Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Rhett Butler

Rhett represents the uneasy coexistence of the Old South, the New South, and the North. He is nostalgic about the traditional values of the Old South, he is opportunistic and ethically loose in the New South, and he supports the Yankees when he believes in them or when an alliance with the North benefits him. Because he does not ally himself with only one camp, he feels free to criticize all groups, even those he sometimes supports. In his shifting allegiance he symbolizes the uncertainty about the future that pervades the South in the postwar era.


Atlanta, burned by the Yankees and then rebuilt, symbolizes the resiliency of the South. Atlanta has little to do with the Old South—born as a railroad hub, it becomes strategically vital to the South during the Civil War. After rebuilding, Atlanta becomes a city of the New South, run by Northerners and Scalawags (white Southerners who supported the efforts of the Reconstruction-era government) and is characterized by garish wealth on one side and squalid poverty on the other. Mitchell contrasts this vibrant New South city of saloons, Yankees, and freed slaves with Tara, the Old South plantation that runs on tradition.