Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
In addition to representing the land it was built on, Tara serves as a symbol of family and a sense of continuity for Scarlett, often more so than the living family she has left. After her mother dies and her father goes mad, Scarlett doesn’t allow her sisters to say anything bad about Tara, admonishing them that it would be like insulting their lost parents. Tara’s presence comforts Scarlett after Ashley’s rejections and offers a physical defense against Jonas Wilkerson when he tries to intimidate her. When Scarlett moves to Atlanta and becomes wealthy, she doesn’t forget about Tara, ensuring that it remains beautiful and well cared for. After Rhett leaves, Tara serves as the only place where Scarlett can recover from the blow and lick her wounds in peace.
Though it initially belongs to Rhett, the gun he gives Scarlett upon her escape from Atlanta symbolizes Scarlett’s own strength and ability to stand on her own. Rhett first gives Scarlett the gun before leaving her and the other women alone in enemy territory, confident that Scarlett will be able to take care of herself with the proper resources. Later, the gun and Scarlett’s courage to use it allow her to defend her home from the Yankee deserter. Scarlett’s abilities and independence develop until she can shoot well at close range. This talent mirrors her outlook on life, winning her no points for elegance but leaving her able to do what’s necessary in any situation.
Scarlett’s lovely, frivolous hats symbolize her young, girlish side, the part of her that wants nothing more than to be entertained and to be the object of all the boys’ admiration. After Charles dies she wants to defy her widow’s garb by wearing a fashionable hat, just as she wants to defy her mourning period by dancing and going to parties. While in Atlanta, Rhett woos Scarlett by ordering her a hat from Paris, its purchase symbolizing a much stronger acknowledgement of Scarlett’s beauty and charm than he is ever willing to offer out loud. Even near the end of the film, after Scarlett has become a shrewd, practical, and highly successful businesswoman, she still claims that putting on an attractive hat makes her forget about sensible things like bookkeeping. Scarlett still wants to be thought of as the prettiest girl at the ball.