; and believes this marriage will support and sustain.

Wilkes becomes a soldier for the Confederate cause though he personally would have freed the slaves his father owned had the war not erupted, or at least that is what he claimed. Although many of his friends and relations were killed in the Civil War, Ashley survived to see its brutal aftermath. He remains the object of Scarlett's daydream of infatuated devotion, even throughout her three marriages. She is simply obsessed with unobtainable Ashley. Believing that she was in love with him, Scarlett imagined Ashley to be the "perfect man", leaving her unable to love another.

  • Melanie Hamilton Wilkes – Ashley's wife and cousin, her character is that of the genuinely humble, serene and gracious Southern woman. As the story unfolds, Melanie becomes progressively physically weaker, first by childbirth, then the effects of war, and ultimately illness. She had her own unique inner spirit of perseverance, as did Scarlett. Melanie loved Ashley, Beau, and Scarlett unwaveringly, and dutifully supported the Confederate cause, revealing the naivete of her character.
  • Beau Wilkes – Melanie's and Ashley's lovable son.
  • India Wilkes – Ashley's sister. Almost engaged to Stuart Tarleton, she bitterly hates Scarlett for stealing his attention before he is killed at Gettysburg. Lives with Aunt Pittypat after Melanie kicks her out for accusing Scarlett and Ashley of infidelity.
  • Honey Wilkes – another sister of India and Ashley. Originally hoped to marry Charles Hamilton until Scarlett marries him; following the war, she marries a man from Mississippi, and moves to his home state with him.
  • John Wilkes – Owner of Twelve Oaks Plantation and patriarch of the Wilkes family. Killed during the Civil War.

O'Hara family[]

  • Scarlett O'Hara – The wilful protagonist of the novel, whose travails the novel follows throughout war and reconstruction. She marries Charles Hamilton, Frank Kennedy and Rhett Butler, all the time wishing she was married to Ashley Wilkes instead. She has three children, one from each husband: Wade Hampton Hamilton (son to Charles Hamilton), Ella Lorena Kennedy (daughter to Frank Kennedy) and Eugenia Victoria "Bonnie Blue" Butler (deceased daughter to Rhett Butler), miscarried baby after Scarlett's fall, and later Katie Colum "Cat" O'Hara in Scarlett.
  • Gerald O'Hara – Scarlett's impetuous Irish father.
  • Suellen O'Hara – Scarlett's selfish sister.
  • Carreen O'Hara – Scarlett's timid, religious sister who, in the end of the story, joins a convent.
  • Ellen O'Hara – Scarlett's gracious mother, of French ancestry.

Other characters[]

  • Mammy – Scarlett's nurse from birth; a slave. Cited by Rhett as "the real head of the household." She has a no-nonsense attitude and is outspoken and opinionated. She chastises Scarlett often. She is extremely loyal to the O'Haras, especially Scarlett, whom she cares for like a daughter.
  • Prissy – A young slave girl who features in Scarlett's life. She is portrayed as flighty and silly.
  • Pork – The O'Hara family's butler, favored by Gerald.
  • Dilcey – Pork's wife, a strong, outspoken slave woman of mixed Indian and Black decent, Prissy's mother.
  • Charles Hamilton – Melanie's brother, Scarlett's first husband, shy and loving.
  • Frank Kennedy – Suellen's former beau, Scarlett's second husband, an older man who only wants peace and quiet. He originally asks for Suellen's hand in marriage, but Scarlett steals him to save Tara. He is portrayed as a pushover who will do anything to appease Scarlett.
  • Belle Watling – a brothel madam and prostitute; Rhett is her friend. She is portrayed as a kind-hearted country woman and a loyal confederate. At one point she states she has nursing experience.
  • Archie – an ex-convict and former Confederate soldier who is taken in by Melanie. Has a strong disliking for all women, especially Scarlett. The only woman he respects is Melanie.
  • Jonas Wilkerson – former overseer of Tara, father of Emmie Slattery's illegitimate baby. After being dismissed because of the aforementioned he eventually becomes employed by the Freedmen's Bureau, where he abuses his position to get back at the O'Haras and becomes rich.
  • Emmie Slattery – later wife of Jonas Wilkerson, whom Scarlett blames for her mother's death.
  • Will Benteen – Confederate soldier who seeks refuge at Tara and stays on to help with the plantation, in love with Carreen but marries Suellen to stay on Tara, and repair her reputation. He is portrayed as very perceptive and lost half of his leg in the war.
  • Aunt Pittypat Hamilton – Charles and Melanie's vaporish aunt who lives in Atlanta.
  • Uncle Peter – Aunt Pittypat's houseman and driver, he is extremely loyal to Pittypat.


  • Tara Plantation – The O'Hara home and plantation
  • Twelve Oaks – The Wilkes' plantation.
  • Peachtree Street – location of Aunt Pittypat's home in Atlanta

The novel opens in April 1861 and ends in the early autumn of 1873.


The book includes a vivid description of the fall of Atlanta in 1864 and the devastation of war (some of that aspect was missing from the 1939 film). The novel showed considerable historical research. According to her biography, Mitchell herself was ten years old before she learned that the South had lost the war. Mitchell's sweeping narrative of war and loss helped the book win the Pulitzer Prize on May 3, 1937.

An episode in the book dealt with the early Ku Klux Klan. In the immediate aftermath of the War, Scarlett is assaulted by poor Southerners living in shanties, whereupon her former black slave Big Sam saves her life. In response, Scarlett's male friends attempt to make a retaliatory nighttime raid on the encampment. Northern soldiers try to stop the attacks, and Rhett helps Ashley, who is shot, to get help through his prostitute friend Belle. Scarlett's husband Frank is killed. This raid is presented sympathetically as being necessary and justified, while the law-enforcement officers trying to catch the perpetrators are depicted as oppressive Northern occupiers.

Although the Klan is not mentioned in that scene (though Rhett tells Archie to burn the "robes"), the book notes that Scarlett finds the Klan abominable. She believed the men should all just stay at home (she wanted both to be petted for her ordeal and to give the hated Yankees no more reason to tighten martial law, which is bad for her businesses). Rhett is also mentioned to be no great lover of the Klan. At one point, he said that if it were necessary, he would join in an effort to join "society". The novel never explicitly states whether this drastic step was necessary in his view. The local chapter later breaks up under the pressure from Rhett and Ashley.

Scarlett expresses views that were common of the era. Some examples:

  • "How stupid negroes were! They never thought of anything unless they were told." — Scarlett thinks to herself, after returning to Tara after the fall of Atlanta.
  • "How dared they laugh, the black apes!...She'd like to have them all whipped until the blood ran down...What devils the Yankees were to set them free!" — Scarlett again thinking to herself, seeing free blacks after the war.
  • However, she is kind to Pork, her father's trusted manservant. He tells Scarlett that if she were as nice to white people as she is to black, a lot more people would like her.
  • She almost loses her temper when the Yankee women say they would never have a black nurse in their house and talk about Uncle Peter, Aunt Pittypat's beloved and loyal servant, as if he were a mule. Scarlett informs them that Uncle Peter is a member of the family, which bewilders the Yankee women and leads them to misinterpret the situation.
  • It was mentioned that only one slave was ever whipped at Tara, and that was a stablehand who didn't brush Gerald's horse. The only time Scarlett hit a slave was when Prissy was hysterical.
  • Scarlett at one point criticized Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, saying no one treated their slaves that badly.


As several elements of Gone with the Wind have parallels with Margaret Mitchell's own life, her experiences may have provided some inspiration for the story in context. Mitchell's understanding of life and hardship during the American Civil War, for example, came from elderly relatives and neighbors passing war stories to her generation.[3]

While Margaret Mitchell used to say that her Gone with the Wind characters were not based on real people, modern researchers have found similarities to some of the people in Mitchell's own life as well as to individuals she knew or she heard of.[4] Mitchell's maternal grandmother, Annie Fitzgerald Stephens, was born in 1845; she was the daughter of an Irish immigrant, who owned a large plantation on Tara Road in Clayton County, south of Atlanta, and who married an American woman named Ellen, and had several children, all daughters.

Many researchers believe that the physical brutality and low regard for women exhibited by Rhett Butler was based on Mitchell's first husband, Red Upshaw. She divorced him after she learned he was a bootlegger amid rumors of abuse and infidelity. Some believe he was patterned on the life of George Trenholm.[5][6][7]

After a stay at the plantation called The Woodlands, and later Barnsley Gardens, Mitchell may have gotten the inspiration for the dashing scoundrel from Sir Godfrey Barnsley of Adairsville, Georgia.

Belle Watling was based on Lexington, Kentucky, madam Belle Brezing.

Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, the mother of US president Theodore Roosevelt may have been an inspiration for Scarlett O'Hara. Roosevelt biographer David McCullough discovered that Mitchell, as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal, conducted an interview with one of Martha's closest friends and bridesmaid, Evelyn King Baker, then 87. In that interview, she described Martha's physical appearance, beauty, grace, and intelligence in detail. The similarities between Martha and the Scarlett character are striking.


The sales of Margaret Mitchell's novel in the summer of 1936, at the virtually unprecedented price of three dollars, reached about one million by the end of December.[8] Favorable critics found in the novel and its success an implicit rejection of what one reviewer dismissed as "all the thousands of technical tricks our novelists have been playing with for the past twenty years," [9] while from the ramparts of the critical establishment almost universally male reviewers lamented the book's literary mediocrity and labeled it mere "entertainment."[citation needed]


Over the past years, the novel Gone with the Wind has also been analyzed for its symbolism and treatment of archetypes.[10][11] For example, Scarlett has been characterized as a heroic figure struggling and attempting to twist life to suit her own personal wishes in society.[10] The land is considered a source of strength, as in the plantation Tara, whose name is almost certainly drawn from the Hill of Tara in Ireland, a mysterious and poorly-understood archeological site that has traditionally been connected to the temporal and/or spiritual authority of the ancient Irish kings. It also represents the permanence of the land in a rapid changing world.[11] Scarlett’s beautiful, perky hats take part of the symbolism as well. They show her feminine side and how she wants nothing more than to be the most attractive woman and the center of attention.[11]


Although Mitchell refused to write a sequel to Gone With The Wind, Mitchell's estate authorised Alexandra Ripley to write the novel Scarlett in 1991.

Author Pat Conroy was approached to write a follow-up, but the project was ultimately abandoned.[12]

In 2000, the copyright holders attempted to suppress publication of Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone, a book that retold the story from the point of view of the slaves. A federal appeals court denied the plaintiffs an injunction against publication in Suntrust v. Houghton Mifflin (2001), on the basis that the book was parody protected by the First Amendment. The parties subsequently settled out of court to allow the book to be published. After its release, the book became a New York Times bestseller.

In 2002, the copyright holders blocked distribution of an unauthorised sequel published in the U.S, The Winds of Tara by Katherine Pinotti, alleging copyright infringement. The story follows Scarlett as she returns to Tara where a family issue threatens Tara and the family's reputation. In it Scarlett shows just how far she will go to protect her family and her home. The book was immediately removed from bookstores by publisher Xlibris. The book sold in excess of 2,000 copies within 2 weeks before being removed. More recently, in 2008, Australian publisher Fontaine Press re-published "The Winds of Tara" exclusively for their domestic market, avoiding U.S. copyright restrictions.[13]

A second sequel was released in November 2007. The story covers the same time period as Gone with the Wind and is told from Rhett Butler’s perspective – although it begins years before and ends after. Written by Donald McCaig, this novel is titled Rhett Butler's People (2007).[14]


Gone With The Wind has been adapted several times for stage and screen, most famously in the 1939 film starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.

On stage it has been adapted as a musical Scarlett (premiering in 1972). The musical opened in the West End followed by a pre-Broadway tryout in 1973 (with Lesley Ann Warren as Scarlett). The book was again adapted as a musical called Gone With The Wind which premiered at the New London Theatre in 2008 in a production directed by Trevor Nunn.[15]

The Japanese Takarazuka Revue has also adapted the novel into a musical with the same name. The first performance was in 1977, performed by the Moon Troupe. It has been performed several times since by the group, the most recent being in 2004 (performed by the Cosmos Troupe).

There has also been a French musical Autant en Emporte le Vent, based on the book.


The novel won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning 1939 film of the same name. The book was also adapted during the 1970s into a stage musical Scarlett; there is also a 2008 new musical stage adaptation in London's West End titled Gone With The Wind. It is the only novel by Mitchell published during her lifetime. It took her seven years to write the book and a further eight months to check the thousands of historical and social references. The novel is one of the most popular books of all time, selling more than 30 million copies. Over the years, the novel has also been analyzed for its symbolism and treatment of archetypes.[10][11]

Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[16]

See also[]

  • List of best-selling books
  • Lost Laysen, a 1916 novella written by Mitchell and the only other known literary work of hers to ever be published
  • Rhett Butler's People, an authorized sequel to Gone with the Wind
  • Scarlett, an authorized sequel to Gone with the Wind
  • Southern literature
  • Southern Renaissance


  1. See linked terms for more explanation and source references.
  2. RPO - Ernest Dowson: Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae
  3. Arehart-Treichel, J: "Novel That Brought Fame, Riches Had a Surprising Birth", Psychiatric News, 40(4):20
  4. Gone With The Wind - Finding the Real Margaret Mitchell
  5. Treasures of The Confederate Coast: the "Real Rhett Butler" & Other Revelations, by Dr. E. Lee Spence, (Narwhal Press, Charleston/Miami, 1995), ISBN 1886391017
  6. Rosen, Robert N. Confederate Charleston: An illustrated history of the city and the people during the Civil War. University of South Carolina Press, 1994. p. 151.
  7. Strauch, Ileana Ashley Hall, SC. Arcadia Publishing, 2003. p. 10.
  8. Claudia Roth Pierpont, "A Study in Scarlett," New Yorker (August 31, 1992), p. 87.
  9. Pierpont, "A Study in Scarlett," p. 88.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 O. Levitski and O. Dumer, "Bestsellers: Color Symbolism and Mythology in Margaret Mitchell’s Novel Gone with the Wind" (of "Bonnie Blue"), Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture, September 2006, webpage: APC-Mitchell.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "SparkNotes: Gone with the Wind: Themes, Motifs & Symbols" (book notes), Spark Notes, 2006, webpage: SparkN-GWTW.
  12. Jonathan D. Austin (February 4, 2000). "Pat Conroy: 'I was raised by Scarlett O'Hara'". CNN. 
  13. Kate Deller-Evans (July 18, 2008). "Book Review - The Winds of Tara, Katherine Pinotti". Fairfax. 
  14. Rich, Motoko (16 May 2007). "Rhett, Scarlett and Friends Prepare for Yet Another Encore". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  15. "Gone with the Wind show to close". BBC News. 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 

External links[]

Template:Start box Template:S-ach |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Honey in the Horn
by Harold L. Davis
|width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Pulitzer Prize for the Novel
1937 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
The Late George Apley
by John Phillips Marquand
|- |}

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