Society punishes those women who put a toe over the gender lines. Scarlett, willful like her father, who sometimes treats her like the son he never had, constantly butts against these rigid gender roles. As a child she prefers playing in the trees with boys to sitting calmly inside with girls. As she grows older, she resents putting on a façade of helplessness and silliness to attract men. Like the men of the Old South, Scarlett acts selfishly and vainly and requires constant pampering. Although in character Scarlett resembles the men around her more than she resembles the women, her world does not allow her to budge from the restrictive role prescribed for women. Scarlett adapts to this social restraint, using her cunning and will to present a ladylike face to the world while maintaining her masculine interior.

Foreshadowing abounds in the early chapters. When we see Ellen O’Hara rush off to help Emmie Slattery and Emmie’s dying newborn, we glimpse a character trait in Ellen—her selflessness—that becomes significant during the war. Similarly, Gerald’s reckless fence-jumping establishes a pattern of dangerous behavior that recurs in a later scene. The brief mention of an implied relationship between the stereotyped characters Jonas Wilkerson, the Yankee overseer, and Emmie Slattery, a poor “white trash” girl, foreshadows these characters’ eventual return to the lives of the O’Hara family. These scenes and interactions seem unimportant, but they lend crucial credibility to later plot developments.