Study Guide

Gone With the Wind Love

By Margaret Mitchell


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.