My dear, I don’t give a damn.

Rhett utters this line, likely the most famous in the whole novel, in the final chapter, after Scarlett asks what she will do if Rhett abandons her. Rhett leaves Scarlett for the last time with these words, illustrating the love-hate nature of their relationship. The indifference and profanity in the line perfectly encapsulate Rhett’s charming but spiteful character. Because Rhett hides his emotions, most notably his love for Scarlett, beneath a surface of nonchalance for so long, we cannot be sure of his exact feelings at this moment. The placement and alliteration of the words “dear” and “damn” seems to give them equal weight, accentuating the tension between the two. This line thus establishes a new conflict for Scarlett to resolve, which in turn gives us the sense that the story of Rhett and Scarlett does not end with Rhett’s departure.

Incidentally, when the movie version of the novel was released in 1939, the use of the word “damn” set off a wave of publicity and scandal, and the director was fined $5,000 for its inclusion. Though “damn” appears frequently in the novel, such language was seen as explicitly objectionable in film, and its use cemented the line and the movie in popular culture history.