Gone with the Wind Summary đź“–

‘Gone with the Wind’ follows Scarlett O’Hara and how her decisions were informed by her circumstances. From marrying to spite a lost love, to venturing into unconventional businesses to escape poverty and starvation. It is an interesting story of individual and collective struggles for survival.

Gone with the Wind

Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind is a historical fiction set in the American Civil war and has served as a reference point for many discussions on war, slavery, race, adaptation for survival, and values. Scarlett O’Hara is at the center of the story, a spoilt, rash teenager who is suddenly forced to face marriage, parenthood, widowhood, starvation, and poverty in quick succession and decides to do everything in her powers to find security from these struggles.

Gone with the Wind Spoiler Free Plot Summary

Scarlett O’Hara is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, she is the eldest of the three daughters of Gerald and Ellen O’Hara and is considered the belle of the county. All the eligible young men in her county are wrapped in her charms and she relishes the attention they shower on her. Despite having all the county boys wrapped around her fingers, Ashley Wilkes is the only young man in the county she is in love with, he has never professed love to her but she believes he secretly reciprocates her love because he is always courteous to her.

She becomes shocked when she hears that Ashley will soon announce his engagement to another girl, Melanie Wilkes, at a barbecue party the following day.

In her despair, she confides in her father who confirms the news of Ashley’s engagement but tells her that it is for the best because Ashley is not her type and can never make her happy. But she does not listen. She comforts herself with the thought that Melanie is not physically attractive and so, it would be easy to get Ashley to leave Melanie once she, Scarlett professes her love to him.

At the party, she charms and enchants all the boys present to make Ashley jealous but Ashley seems too engrossed with his conversation with Melanie to notice. Eventually, she finds Ashley alone and drags him to an empty study room where she professes her love to him and begs him to elope with her. Ashley does not give in and tells her he will go ahead and marry Melanie before he leaves the room.

Thinking she is alone, she throws a china piece against the fireplace in anger only to realize Rhett Butler, a stranger she had just met at the party and was told he is a scandalous rogue, had been lying quietly by the fireplace and had overheard her conversation with Ashley. However, Rhett promises her that her secret is safe with him and leaves.

Without thinking, she agrees to marry Charles Hamilton, Melanie’s brother to spite Ashley and everyone that was talking about her flirtatious behavior with men at the party. And this makes Scarlett and Melanie become sisters-in-law.

Scarlett’s marriage to Charles Hamilton is very short-lived because of the war. Charles departs to enlist in the army just two weeks after their wedding and dies two months later. Scarlett gives birth to a baby boy but has no interest in the baby, she spends her time feeling depressed and obsessing over Ashley who has also departed for war.  Not knowing the cause of her moody state, Scarlett’s parents send her to Atlanta to live with Melanie and her aunt in a bid to cheer her up.

Scarlett resents Melanie for marrying Ashley Wilkes but has to keep it a secret and live with her because they are now related by marriage. Only Rhett Butler who comes in and out of Scarlett’s life knows Scarlett’s true feelings.  Melanie on her part is a sweet person and shows Scarlett nothing but pure love and devotion. As both women struggle through the war together, Scarlett eventually learns that it is impossible not to admire and even love the pure spirit of Melanie.

Gone with the Wind Summary

Warning: This Summary contains Spoilers

Part One

Scarlett O’Hara is spending the afternoon in her country home with two handsome twins from the neighboring plantation Stuart and Brent Tarleton who are both enamored with her. The twins tell her about their latest expulsion from school and mention that going to school would be useless anyway because a war is coming. Scarlett does not believe the war will take place and dismisses the subject.

As a change of subject, the twins mention that they heard the news of Ashley Wilkes’s engagement to his cousin Melanie Wilkes which would be announced at a Barbecue party the following day. The news shocks Scarlett because she is in love with Ashley and thinks he is in love with her as well. She runs out of the house to await her father’s return in order to have a private discussion with him. When her father eventually returns and meets her, he confirms the news of Ashley’s engagement and upon sensing Scarlett’s heartbreak, tells her that Ashley is not good for her and promises to hand over their home called Tara to her.

Scarlett does not heed her father’s advice and concludes Ashley would elope with her once she professes her love to him at the barbecue party. At the party, she eventually talks to Ashley alone and professes her love to him but Ashley turns her down and insists he must marry Melanie. When Ashley leaves, she throws a temper tantrum and realizes Rhett Butler, a stranger with a bad reputation she had just met at the party, had overheard her conversation with Ashley but Rhett Butler promises to keep her secret.

Scarlett tries to quietly sneak back to the room where she was meant to nap with the other girls but overhears Honey Wilkes talking about how Scarlett throws herself at men. In anger, she storms out, thinking of a way to get back at everyone that has offended her in the county. Charles Hamilton a shy boy she was flirting with at the party, meets her in this state and without knowing what is wrong with her, asks her to marry him and because Charles Hamilton was expected to marry Honey Wilkes, Scarlett agrees to marry him as a way to get back at Honey.

Scarlett marries Charles Hamilton but he leaves to join the army just after two weeks and a report of his death comes after two months, leaving Scarlett a pregnant widow. Meanwhile, Ashley goes ahead to marry Melanie and also leaves to join the army.

Scarlett gives birth to a baby boy for late Charles after some months and they name him Wade Hampton. But she finds herself always feeling unhappy. Her parents sense she is unhappy and send her to Atlanta to live with her sister-in-law, Melanie, and their Aunt Pittypat as a way to cheer her up.

Part Two

Scarlett moves to Atlanta to live with Melanie and Aunt Pittypat. The bubble of the city cheers her up. Although the war has started, Atlanta is still safe and the war has not gotten to the city. Scarlett joins the social circle of Atlanta elite women in volunteer services for the Confederate soldiers. She is upset about the restrictions placed on her because of her widowhood. She attends a fundraising party in Atlanta and yearns to dance but is not bold enough to dance because widows are expected to desist from any public display of merriment. However, Rhett Butler comes to the party and asks her for the dance and she agrees.

While they dance, they catch up on old times and Scarlett learns that Rhett was making a fortune as a blockade runner. he tells her he thinks the war has no justification and that The South would lose the war. He also tells her he dislikes the demure dressing expected of her as a widow and promises to get her colorful dresses the next time he visits Atlanta. Dr. Meade announces that men would bid for a dance with the lady of their choice with money as a way to raise funds for the Confederacy and Rhett bids the highest amount of money to dance with Scarlett and this brings them the disapproval of the matrons of Atlanta.

Rhett Butler begins visiting Aunt Pittypat’s house often, he brings gifts for Aunt Pittypat, plays fondly with Scarlett’s son Wade and has long conversations with Scarlett whenever he is in Atlanta.

A few days to Christmas, Ashley gets a furlough from the army and visits the ladies in Aunt Pittypat’s home. The war has made him sober and melancholic but Scarlett still fancies herself in love with him. On the day Ashley is to return to the army Scarlett professes her love to Ashley again. Ashley tells Scarlett he loves her too but pleads with her to promise to take care of Melanie and Scarlett makes the promise before he leaves.

Shortly after Ashley leaves, Melanie announces that she is pregnant. The war comes closer to Atlanta and Scarlett longs to return to the safety of her country home, Tara but her promise to take care of Melanie and her mother’s letter informing her of a disease outbreak in Tara makes her stay back in Atlanta. News of Confederate soldiers reaches Atlanta and Ashley is declared missing, Scarlett also finds that many of her childhood friends and beaus have died in battle. Rhett promises Melanie that he would pull some strings to find out more about Ashley’s whereabouts and later relays to them that Ashley has been captured as a prisoner by the Union Army.

Part Three

The war gets closer to Atlanta and Aunt Pittypat flees to Macon for safety, leaving Scarlett with Melanie whose pregnancy is almost due. Dr. Meade warns that Melanie is not fit to travel and would need special medical attention during her delivery. With the influx of injured soldiers that overpower the hospitals and the medics, Scarlett begins to worry about Melanie’s childbirth but her slave, Prissy assures her that she knows a lot about midwifery and this calms Scarlett’s anxieties.

Melanie goes into labor on the day war comes into Atlanta. Scarlett tries to fetch a doctor to help but the doctors are overwhelmed with treating injured soldiers and cannot spare the time to come; all of their neighbors have fled for safety and no one is around to help, then Prissy at this point confesses that she had been lying about knowing how to be a midwife and Scarlett is forced to handle Melanie’s childbirth alone.

Eventually, Melanie delivers a baby boy safely but they are forced to flee Atlanta before she can regain her strength because the city is burning. Scarlett sends Prissy to fetch Rhett to assist them in fleeing. Rhett steals a scrawny-looking horse and comes to help them flee Scarlett, Melanie, Prissy, Wade, and Melanie’s newborn baby flee Atlanta.

At the outskirts of Atlanta, Rhett changes his mind and tells Scarlett he is leaving them to join the army. Scarlett is furious with him but Rhett does not change his mind, he gives her a passionate kiss, and tells her he loves her. Scarlett tells Rhett she wishes him dead for deserting them and continues on her journey to Tara while Rhett runs off into the burning city.

The journey to Tara is very wearisome for Scarlett– Melanie is unconscious, the newborn baby is weak, Prissy and Wade are frightened and everyone is thirsty and hungry– but she comforts herself with the hope of meeting her mother Ellen. As she rides into Clayton County, Scarlett finds many of the homes and plantations she knew from childhood in ruins and it makes her wonder if her home Tara is in ruins as well.

When they eventually reach their plantation, Scarlett is relieved that their home Tara is still standing but the situation in Tara is not what she had hoped for–her mother is dead, her two sisters are very sick, her father is losing his mind to grief and all their slaves have left except Mammy, Pork and Dilcey.

Dilcey has a newborn baby and because Melanie has no breast milk, Dilcey nurses her baby and Melanie’s baby on her own breasts.

Scarlett takes up the responsibility of running the household, assigning work, and giving instructions to everyone in the household. Soon, things begin to stabilize and they can pull meager meals together for the household. Then one day a lone Yankee thief comes to rob Tara but Scarlett kills him, Melanie comes out and finds out, together they search the dead thief and take all the valuables in his possession, Melanie urges Scarlett to hurry and bury the thief while she cleans up the bloodstains before anyone finds out.

Uncle Peter visits Tara with a letter from Ashley saying he is alive and they all begin to expect his return. Meanwhile, an injured soldier is brought to Tara and they nurse him back to health, they find out his name is Will Benteen and with time, he begins to assist Scarlett with work and in running the household.

Eventually, Ashley returns to Tara from being a war prisoner and it is an emotional moment for everyone in the household, especially Melanie and Scarlett.

Part Four

The war is over and the state is in the control of a new government. Scarlett and Will Benteen have worked hard and Tara is among the more fortunate surviving plantations in Clayton County. Jonas Wilkerson, a former plantation overseer at Tara who was dismissed for getting a girl pregnant out of wedlock, is now at the helm of affairs in government and he connives to impose an exorbitant tax on Tara in a bid to render the O’Hara’s bankrupt and acquire the plantation for himself.

Scarlett is determined not to lose Tara and travels to Atlanta with hopes of manipulating Rhett Butler into giving her money for the taxes. She gets to Atlanta and discovers Rhett is in prison awaiting a murder trial. She puts on a facade of prosperity and visits him in prison, she tries to seduce him in exchange for the money but Rhett sees through her facade after almost falling for it. He tells her he cannot help her because his money is at risk of being confiscated by the government if it is discovered.

Scarlett leaves the prison in despair at the thought of losing Tara. She runs into Frank Kennedy, a man that has indicated an interest in marrying her sister Suellen and upon realizing he is wealthy, she lies to him that Suellen has gotten engaged to another man. Scarlett seduces him and manipulates him into marrying her within a short time. From him, she gets the money to pay the tax and secure Tara.

While married to Frank Kennedy, Scarlett begins to look into his business and realizes his business is not well managed. Frank Kennedy is displeased that Scarlett is business inclined but Scarlett easily bullies him and gets her way. Frank Kennedy mentions his plans to acquire a sawmill but complains that his debtors are not paying up.

Scarlett runs into Rhett again, he has been acquitted of the charges against him and is free. They have a conversation and Scarlett asks him for a loan to start a business of her own and Rhett Butler gives her the loan. With the loan, Scarlett acquires the sawmill herself and makes a profitable business out of it to the dismay of her husband and society.

The news of Gerald O’Hara’s death reaches Scarlett and she travels to Tara from Atlanta. Will Benteen brings Scarlett up to speed on the things going on in Tara as he picks her up from the station. Will wants to marry Suellen, Careen wants to join a convent, and the entire county blames Suellen for her father’s death.

After Gerald O’Hara’s funeral, Ashley tells Scarlett of his plans to leave Tara and travel to New York with Melanie and their baby. Scarlett does not want Ashley to be far from her so she offers to employ him to manage one of her sawmills in Atlanta, and when he refuses her offer, she manipulates Melanie into persuading Ashley to take it and Ashley gives in.

Melanie and Ashley return to Atlanta and get a small house of their own. Soon Melanie becomes the heart of Atlanta society because she is loved by everyone and volunteers for all the associations Atlanta finds respectable.

Scarlett on the other hand continues to face the disapproval of Atlanta by her ruthless business ethics and the way she flouts conventions. She discovers that she is pregnant and her husband Frank is relieved, hoping that the pregnancy will divert her interest in the business. However, she continues to run her business until far into her pregnancy. She gives birth to a baby girl and they name her Ella.

Shortly after the childbirth, Scarlett returns to managing her businesses to her husband’s utter dismay. Uncle Peter would ride her around but after an encounter where some Yankee women insult and belittle Uncle Peter, he stops riding Scarlett around because he was hurt that Scarlett did not stand up for him. Melanie asks Archie, one of the strangers she hosts in her cellar to drive Scarlett around and he agrees. Archie is mysterious and taciturn but is dependable enough to keep Scarlett safe. However, Archie stops driving Scarlett around when she begins to use the labor of convicts to work in her sawmills.

Scarlett resorts to riding alone to her sawmills amidst the security tensions in Atlanta. One on occasion as she leaves her sawmill, she is attacked by two criminals from Shantytown but Big Sam, their former slave at Tara rescues her.

Frank Kennedy, Ashley Wilkes, Dr. Meade, and many other men of Atlanta who are members of the Ku Klux Klan plot an attack on Shantytown in retaliation for the attack on Scarlett. Rhett gets information that the Yankee officers have set a trap for whoever would attempt to attack Shantytown that night and rushes to warn Ashley and Frank but they are already at the Ku Klux Klan meeting and he meets Melanie and Scarlett instead.

Frank Kennedy and Tommy Wellburn are already shot dead in the attacks but Rhett does his best to manipulate evidence and plot an alibi to save Ashley Wilkes and the other members of the Ku Klux Klan from being convicted. The alibi involves Belle Watling, a known prostitute in Atlanta testifying that all the men had been in her salon with her girls on the night of the attack. It was an alibi the elites of Atlanta found very scandalous but they grudgingly accepted it to escape death by hanging.

After the case is resolved, Rhett Butler proposes marriage to Scarlett who is widowed for the second time and she agrees to marry him.

Part Five

Rhett and Scarlett get married and make indulgent trips for their honeymoon. Rhett is rich and indulges Scarlett’s whims which involves building a gigantic house with ostentatious furnishing because Scarlett is determined to be the envy of the people of Atlanta who treated her with contempt. But the people of Atlanta continue to snub her despite her wealth and only Melanie truly stands by her.

Scarlett gets pregnant the third time with Rhett’s child and gives birth to a baby girl. They give the baby girl a nickname, Bonnie. Scarlett tells Rhett that they are not to have sexual relations again because she does not want more children, Rhett agrees and they move into separate bedrooms.

Bonnie grows into a spoiled little girl who Rhett loves and showers with devotion. Rhett takes Bonnie everywhere he goes and the people of Atlanta see them as an adorable pair.

Melanie plans a surprise birthday for Ashley and asks Scarlett to stall him at the sawmill so that they can finish preparations. Scarlett and Ashley begin to talk in the office and the sawmill and in the course of the conversation, Scarlett realizes that she is no longer in love with Ashley. They share a friendly embrace and at that moment, India Wilkes and Archie walk in on them and assume they are having an affair.

The rumor of the affair spreads quickly through Atlanta but Melanie pays no heed to it and chastises anyone that dares mention it to her. Scarlett decides not to go to the party because she is ashamed of facing people with the rumors spreading about her but Rhett insists that she goes. Back home from the party, Scarlett and Rhett have an altercation after which Rhett makes love to her. She wakes up the next morning to hear that Rhett has gone on a trip with little Bonnie.

Before Rhett returns from his trip, Scarlett discovers that she is pregnant yet again. When Rhett returns, she angrily tells him how displeased she is about the pregnancy and Rhett sarcastically remarks that she will probably have a miscarriage. in response to the remark, Scarlett launches at him but mistakenly falls from the staircase and has a miscarriage.

Rhett buys a pony and teaches Bonnie to ride. One day, Bonnie dies from an accident while trying to jump a high bar with the pony and this puts a serious strain on Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage.

Scarlett takes a trip out of town but rushes back to Atlanta when Rhett messages her that Melanie is very ill. Melanie has just had a miscarriage from a pregnancy the doctors warned against and the complications are serious. Scarlett goes to Melanie’s sickbed and they talk, Melanie pleads with Scarlett to take care of Ashley and Beau when she dies. Scarlett meets Ashley distraught and realizes that Ashley had always been in love with Melanie.

Melanie dies and Scarlett is devastated. She walks back to her house alone and the mist and the darkness bring a dejavu of her nightmares, at that moment she realizes she longs for the comfort and security of Rhett’s arms and also realizes she is in love with Rhett.

When she gets home to Rhett, he has packed his belongings and is ready to leave. She pleads with him to stay with her and tells him she loves him but he is obstinate and tells her he cannot risk his heart anymore.

Scarlett asks him what she should do if he leaves and he responds that he does not give a damn.

When he leaves, Scarlett decides to return to Tara and assures herself that she can win Rhett back because after all “Tomorrow is another day”.


Is Tara a real Plantation?

No, Tara is not a real plantation. Tara is a fictional place in Margaret Mitchell’s popular historical fiction Gone with the Wind. It is a plantation in Clayton County acquired by the fictional character Gerald O’Hara on a wager with a stranger in Savannah. Tara was Gerald O’Hara’s most priced possession and he once told his daughter, Scarlett, that “Land is the only thing that lasts… the only thing worth fighting for” concerning Tara. Scarlett O’Hara would eventually come to love Tara later in the story.

How many times did Scarlett O’Hara marry in Gone with the Wind?

Scarlett O’Hara married three times in Gone with the Wind. Her first marriage was to Charles Hamilton which she did to spite Ashley Wilkes. Her second marriage was to her sister’s beau Frank Kennedy, whom she snatched from her younger sister Suellen in a bid to save their home from bankruptcy. And her third marriage was to Rhett Butler with whom she had a bittersweet relationship.

What state is Gone with the Wind set in?

Gone with the Wind is set in the state of Georgia in the Southern part of the United States of America. Atlanta, Clayton County, and Jonesboro are some of the settings for the major events in the story.

Onyeka Osuji
About Onyeka Osuji
Onyeka is a lecturer of Public Administration and a Literature enthusiast. After gaining accreditation in English Literature, Onyeka analyzes novels on Book Analysis, whilst working as an academic and writing short stories.
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