A romantic who is crippled by his nostalgia for the Old South, Ashley spends most of the film listlessly adrift through the harsher realities of the Reconstruction Era. Unlike Scarlett, he has no ambition or goals for the future, needing to be pushed into his profession by the stronger women in his life and joining the Confederate army without feeling passionate about the war. All he can do is remember the elegance of his life as it once was and wish that he could return to those days.
To Ashley, Scarlett represents passion and strength, while Melanie’s gentleness and consistent devotion remind him of all the grace and beauty of the plantations that were destroyed by the war. He insists that his honor keeps him from resolving the love triangle between the three characters, but in reality he knows the situation is vital to his continued existence. At the end of the film, after Melanie has died and Scarlett’s adoration has disappeared, the viewer is left wondering whether Ashley himself will soon vanish.