Scarlett: “Sir, you are no gentleman.”
Rhett: “And you, Miss, are no lady.”
This exchange, which occurs just after Rhett reveals he has overheard Scarlett’s declaration of love for Ashley, neatly summarizes both the attraction and the fatal flaw in Rhett’s and Scarlett’s relationship. Scarlett is drawn to Rhett precisely because of how, in his daring and sexual magnetism, he is entirely different from the proper but utterly tame Southern gentlemen that surround her. His willingness to spontaneously sweep her into intense, dramatic kisses is scandalous in the eyes of society, but this is part of the passion and excitement Scarlett longs for from Ashley and from life itself. Rhett, for his part, is far more honest about the reasons behind his interest in Scarlett, often remarking on how different she is from other simpering Southern belles. Rhett, firmly rejected by everyone in his hometown of Charleston, has an outlook on life that has made him an outcast. He hopes that Scarlett, a woman who thinks the way he does and is unafraid to defy society, will break through his isolation.
This passion has its negative side as well. Even though Scarlett is attracted by what sets Rhett apart from more traditional gentlemen, she is at times repelled by it. Despite how boring they might be, the milder, more well-mannered men—Ashley in particular—represent the refinement and promise of Southern society before the war. These are the kind of men a proper Southern belle should want, and despite her actions Scarlett still thinks of herself as a proper Southern belle. A gentleman would allow her to maintain that she is a refined lady, while Rhett insists on disabusing her of the notion at every opportunity. For the first half of the film Rhett seems to enjoy this duty, but by the end of the film he is clearly disgusted by Scarlett. He discovers that the unladylike woman he put his hopes in rejects the qualities required of a good wife: compassion, understanding, and caring. No matter what Rhett does for her, Scarlett seems to care little for him.