Gone With The Wind
The story opens on a large cotton plantation named Tara in rural Georgia in 1861, on the eve of the American Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara is the eldest of three daughters of Irish immigrant Gerald O’Hara and his wife, Ellen. She is seemingly sought after by every young man in the county, except the refined Ashley Wilkes, for whom Scarlett longs. She is upset to hear of Ashley’s imminent engagement to his cousin Melanie Hamilton, to be announced the next day at a barbecue at his family’s home, the nearby plantation Twelve Oaks.
At Twelve Oaks, she notices she is being admired by a handsome but roguish visitor, Rhett Butler, who had been disowned by his Charleston family. Rhett finds himself in further disfavor among the male guests when, during a discussion of the probability of war, he states that the South has no chance against the superior numbers and industrial might of the North.
When Scarlett is alone with Ashley, she confesses her love for him. He admits he finds Scarlett attractive, but says that he and the gentle Melanie are more compatible. She accuses Ashley of misleading her and slaps him in anger, which is heightened when she realizes that Rhett has overheard the whole conversation. “Sir, you are no gentleman!” she protests, to which he replies, “And you, miss, are no lady!”
The barbecue is disrupted by the announcement that war has broken out, and the men rush to enlist. As Scarlett watches Ashley kiss Melanie goodbye, Melanie’s shy young brother Charles Hamilton, with whom Scarlett had been innocently flirting, asks for her hand in marriage before he goes. She consents, they are married, and she is just as quickly widowed when Charles dies not in battle, but of pneumonia.
Scarlett’s mother sends her to the Hamilton home in Atlanta to cheer her up, although the O’Hara’s outspoken housemaid Mammy tells Scarlett she knows she is going there “like a spider”, to wait for Ashley’s return. Scarlett and Melanie attend a charity ball in Atlanta, where Rhett makes a surprise appearance. He has become an heroic blockade runner for the Confederacy. Scarlett shocks Atlanta society by accepting his bid for a dance, even though she is still in mourning. While they dance, Rhett tells her of his intention to win her, which she says will never happen.
The tide of war turns against the Confederacy after the Battle of Gettysburg. Scarlett makes another unsuccessful appeal to Ashley’s heart while he is visiting on Christmas furlough. Eight months later, as the city is besieged by the Union Army in the Atlanta Campaign, Melanie goes into a premature and difficult labor. Scarlett must deliver the child herself. Rhett appears with a horse and wagon to take them out of the city on a perilous journey through the burning depot and warehouse district. He leaves her with a kiss on the road to Tara. She repays him with a slap, to his bemusement, as he goes off to fight with the Confederate Army.
On her journey back home, Scarlett finds Twelve Oaks burned out and deserted. She is relieved to find Tara still standing, but learns that her mother has just died of typhoid fever and her father’s mind has begun to crumble under the strain. With Tara pillaged by Union troops, and the fields untended, Scarlett vows she will do anything for the survival of her family and herself: “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”
Scarlett sets her family and servants to picking the cotton fields. She also kills a Union deserter who threatens her during a burglary, and finds gold coins in his haversack, enough to sustain her family and servants for a short time. With the defeat of the Confederacy and war’s end, Ashley returns from being a prisoner of war. Mammy restrains Scarlett from running to him when he reunites with Melanie. The dispirited Ashley finds he is of little help to Tara, and when Scarlett begs him to run away with her, he confesses his desire for her and kisses her passionately, but says he cannot leave Melanie.
Gerald O’Hara dies after he is thrown from his horse while chasing a Yankee carpetbagger, one of his former plantation workers, off his property. Scarlett is left to care for the family, and realizes she cannot pay the taxes on Tara. Knowing that Rhett is in Atlanta and believing he is still rich, she has Mammy make an elaborate gown for her from her mother’s drapes. However, upon her visit, Rhett tells her his foreign bank accounts have been blocked, and that her attempt to get his money has been in vain. However, as she departs, she encounters her sister’s fiancÃ©, the middle-aged Frank Kennedy, who now owns a successful general store and lumber mill.
Soon Scarlett is Mrs. Frank Kennedy. She becomes a hardheaded businesswoman, willing to trade with the despised Yankee carpetbaggers and use convict laborers in her mill. When Ashley is about to take a job offer with a bank in the north, Scarlett preys on his weakness by weeping that she needs him to help run the mill; pressured by the sympathetic Melanie, he relents. One day, after Scarlett is attacked while driving alone through a nearby shantytown, Frank, Ashley, and others make a night raid on the shantytown. Ashley is wounded in a melee with Union troops, and Frank is killed.
With Frank’s funeral barely over, Rhett visits Scarlett and proposes marriage. Scarlett is aghast at his poor taste, but takes him up on his offer. After a honeymoon in New Orleans, Rhett promises to restore Tara, while Scarlett builds the biggest and most crassly opulent mansion in Atlanta. The two have a daughter, Bonnie. Rhett adores her as a less spoiled version of her mother, and does everything to win the good opinion of Atlanta society for his daughter’s sake. Scarlett, still pining for Ashley and chagrined at the ruin of her figure, lets Rhett know that she wants no more children and that they will no longer share a bed. In anger, he kicks open the door that separates their bedrooms to show her that he will decide that.
When visiting the mill one day, Scarlett listens to a nostalgic Ashley wish for the simpler days of old that are now gone, and when she consoles him with an embrace, they are spied by two gossips including Ashley’s sister India, who has always held a grudge against Scarlett. They eagerly spread the rumor and Scarlett’s reputation is again sullied. Later that night, Rhett, having heard the rumors, forces Scarlett out of bed and to attend a birthday party for Ashley in her most flamboyant red dress. Incapable of believing anything bad of her beloved sister-in-law, Melanie stands by Scarlett’s side so that all know that she believes the gossip to be false.
At home later that night, Scarlett finds Rhett downstairs drunk. Blind with jealousy, he tells Scarlett that he could kill her if he thought it would make her forget Ashley. Picking her up, he carries her up the stairs in his arms, telling her, “This is one night you’re not turning me out.” She awakens the next morning with the look of guilty pleasure, but Rhett returns to apologize for his behavior and offers a divorce, which Scarlett rejects saying it would be a disgrace. Rhett decides to takes Bonnie on an extended trip to London.
When Rhett returns with Bonnie, Scarlett is delighted to see him however he rebuffs her attempts at reconciliation. Rhett remarks at how she looks different and Scarlett then resentfully tells him that she is pregnant again. Hurt, Rhett tells her “cheer up. Maybe you’ll have an ‘accident,'” Enraged, Scarlett lunges at him, falls down the stairs and suffers a miscarriage. Rhett, frantic with guilt, cries to Melanie about his jealousy, yet refrains from telling Melanie about Scarlett’s true feelings for Ashley.
As Scarlett recovers, and Rhett attempts reconciliation, while young Bonnie, as impulsive as her grandfather, dies in a fall from her pony when she attempts to jump a fence. Scarlett and Rhett are devastated and exchange recriminations over her death, with Rhett keeping vigil over his daughter’s body for three days, refusing to let her be taken away for burial. Melanie visits to comfort them, and convinces Rhett to allow Bonnie to be laid to rest, but then collapses in labor from a pregnancy she was warned could kill her. On her deathbed, she asks Scarlett to look after Ashley for her, as Scarlett had looked after her for Ashley. With her dying breath, Melanie also tells Scarlett to be kind to Rhett, that he loves her. Outside, Ashley collapses in tears, helpless without his wife. Only then does Scarlett realize that she never could have meant anything to him, and that she had loved something that never really existed.
She runs home to find Rhett packing to leave her, saying it is too late to salvage their marriage. She begs him not to leave, telling him she realizes now that she had loved him all along, that she never really loved Ashley. Rhett tells her that as long as there was Bonnie, whom he could spoil and love unconditionally, as he wished he could with Scarlett, there was a chance that they could have been happy, but now that chance was gone.
As Rhett walks out the door, she begs him, “Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?” He answers,”Frankly,my dear, I don’t give a damn”. and walks away into the fog. She sits on her stairs and weeps in despair, “What is there that matters?” She then recalls the voices of her father Gerald, Ashley and Rhett, all of whom remind her that her strength comes from Tara itself. Hope lights Scarlett’s face: “Tara! Home. I’ll go home, and I’ll think of some way to get him back! After all, tomorrow is another day!” In the final scene, Scarlett stands once more, resolute, before Tara.