Gone With the Wind is a sweeping, romantic story about the American Civil War from the point of view of the Confederacy. In particular it is the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a headstrong Southern belle who survives the hardships of the war and afterwards manages to establish a successful business by capitalizing on the struggle to rebuild the South. Throughout the book she is motivated by her unfulfilled love for Ashley Wilkes, an honorable man who is happily married. After a series of marriages and failed relationships with other men, notably the dashing Rhett Butler, she has a change of heart and determines to win Rhett back.
At the ripe age of 16, Scarlett decides that what she really needs is a man. Unfortunately, all of the eligible young men in her town just don’t live up to her ideal standards.
Then Ashley Wilkes moves to town. He’s wildly attractive. He’s a perfect gentleman. He is extremely wealthy. He rides around the countryside on his horse rescuing damsels from any distress they found themselves in. He gambles, but always wins. In fact, Ashley’s only defect is the unfortunate fact that he already has a wife.
Even with this large impediment Scarlett still believes that she can easily steal away his heart. This is harder than she expected due to the fact that Ashley is completely oblivious to all of her advances, and Scarlett begins to despair of ever being happy without Ashley’s love.
Right when the crushing sentimentality of the novel begins to wear on the reader, the Civil War steals both Ashley and any other eligible men away as they join the Confederacy, so Scarlett dresses up as a man and joins Ashley’s regiment in her continued quest to win his heart.
Unfortunately she is immediately caught due to the fact that a strong wind picks up as she enters the camp and within moments her hat is gone (and a title is born), causing her elaborately coffered hair to cascaded out. Needless to say, she is sent home.
But dear Scarlett is nothing if not resourceful, so she capitalizes on her few days of spunk and after the war ends becomes a motivational speaker for woman’s rights, and makes thousands of dollars by being a keynote speaker at suffrage ralleys.
As she thrives in her role as an independent woman, Scarlett tries her best to forget Ashley but can’t help comparing him to every man she meets. She steadily works her way through a string of lovers in an attempt to make the empty feeling inside of her go away.
At a large rally in Chicago she meets Rhett, a naive man with more money that he knows what to do with. He is taken with her driven personality and a few weeks later they have a lavish wedding.
Unfortunately oblivious Ashley is a the wedding with his wife and now seven children, and Scarlett’s continued interest is noticed by her husband.
He begins investigating her past and discovers her loose ways. Even with her history revealed, he promises to cherish her as long as she remains faithful to him.
She cheats, and after 72 days the couple divorce.
In the wake of the separation, Scarlett drifts from man to man, squandering her fortune while wondering how her life could have changed so much.
Eventually she looses all of her fortune, and as soon as her most current lover finds out he abandons her.
Oblivious Ashley hears of her plight and invites her, as an old friend, to take shelter at his home. While staying there, she discovers the defects in Ashley’s character. His wife is the one in charge of his entire outfit and grooming, she practically runs his life. He is in fact, quite incapable of doing much on his own.
Scarlett realizes that she simply projected the characteristics of her perfect man onto a man she could never have (this is, after all a classic novel moment). She discusses this at great length with Ashley’s less oblivious wife before departing to Chicago to track down Rhett, who she now realizes is the true love of her life.
Rhett is still living alone in the home they shared, and upon finding Scarlett slumped against his front door, sits her down in the parlor for the recap of the discussion Scarlett already had with Oblivious Ashley’s insightful wife.
Unfortunately, this is a classic novel, so after Scarlett’s tearful pleas finally moves Brett to accepting her apology and agree to take her back, Scarlett immediately drops dead of chlamydia.
The entire town attends her funeral and agrees to remember her as the young, beautiful girl that she was instead of the disease ridden wreck that she became, and a few months later Ashley leaves his wife for their younger, less demanding maid.