The novel’s protagonist. Scarlett is a pretty, coquettish
Southern belle who grows up on the Georgia plantation of Tara in
the years before the Civil War. Selfish, shrewd, and vain, Scarlett
inherits the strong will of her father, Gerald, but also desires
to please her well-bred, genteel mother, Ellen. When hardships plague
Scarlett, she shoulders the troubles of her family and friends.
Scarlett’s simultaneous desire for the Southern gentleman Ashley
and the opportunistic New Southerner Rhett Butler parallels the
South’s struggle to cling to tradition and still survive in the
in-depth analysis of Scarlett O’Hara.
third husband, and a dashing, dangerous adventurer and scoundrel.
Expelled from West Point and disowned by his prominent Charleston
family, Rhett becomes an opportunistic blockade-runner during the
war, emerging as one of the only rich Southern men in Atlanta after
the war. Rhett proves himself a loving father and, at times, a caring
husband. Though he loves Scarlett, his pride prevents him from showing
her his love, and it even leads him to brutality. Candid, humorous,
and contemptuous of silly social codes, Rhett exposes hypocrisy
wherever he goes. He represents postwar society, a pragmatic, fast-paced world
in which the strong thrive and the weak perish.
in-depth analysis of Rhett Butler.
handsome, chivalrous, and honorable heir to the Twelve Oaks plantation
near Tara. Ashley bewitches Scarlett through most of the novel.
After the war, Ashley becomes resigned and sad, and he regrets not
marrying Scarlett. Committed to his honor and Southern tradition,
he cannot adjust to the postwar South. Ashley represents the values
and nostalgia of the Old South.
in-depth analysis of Ashley Wilkes.
Melanie Hamilton Wilkes
The frail, good-hearted wife of Ashley Wilkes. Melanie
provokes Scarlett’s jealous hatred throughout most of the novel.
After the two women suffer together through the Civil War, however, a
strong bond forms between them. Eventually, Scarlett understands
that Melanie’s unflagging love and support has been a source of
strength for her. Like Ashley, Melanie embodies the values of the
Old South, but in contrast to Ashley’s futile dreaming, Melanie faces
the world with quiet but powerful inner strength.
father. Gerald is a passionately loyal Confederate who immigrated
to America from Ireland as a young man. His strong will, tendency
to drink, and selfishness echo in Scarlett’s nature. Scarlett also inherits
Gerald’s love for the South and for his plantation, Tara.
mother, and a descendent of the aristocratic Robillard family. Ellen
marries Gerald and devotes herself to running Tara after her father
forbids her love affair with Philippe, her cousin. Refined and compassionate,
strong and firm, Ellen serves as an impossible ideal for the willful
Scarlett. Even after Ellen’s death, Scarlett struggles with the
competing desires to please her mother and please herself.
childhood nurse. Mammy is an old, heavyset slave who was also nurse
to Scarlett’s mother, Ellen. Loyal and well-versed in Southern etiquette,
Mammy keeps Scarlett in line. After Ellen’s death, Mammy becomes
for Scarlett one of the only living reminders of the Old South.
weak-willed but kind second husband. Frank is described as an “old
maid in britches.” Scarlett steals him away from her sister Suellen
so that he will pay the taxes necessary to save Tara.
Melanie’s brother and Scarlett’s first husband. Charles
is a timid and bland boy for whom Scarlett feels no love. Charles’s
death early in the war confines Scarlett to the role of widow. Scarlett
finds the social expectations surrounding widowhood—that she wear a
black veil, for example, and refrain from laughter and pleasure—overly
Aunt Pittypat Hamilton
Melanie and Charles Hamilton’s aunt. Aunt Pittypat
is a flighty old maid who faints from shock several times a day.
Scarlett lives with Aunt Pittypat for much of her stay in Atlanta.
Bonnie Blue Butler
Scarlett’s third and last child. Bonnie is the daughter
of Rhett Butler. Spoiled and strong-willed like her mother, Bonnie
elicits utter devotion from Rhett and eventually replaces Scarlett
as the center of Rhett’s attention.
Scarlett’s younger sister. Suellen is a selfish,
petty girl who marries Will Benteen after Scarlett steals Frank
Scarlett’s youngest sister. Carreen is a good-natured
girl who turns to religion after the war and joins a convent.
cold and jealous sister. India never forgives Scarlett for stealing
Stuart Tarleton from her during their youth. At one point India
catches Scarlett embracing Ashley and gossips about the sight, causing a
great debate among all of Atlanta society.
gigantic slave and foreman of the field hands at Tara. Big Sam saves
Scarlett from her attacker in Shantytown.
O’Hara’s first slave. Pork is loyal and devoted to the O’Haras.
daughter of Dilcey, a slave at Twelve Oaks. Prissy is a foolish,
lazy young slave prone to telling lies. The late discovery of Prissy’s
lie that she knows how to assist at childbirth compels Scarlett
to deliver Melanie’s baby herself, which is one of Scarlett’s first
significant acts of self-sufficiency.
A young woman whose poor white family lives in the
swamp bottom near Tara. Emmie is considered “white trash,” and Scarlett’s
class-conscious, genteel society dislikes Emmie, as does the narrator.
The Yankee overseer of Tara whom Gerald fires for
impregnating Emmie Slattery. Jonas works for the Freedmen’s Bureau
after the war and marries Emmie. He raises taxes on Tara to try
to force out the O’Haras, prompting Scarlett’s marriage to Frank
Atlanta prostitute with whom Rhett Butler has a long-term affair.
She wins the gratitude of the Atlanta Ku Klux Klan by providing
them with an alibi for a murder.
one-legged Confederate soldier who becomes a fixture at Tara after
the war despite his lack of family or wealth. Will makes Tara a
marginally profitable farm. His competence allows Scarlett to move
to Atlanta and leave him in charge.
Wade Hampton Hamilton
Scarlett’s oldest child. The son of Charles Hamilton,
Wade inherits his father’s timid and bland disposition.
Ella Lorena Kennedy
Scarlett’s second child. Ella Lorena is the ugly,
silly daughter of Frank Kennedy.