Study Guide

Gone With the Wind Quotes

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Her vanity leaped to the aid of her desire to believe, making belief a certainty. If he knew she loved him, he would hasten to her side. (4.73)

    Scarlett's vanity is considerable, and it often leaps to the aid of her belief. In fact, this quote about Ashley from early in the book mirrors her certainty at the end of the book that she can get Rhett back.

    "Why all we have is cotton and slaves and arrogance. They'd lick us in a month." (6.116)

    Here Rhett is explaining to the other Confederates that their plans for victory are ridiculous. As with Scarlett, arrogance and conceit play a big part in dreams and hopes for Southern victory. Pride cometh before the face plant.

    She was less frightened also because life had taken on the quality of a dream, a dream too terrible to be real. It wasn't possible that she, Scarlett O'Hara, should be in such a predicament, with the danger of death about her every hour, every minute. (19.13)

    Scarlett's vision and dream of herself as a Southern belle, and her belief that all will be well, persists even as Atlanta falls and everything slides toward chaos. Her dreams are something of a protection—which is the case throughout the novel. Part of why she's so tough is that her dreams are so tough; they protect her from realizing that there's no hope, and so she often wins even when things are hopeless. She is insulated from despair.

    "I'm going to live through this, and when it's over, I'm never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill—as God is my witness, I'm never going to be hungry again." (25.53)

    This is perhaps the most famous line in the novel, and one of the most famous lines in American literature. It's also a dream that comes true; Scarlett does kill and steal, and she manages not to be hungry. There are downsides there, though, which she doesn't really consider.

    "There are things more important now than plowing, Sugar. And scaring the darkies and teaching the Scallawags a lesson is one of them. As long as there are fine boys like Tony left, I guess we won't need to worry about the South too much." (37.57)

    Frank is feeling hopeful for the South because there are boys like Tony Fontaine willing to murder black people. It's a painful reminder that the dreams of the white South, throughout the novel, are built on systematic violence and cruelty to black people.

    Oh, some day! When there was security in her world again, then she would sit back and fold her hands and be a great lady as Ellen had been. She would be helpless and sheltered, as a lady should be, and then everyone would approve of her. (38.100)

    Scarlett dreams of being like her mother—but she wouldn't actually really much like it. In this sense, she's somewhat like Gerald, who loves Ellen without being anything like her. Everyone would have been happier, maybe, if Scarlett could have just married Melanie (a great lady like Ellen) at the beginning of the novel.

    "What would a child do with the moon if it got it? And what would you do with Ashley? are such a fool you don't know there can't ever be happiness except when like mates like." (54.64)

    Rhett explains to Scarlett that she wouldn't like Ashley if she got him; her dreams are self-deceptions. He's right… but he could maybe have talked to himself instead, since he's constitutionally unhappy when he gets what he wants, too. He wants Scarlett to marry him, she does, and he's sad; he wants her to love him, and she does, and he's sad. If he's so smart, why's he so dumb?

    "She is the only dream I ever had that lived and breathed and did not die in the face of reality." (61.119)

    Ashley is here saying that Melanie was a dream that came true. Is this really a tribute to her, though? She wasn't a dream; she was his wife, a real person. Maybe he could have treated her better if he wasn't trying to make her a dream, huh?

    "He never really existed at all, except in my imagination," she thought wearily. "I loved something I made up, something that's just as dead as Melly is, I made a suit of pretty clothes and fell in love with it." (61.140)

    Scarlett finally realizes that the Ashley she made up isn't real. This is doubly true since, you know, Ashley is really just a character in a book. So the dream Ashley of Scarlett's imagination isn't really any more real than the "real" Ashley. What do you think that says about the novel's portrayal of the Civil War? Is that real, or are some things (like, say, the evils of slavery) left out?

    She could get Rhett back. She knew she could. There had never been a man she couldn't get, once she set her mind upon him. (63.136)

    Even with her marriage ruined, the love of her life revealed as worthless, and her best friend dead, Scarlett's still dreaming. Is she an idiot or a hero? Maybe both?

  • Love

    She had wanted him, in that first instant, wanted him as simply and unreasoningly as she wanted food to eat, horses to ride and a soft bed on which to lay herself. (2.26)

    Scarlett's love for Ashley is compared here to wanting food or a soft bed; it's self-indulgence or simple desire, not some sort of deep, timeless emotion. It's probably important here that she's only sixteen—she's not so much in love as she's crushing out. Ashley is her boy band.

    "Why don't you say it, you coward! You're afraid to marry me!" (6.181)

    Scarlett seems to be more or less correct: Ashley is in fact afraid to marry her. He figures if he married her they'd make each other miserable… but they spend the rest of their lives making each other miserable anyway, so it's not clear what he really gains by being coy.

    The thought of this strange boy whom she hadn't really wanted to marry getting into bed with her, when her heart was breaking with an agony of regret at her hasty action and the anguish of losing Ashley forever, was too much to be borne. As he hesitatingly approached the bed she spoke in a hoarse whisper.

    "I'll scream out loud if you come near me. I will!" (7.8-9)

    Sex and love for Scarlett rarely seem to go together, and neither of them has much to do with marriage. Poor Charles, her husband; maybe he was lucky to die before realizing how much Scarlett dislikes him.

    It was the unhappiest face she was ever to see, a face from which all aloofness had fled. Written on it were his love for her and joy that she loved him, but battling them both were shame and despair. (15.85)

    Did Ashley ever really love her? This sort of suggests he did; Scarlett sees love in his face. But maybe they were both just deluding themselves. The shame and despair seem believable enough though.

    "For I do love you, Scarlett, because we are so much alike, renegades, both of us, dear, and selfish rascals." (23.161)

    Rhett tells her he loves her at the siege of Atlanta, just before he goes off into the army. Scarlett is exhausted and facing a terrifying trip to Tara, yet Rhett thinks this is just the time to declare his love. Understandably, she doesn't really know what to do with this belated outburst.

    "My feelings are already lacerated with disappointment at discovering it was my money and not my charming self you wanted."

    She remembered that he frequently told bald truths about himself when he spoke mockingly—mocking himself as well as others, and she hastily looked up at him. (34.173-174)

    Rhett's feelings are hurt because Scarlett came to him for money rather than visiting him in prison because she cares about him. But he won't admit it outright. He's basically never telling her the truth about what he feels or wants, and then it's supposed to be her fault for not figuring it out. Good times.

    Turning quickly, she frequently caught him watching her, an alert, eager, waiting look in his eyes.

    "Why do you look at me like that?" she once asked irritably. "Like a cat at a mouse hole." (48.37-38)

    Rhett is looking at Scarlett for signs that she loves him. But again it's all secretive; like he can sneak up at her and find love without revealing himself.

    "…she's the first person who's ever belonged utterly to me."

    "She belongs to me, too."

    "No, you have two other children. She's mine."

    "Great balls of fire!" said Scarlett! "I had the baby, didn't I? Besides, honey, I belong to you."

    "Do you, my dear?" (50.101-105)

    Rhett seems to see love as meaning that someone else belongs to you, so he's upset with Scarlett because she doesn't completely belong to him. How is that different from Frank being all cranky because Scarlett has interests outside the home, like the mills? You sort of wonder whether Rhett deserves Scarlett's love any more than Ashley does.

    For the first time in her life she had met someone, something stronger than she, someone she could neither bully nor break, someone who was bullying and breaking her. (54.67)

    This is a famous scene, where Rhett overpowers Scarlett, has sex with her, and she enjoys it and falls in love with him. It seems to suggest that the reason Scarlett has never found love is that she's never found a man who could overpower her and control her. So Scarlett can never find love because she didn't crumple when the Confederacy fell. Also, maybe, because she's good at math.

    "But, Scarlett, did it ever occur to you the even the most deathless love could wear out?" (63.58)

    Rhett blames Scarlett for his love wearing out even though he never told her he loved her, whereas as soon as she figures out she loves him, she tells him right off. Because she's brave. And he isn't.

  • Memory and the Past

    "I do not know what the future will bring, but it cannot be as beautiful or as satisfying as the past." (11.16)

    Ashley sums up the book's attitude neatly: The past was always better. It's worth pointing out that this pretty much assumes that you're a pro-slavery Southern white person.

    Oh, there were so many things she would preface with "Do you remember!" …And while they talked she could perhaps read in his eyes some quickening of emotion, some hint that behind the barrier of husbandly affection for Melanie, he still cared […]. (15.10)

    The memory of the world before the war is here linked directly to Scarlett's love of Ashley. It's almost like the way she hangs onto that ideal past is by pretending she loves the doofus.

    When she arose at last and saw again the black ruins of Twelve Oaks, her head was raised high and something that was youth and beauty and potential tenderness had gone out of her face forever. What was past was past. Those who were dead were dead. The lazy luxury of the old days was gone, never to return. And as Scarlett settled the heavy basket across her arm, she had settled her own mind and her own life.

    There was no going back and she was going forward. (25.49-50)

    Scarlett's strength comes from not looking back… or does it? She says she's not looking at the past, but her determination to go forward comes from looking at the ruins of Twelve Oaks. Running from the past doesn't exactly mean you're not paying attention to it or thinking about it.

    "Ah," said Melanie sadly, "what will the South be like without all our fine boys? What would the South have been if they had lived? We could use their courage and their energy and their brains. […]"

    "There will never again be men like them," said Carreen softly. "No one can take their places." (29.70-71)

    Carreen is specifically remembering her fiancé Brent Tarleton here. She's also getting at the tragedy for the South in having an entire generation of young men destroyed. And she's linking that to the lost past—the deaths in the Civil War end up consecrating the pre-Civil War South.

    "It's a curse—this not wanting to look on naked realities. Until the war, life was never more real to me than a shadow show on a curtain. And I preferred it so. I do not like the outlines of things to be too sharp. I like them gently blurred, a little hazy."


    "In other words, Scarlett, I am a coward." (31.90-92)

    Ashley explains that his fascination with the past makes him a coward. Is this true? Or is it his whining on about how he's a coward that makes him a coward?

    The old days had gone but these people would go their ways as if the old days still existed, charming, leisurely, determined not to rush and scramble for pennies as the Yankees did, determined to part with none of their old ways.

    Scarlett knew that she, too, was greatly changed. […]

    She could not ignore life. She had to live it […]. (35.177-179)

    Here, the suggestion is that the old days are not exactly gone; instead they live on in those who remember them, and who maintain their morality. Moving forward, as Scarlett does, is a betrayal because the Yankees are the future. The past is a faith, which Scarlett wishes she shared but doesn't.

    "They don't talk of anything else," thought Scarlett. "Nothing but the war. Always the war. And they'll never talk of anything but the war. No, not until they die." (41.168)

    Usually the past in the novel is the world before the war, but here it's the war itself, which everyone talks about endlessly. Scarlett's not interested in either, though. She always said the war bored her.

    "It isn't losing their money, my pet. I tell you it's losing their world—the world they were raised in. They're like fish out of water or cats with wings. They were raised to be certain persons, to do certain things, to occupy certain niches. And these persons and things and niches disappeared forever when General Lee arrived at Appomattox." (43.109)

    Rhett argues that the white Southerners they know aren't sad about losing their money, but are sad about losing their place. This is supposed to make them more noble. But is it true? The places that have been lost, the niches that Ashley and everyone were to fill—they were all made possible by money, and property, and specifically by slave labor. The Southern way of life they're all mourning is impossible without slavery since it was created by robbing black people of their liberty and their labor by force.

    "Yes, life has a glitter now—of a sort. That's what's wrong with it. The old days had no glitter but they had a charm, a beauty, a slow-paced glamour." (53.73)

    Hey, Ashley—it's easy to move at a slow pace when all the work is done by slave labor.

    "He loved the child, Scarlett, and I guess he drinks to forget about her." (60.15)

    Rhett is mostly presented as not being in thrall to the past as many of the other characters are… but his collapse after Bonnie's death is an exception. As with Ashley, his inability to move beyond his memory destroys him. Scarlett can keep going, but the men in her life consistently falter.

  • Perseverance

    "And I do not think she's been so much in love with him that she won't forget him. Fifteen is too young to know much about love." (3.77)

    This is Gerald saying that he believes that Ellen will forget Philippe. She never does… just as Scarlett continues loving Ashley way past his sell-by date. Perseverance can be a good thing, but it can also mean being stuck in a rut. Is Ellen's life-long love for her cousin noble and tragic, or is it frustrating and irritating?

    "I won't think of that now," she said firmly. "If I think of it now, it will upset me. There's no reason why things won't come out the way I want them—if he loves me. And I know he does!" (4.95)

    Scarlett's ability to focus on a goal and get there, come Union soldiers or the collapse of civilization, is foreshadowed in her insistence on pursuing Ashley even after he's definitively gone. She uses the same trick, too—refusing to think about whatever it is that might stop her from pressing ahead.

    "They both see the same unpleasant truth, but Rhett likes to look it in the face and enrage people by talking about it—and Ashley can hardly bear to face it." (12.116)

    Gumption is facing the unpleasant truth… or is it? Is Rhett really showing gumption by tweaking people? Scarlett tends to just push on and ignore the unpleasant truths all together, rather than getting obsessed with them.

    "Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you." (23.55)

    Rhett is telling Scarlett that she has enough gumption for anything… and he's more or less right. When a Yankee does show up to get her, the Yankee ends up dead. Don't trifle with Scarlett, is the message here.

    "She thought without surprise, looking down from her height, that her shoulders were strong enough to bear anything now, having borne the worst thing that could ever happen to her." (23.281)

    This is when Scarlett has escaped Atlanta and come back to Tara to find her mother dead and Gerald broken. This isn't necessarily the worst that will ever happen to her, but she's more or less right; her shoulders are strong enough to bear anything. Rhett's shoulders aren't necessarily, though.

    I won't be a big-mouthed fool, she thought grimly. Let others break their hearts over the old days and the men who'll never come back. (38.3)

    Scarlett is determined to work with the Yankees if she has to, and her refusal to look back is seen as part of her strength. She doesn't get hung up on memory… except for Ashley's memory, maybe.

    "I've never had anything to sustain me—except Mother."

    "But when you lost her, you found you could stand alone, didn't you? Well, some folks can't. Your pa was one." (40.53-54)

    Grandma Fontaine is one of the other gumptionful characters; she's explaining to Scarlett here that she has more gumption than her dad. This is at Gerald's funeral, so it seems like maybe not the best of all possible venues to do so, but we guess that when you're full of gumption you'll dare anything, even poor taste.

    "The rest have gone under because they don't have any sap in them, because they didn't have the gumption to rise up again. There never was anything to those folks but money and darkies, and now that the money and darkies are gone, those folks will be Cracker in another generation." (40.98)

    More from Grandma Fontaine on gumption. She's saying that the slave owners aren't anything without their slaves, for the most part. That's harsh… and even harsher if you see slavery as an actual evil, which Grandma Fontaine doesn't exactly. But if you do, she's saying that the only thing the pre-Confederate South had going for it was a willingness to brutalize and enslave people.

    "Miss Melly, you know Miss Scarlett well's Ah does. Whut dat chile got ter stan', de good Lawd give her strent ter stan'. Disyere done broke her heart but she kin stan' it. It's Mist' Rhett Ah come 'bout." (59.49)

    Mammy tells Melly that Scarlett can stand anything, but that Rhett Butler has collapsed following the death of Bonnie.

    But… what about Mammy? What has she had to withstand, or not withstand? She's been enslaved—how has she withstood that? The novel can't really answer that question because it doesn't consider slavery a problem. Nor is Mammy allowed to have her own specific trials to overcome; her whole life revolves around Scarlett, so she's always dealing with Scarlett's problems. It's like she's a pet; she's not allowed to have her own trials, whether to overcome them or be broken by them.

    "Don't look so determined, Scarlett! You frighten me. I see you are contemplating the transfer of your tempestuous affections from Ashley to me and I fear for my liberty and my peace of mind." (63.58)

    Rhett is sort of joking here about being frightened—but maybe not really joking. Scarlett's a lot more determined and tougher than he is. If she decides to go after him, he may well fear for his liberty and peace of mind.

  • Race

    It was built by slave labor […] He had done it all, little, hard-headed, blustering Gerald. (3.34-35)

    Tara was built by slaves… and yet, the novel says that Gerald created his plantation himself. He is credited with the work and the hard-headedness, even though everything he did was based on forcing others to work for him, without pay, under threat of death.

    He was dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate's appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished. (6.16)

    Rhett is described throughout the novel as dark. He's also presented as animalistic, sexual, and disreputable—all racist stereotypes used to slur black people. The novel uses racist tropes to make Rhett, a white man, exciting and exotic, even as it pushes the stories of black people off to the side. More on this over in the "Themes" section, so be sure to check it out.

    It was never fun to be around Mrs. Merriwether and Mrs. Elsing and Mrs. Whiting and have them boss you like you were one of the darkies.

    Scarlett is complaining here about being forced to do work as if she is a black person. The novel recognizes here that being forced to do work is bad, yet it insists in other places that black people were happy during slavery. Racism prevents the book from even being aware of what it's saying.

    "And as for all this talk about the militia staying here to keep the darkies from rising—why it's the silliest thing I ever heard of. Why should our people rise! It's just a good excuse of cowards." (9.109)

    Melly doesn't believe that troops are needed at home, because she thinks all the slaves are happy. In fact, though, there were numerous slave rebellions throughout Southern history, the most famous perhaps being Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, in which seventy enslaved people killed about sixty white people in Southampton County, Virginia.

    There were also slave revolts and attacks during the Civil War; for example, in 1864 slaves burnt fourteen houses and the courthouse of Yazoo City, Mississippi. To maintain the terrible status quo, then, there was every reason to believe that troops were needed at home. But the novel can't acknowledge this, because to do so would mean that the slaves were being kept in slavery by force, and this novel prefers to depict black people as happily oppressed.

    Negroes were provoking sometimes and stupid and lazy, but there was loyalty in them that money couldn't buy, a feeling of oneness with their white folks which made them risk their lives to keep food on the table. (28.7)

    Scarlett is praising Pork for helping the family—but she can't do it without also talking about how stupid and lazy he is. Which seems like it's not such a great compliment, really.

    "Wilkerson and Hilton furthermore told the negroes they were as good as the whites in every way and soon white and negro marriages would be permitted, soon the estates of their former owners would be divided and every negro would be given forty acres and a mule for his own." (31.26)

    Wilkerson and Hilton, both Yankees, are presented as being evil because they think black people are as good as white people, and because they think black folks and white folks should marry. In other words, it's villainous to argue for equal rights in this book.

    Slaves were neither miserable nor unfortunate. The negroes were far better off under slavery than they were now under freedom, and if she didn't believe it, just look about her! (42.124)

    Does the novel actually present any evidence that black people are worse off under freedom? It barely discusses or shows the conditions of black people under slavery. It certainly shows that the white characters aren't doing as well now that they can't force black people to work for them, but the novel doesn't care enough about black people to try to imagine their lives in anything but the most cursory way.

    "An' dey ast me ter set down wid dem, lak Ah wuz jes' as good as dey wuz" (44.28)

    Big Sam, the former foreman at Tara, is here made to suggest that he is offended that white people might consider him just as good as themselves. He's made to say it, moreover, in speech that is misspelled in order to suggest his inferiority and lack of education, though, you know, it was illegal for black people to get an education in the Confederate South.

    When she thought of the black hand at her bosom and what would have happened if Big Sam had not appeared, she bent her head lower and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. (45.14)

    The paranoid specter of black men raping white women hangs over the novel. It is an excuse for the KKK's violence, but it's also presented as an enticing possibility—remember Rhett is figured as very dark, and his almost-rape of Scarlett is presented as the most pleasurable sexual experience of the book. The book, then, takes a pleasure in imagining black people as sexual and dangerous. In short, it enjoys its racism.

    Except for the negroes of course. They must have the very best. The best of schools and lodgings and clothes and amusements, for they were the power in politics and every negro vote counted. (49.101)

    The novel is arguing that Reconstruction governments were awful because they provided decent schools and lodgings to black people. Providing services for black people is seen as immoral, and as inevitably taking away from white people. Black people are viewed as robbing folks—which is the exact opposite of the actual case, since during slavery white people stole black people's labor compulsively and without compunction.

  • Society and Class

    Mammy was black, but her code of conduct and her sense of pride were as high as or higher than those of her owners. (2.5)

    Many of the black characters in the novel are obsessed with social class, and see their status linked to that of their owners. Having the people on the bottom of the social scale enthusiastically endorse the status quo is supposed to make the status quo look okay; if the folks on the bottom are happy, what's the problem? It also makes it appear that Mammy is part of the family, connected to Scarlett by love rather than because her labor and her life have been taken from her by force.

    This might be a good moment to mention that in Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone, a parody/sequel/critique of Gone With the Wind, Gerald sleeps with Mammy, and has a daughter by her. Relations between masters and slaves, often involving outright rape or some form of coercion, were fairly common. Even being literally part of the family (half-sisters and half-brothers) didn't change the class status of black people in the old South—and in fact could just serve to emphasize it in particularly painful ways.

    […] she respected them, and, in time, learned to admire the frankness and forthrightness of these people, who had few reticences and who valued a man for what he was. (3.98)

    Ellen admires her neighbors at Tara for not being as class-conscious as her own family. The idea that they "valued a man for what he was" is ludicrous, though. The first thing Ellen's neighbors see is not whether a man has value, but whether he's white or black. This line is a lie—and, in this vein, the whole novel could be seen as one long, vicious lie about social class.

    Of course he wasn't a gentleman and there was no telling what men would do when they weren't gentlemen. There was no standard to judge them by. (9.139)

    Rhett isn't a gentleman since he refuses to abide by the rules of class. This makes him dangerous and disturbing; the novel as a whole doesn't like war and revolution and people getting out of place. Or does it? The old South, where women couldn't even eat for fear of looking un-dainty, also comes across in the book as restrictive and stultifying. From that perspective, Rhett's freedom from class makes him exciting and sexy. He can do anything.

    "Nothing, no, nothing, she taught me is of any help to me! What good will kindness do me now? What value is gentleness? Better that I'd learned to plow or chop cotton like a darky. Oh, Mother, you were wrong!"

    She did not stop to think that Ellen's ordered world was gone, and a brutal world had taken its place […]. (25.91-92)

    Scarlett is unprepared for hardship because she grew up so rich, basically. She was at the top of the social pyramid, but the war has overturned that. Order (of social class and hierarchy) is replaced by brutality—and brutality is defined to mean that white people have to do the things that they'd formerly made black people do.

    Scarlett did not realize that all the rules of the game had been changed and that honest labor could no longer earn its just reward. (31.24)

    The point here is that after Reconstruction, Southern white people were not free, and their labor could be taken from them at whim—as when the taxes are raised on Tara and Scarlett is in danger of losing the land. The suggestion is that before the war, virtue was rewarded, and honest labor gained honest pay. This neatly erases the fact that the entire economy of the South was built on refusing to give black laborers their just reward.

    She wanted to feel superior and virtuous about Belle but she could not. If her plans went well, she might be on the same footing with Belle and supported by the same man. (33.36)

    One of the major class divisions the novel is interested in is that between good women and bad women—virtuous Southern Belles and prostitutes (in this case, named Belle as well). The war undoes this distinction, as it undoes many others.

    "Class?" said Scarlett, startled at the idea. "Class? What does class matter now, so long as a girl gets a husband who can take care of her?"

    "That's a debatable question," said Old Miss. "Some folks would say you were talking common sense. Others would say you were letting down bars that ought never be lowered one inch. Will's certainly not quality folks and some of your people were." (40.77-78)

    Part of the reason Scarlett is able to do so well after the war is that she doesn't really care about class; she's willing to work, and pursue money, and forget about what's supposed to be right for a person of her standing. The suggestion in the novel is that this is in part because she's the daughter of Gerald, who was a self-made man himself. Which in turn, suggests that even her lack of care about class is a function of class; she's the daughter of a hustler, and she's a hustler, too.

    He felt that it was a traffic in human bodies on a par with prostitution, a sin that would be on his soul if he permitted her to do it. (41.185)

    Frank is very upset at the idea of using convict labor; he sees it as "traffic in human bodies"—it's not classy. But owning slaves was fine. The problem here isn't the traffic, but the fact that you're treating white convicts the way black people were treated. The lack of class is precisely the messing with class distinctions based on race.

    "I did so want to see you! You must come in the house."

    "I can't do that, Miz Wilkes." Belle Watling's voice sounded scandalized. (46.47-48)

    Belle, like Mammy, is shown to be a good person because she supports the class system that treats her like dirt. And, by the same token, her support for the class system shows that the class system is a good thing. It's a fantasy of a world where the people you step on are just begging for you to step on them. Which is appealing if you're someone who identifies only with those doing the stepping, but for everyone else it's more than a little nauseating.

    "You should have insured a place for your children in the social scheme years ago—but you didn't. You didn't even bother to keep what position you had. And it's too much to hope that you'll mend your ways at this late date. You're too anxious to make money and too fond of bullying people." (52.74)

    Rhett is angry at Scarlett for not working to make sure her class position is intact and instead relying on money alone. This is somewhat unfair to Scarlett, it seems—especially since part of the reason that making money is scandalous for her is that she's a woman. If she were a guy, her get-up-and-go would be seen as pluck, rather than as dangerous.

  • Warfare

    The troop of cavalry had been organized three months before, the very day that Georgia seceded from the Union, and since then the recruits had been whistling for war. The outfit was as yet unnamed, though not for want of suggestions. Everyone had his own idea on that subject and was loath to relinquish it, just as everyone had ideas about the color and cut of the uniforms. (1.136)

    Early in the novel, everybody is eager for war, which they think will be glorious and awesome. The irony is that war is horrible and they'll all regret wanting it.

    "Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything," he shouted […] "'Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for—worth dying for!" (2.115)

    Gerald says land is worth fighting and dying for. This makes it seem like the war is about fighting and dying for land, or protecting one's home, but in fact the war is about protecting the right of rich jerks like Gerald to own slaves.

    Oh why couldn't she feel like these other women! They were whole hearted and sincere in their devotion to the Cause. They really meant everything they said and did. And if anyone should ever suspect that she— No, no one must ever know! (9.79)

    Scarlett doesn't care about the Cause; she's not interested in the war. This is somewhat convenient, since it means the novel never really has to think that hard about what the war is or why it's being fought. Scarlett's lack of patriotism allows the novel not to examine the patriotism too closely.

    "All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it. Their ears are too full of bugles and drum and fine words from stay-at-home orators." (12.75)

    Rhett's words seem like cynical realism, but can you find some truth to them? Slavery is an economic system, after all, and secession by Southern states threatened the existing unified economy.

    As she looked, two streams of blood crept across the shining floor, one from his face and one from the back of his head.

    Yes, he was dead. Undoubtedly. She had killed a man.

    […] suddenly she was vitally alive again, vitally glad with a cool tigerish joy. She could have ground her heel into the gaping wound which had been his nose and taken sweet pleasure in the feel of his warm blood on her bare feet. She had struck a blow of revenge for Tara—and for Ellen. (26.22-24)

    Scarlett herself is a fighter in the war, killing a Union soldier. The murder is presented as joyful revenge and as a moral good. The only good Yankee is a dead Yankee in this book.

    "I don't know why we fought and I don't care," said Scarlett. "And I'm not interested. I never was interested. War is a man's business, not a woman's." (29.32)

    Scarlett says war is man's business, but she herself killed a man, essentially in the war. As often happens with Scarlett, she seems to take on a male role while disavowing it. She provides for her family and works in the mills and even fights in the war, but none of this ever quite amounts to her actually questioning the role of women overall, or really even her own role as a woman.

    How dared they laugh, the black apes! How dared they grin at her, Scarlett O'Hara of Tara! She'd like to have them all whipped until the blood ran down their backs. What devils the Yankees were to set them free, free to jeer at white people! (35.5)

    The war and the Yankees are here linked pretty directly to racism. The evil of the war is that it upsets the racial caste system.

    "And if they give the negroes the vote, it's the end of us. Damn it, it's our state! It doesn't belong to the Yankees! By God, Scarlett, it isn't to be borne! And it won't be borne! We'll do something about it if it means another war. Soon we'll be having nigger judges, nigger legislators—black apes out of the jungle—" (37.18)

    This rather upends Rhett's statement that the war is about money. Tommy clearly says he is ready to have another war for specifically racist reasons. The terrorist violence of the KKK, a continuation of war by other means, is based on refusing to allow black people to gain political power. That is what the Civil War was based on as well.

    "He—well, we figure he died like a soldier and in a soldier's cause." (39.10)

    Gerald died after refusing to sign a loyalty oath to the Yankees. The fact that this was seen as dying in a soldier's cause indicates the way that the novel sees the Civil War continuing even after the actual fighting is over. The South is still fighting the North… and it doesn't necessarily lose. Which the novel sees as a good thing.

    To them she had done worse than murder her father. She had tried to betray him into disloyalty to the South. (40.9)

    In the aftermath of the war, loyalty to the South is seen as distinct from, and incompatible with, swearing loyalty to the federal government. The Union may have won the war, but the novel suggests the South didn't accept the victory for a long time.

  • Women and Femininity

    Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. (1.1)

    This is the first line of the novel, and it immediately equates femininity with deception or artificiality. Scarlett is not really beautiful, but she charms men into thinking she is. At the same time as it associates Scarlett with feminine duplicity, it also suggests she's not really feminine—and Scarlett not really being feminine is a major theme of the rest of the novel as well.

    Scarlett wanted very much to be like her mother. The only difficulty was that by being just and truthful and tender and unselfish, one missed most of the joys of life, and certainly many beaux. (3.119)

    For Scarlett, being like her mother is being feminine and ladylike. Scarlett aspires to be like that, but doesn't really like it. Femininity is kind of a drag.

    There was no one to tell Scarlett that her own personality…was more attractive than any masquerade she might adopt. Had she been told, she would have been pleased but unbelieving. And the civilization of which she was a part would have been unbelieving too, for at no time, before or since, had so low a premium been placed on feminine naturalness. (4.56)

    Mitchell is able to see that the South restricted white women, even if she can't see the way it restricted black people. Note too that the "low premium placed on feminine naturalness" here only applies to white women. Black women were not meant to be artificial, nor, for that matter, attractive. Scarlett flirts and flits, but Mammy is presented as utterly asexual.

    Women knew that a land where men were contented, uncontradicted and safe in possession of unpunctured vanity was likely to be a very pleasant place for women to live. (8.78)

    This seems really unconvincing. Women's lives are pleasant as long as they don't do anything like have opinions, or desires of their own that might displease their overlords? You might as well say that black people's lives were pleasant as long as they didn't try to stop being slaves—which of course is something that the novel thinks is true as well. Oops.

    "And perhaps I'm staying here to rescue you if the siege does come. I've never rescued a maiden in distress […]."

    "I won't need you to rescue me. I can take care of myself, thank you!"

    "Don't say that, Scarlett! Think of it, if you like, but never, never say it to a man." (17.132-134)

    Rhett's sentiments are echoed several times throughout the novel. Women (or white women) are only supposed to be attractive and enticing if they're helpless. The novel admires Scarlett to some degree, but the two loves of her life, Ashley and Rhett, are both really uncomfortable with her capability, and both arguably abandon her because of it. Go team.

    […] he felt the usual masculine indignation at the duplicity of women. Added to it was the usual masculine disillusionment at discovering that a woman has a brain. (36.19)

    Frank sees women as duplicitous… but really it's his own sexism that makes him so easy to fool. He assumes that women don't have brains, and since women do have brains, he ends up looking like an idiot. Hard to pity him, really.

    "He should have killed you rather than let you come up here—and to me, of all people! God in Heaven!" (36.194)

    Rhett thinks Ashley should have killed Scarlett rather than letting her go to Atlanta to try to get money out of him. A real man kills a woman rather than see her marry or sleep with someone he doesn't want her to marry or sleep with. Rhett's not really a moral beacon, in case you hadn't noticed.

    "Scarlett, the mere fact that you've made a success of your mill is an insult to every man who hasn't succeeded." (38.112)

    Again, Margaret Mitchell was a very successful woman, just like Scarlett. The contempt for the envy and littleness of men here seems to come from the heart.

    "Oh, dear, this is my only chance to know what a bad house looks like and now you are mean enough not to tell me!" (46.38)

    Mrs. Meade, a virtuous woman, wants to know how bad women live. The novel says that this is true of all virtuous women. Upper-class white women in the South were supposed to be good and pure and above such things, but Mitchell suggests that the purity is artificial or enforced; women are as curious and interested in sex as men are. If you prevent them from talking about it, that doesn't make them less interested. Quite the contrary.

    "Scarlett, understand this. If you and your bed still held any charms for me, no locks and no entreaties could keep me away. And I would have no sense of shame for anything I did, for I made a bargain with you…" (51.44)

    This is a straightforward argument for marital rape. Rhett says he married Scarlett, so he should be allowed to have sex with her whenever he wants, and feels entitled to rape her whenever he will. This is supposed to make him seem dangerous and worldly, but we're not fooled.