Gone with the Wind

Topics: Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara, Southern United States Pages: 22 (7151 words) Published: July 15, 2013
GONE WITH WIND Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

Plot Overview

It is the spring of 1861. Scarlett O’Hara, a pretty Southern belle, lives on Tara, a large plantation in Georgia. She concerns herself only with her numerous suitors and her desire to marry Ashley Wilkes. One day she hears that Ashley is engaged to Melanie Hamilton, his frail, plain cousin from Atlanta. At a barbecue at the Wilkes plantation the next day, Scarlett confesses her feelings to Ashley. He tells her that he does love her but that he is marrying Melanie because she is similar to him, whereas he and Scarlett are very different. Scarlett slaps Ashley and he leaves the room. Suddenly Scarlett realizes that she is not alone. Rhett Butler, a scandalous but dashing adventurer, has been watching the whole scene, and he compliments Scarlett on being unladylike.

The Civil War begins. Charles Hamilton, Melanie’s timid, dull brother, proposes to Scarlett. She spitefully agrees to marry him, hoping to hurt Ashley. Over the course of two months, Scarlett and Charles marry, Charles joins the army and dies of the measles, and Scarlett learns that she is pregnant. After Scarlett gives birth to a son, Wade, she becomes bored and unhappy. She makes a long trip to Atlanta to stay with Melanie and Melanie’s aunt, Pittypat. The busy city agrees with Scarlett’s temperament, and she begins to see a great deal of Rhett. Rhett infuriates Scarlett with his bluntness and mockery, but he also encourages her to flout the severely restrictive social requirements for mourning Southern widows. As the war progresses, food and clothing run scarce in Atlanta. Scarlett and Melanie fear for Ashley’s safety. After the bloody battle of Gettysburg, Ashley is captured and sent to prison, and the Yankee army begins bearing down on Atlanta. Scarlett desperately wants to return home to Tara, but she has promised Ashley she will stay with the pregnant Melanie, who could give birth at any time.

On the night the Yankees capture Atlanta and set it afire, Melanie gives birth to her son, Beau. Rhett helps Scarlett and Melanie escape the Yankees, escorting them through the burning streets of the city, but he abandons them outside Atlanta so he can join the Confederate Army. Scarlett drives the cart all night and day through a dangerous forest full of deserters and soldiers, at last reaching Tara. She arrives to find that her mother, Ellen, is dead; her father, Gerald, has lost his mind; and the Yankee army has looted the plantation, leaving no food or cotton. Scavenging for subsistence, a furious Scarlett vows never to go hungry again.

Scarlett takes charge of rebuilding Tara. She murders a Yankee thief and puts out a fire set by a spiteful Yankee soldier. At last the war ends, word comes that Ashley is free and on his way home, and a stream of returning soldiers begins pouring through Tara. One such soldier, a one-legged homeless Confederate named Will Benteen, stays on and helps Scarlett with the plantation. One day, Will brings terrible news: Jonas Wilkerson, a former employee at Tara and current government official, has raised the taxes on Tara, hoping to drive the O’Haras out so that he might buy the plantation. Distraught, Scarlett hurries to Atlanta to seduce Rhett Butler so that he will give her the three hundred dollars she needs for taxes. Rhett has emerged from the war a fabulously wealthy man, dripping with earnings from his blockade-running operation and from food speculation. However, Rhett is in a Yankee jail and cannot help Scarlett. Scarlett sees her sister’s beau, Frank Kennedy, who now owns a general store, and forges a plan. Determined to save Tara, she betrays her sister and marries Frank, pays the taxes on Tara, and devotes herself to making Frank’s business more profitable.

After Rhett blackmails his way out of prison, he lends Scarlett enough money to buy a sawmill. To the displeasure of Atlanta society, Scarlett becomes a shrewd businesswoman. Gerald...
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