"Gone with the Wind" – Scarlett O’Hara in the novel and the film

A Comparison

Seminar Paper, 2008

16 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1 Introduction to the topic

2 The Old South

3 Gone With the Wind – the novel

4 Gone With the Wind – the film

5 The Character of Scarlett
5.1 Scarlett’s character development
5.2 Scarlett’s character according to the other characters
5.3 Scarlett’s character according to the narrator
5.4 Depiction of Scarlett in the film

6 Differences of Scarlett in the novel and the film

7 Conclusion
7.1 Works Cited

1 Introduction to the topic

The following paper tries to introduce one of the most remarkable American novels of the 20th century and its most outstanding character Scarlett O’Hara. Gone with the Wind was written by Margaret Mitchell and was published in 1936. It is a novel that combines the events of the 19th century American Civil War with the story of Scarlett O’Hara, her family, her friends and her foes. It was followed by a film that was released in 1939 and two authorized sequels which were published in 1991 and 2007.

Gone with the Wind plays in the Old American South and also reflects a Southern point of view of the events of the Civil War. It begins when Scarlett is 16 years old and ends when she is 28. The paper will try to give an insight to the character of Scarlett and will try to analyze what Scarlett stands for or if she stands for anything more than herself in the novel and the film.

2 The Old South

The plot of the novel is settled in the American South of the 19th century, although there is no real borderline that separates the South from the North. But still, it “has evolved a variety of political, economic, social, religious, cultural, and even psychological characteristics distinguishing it from other sections of the country”[1]. The term “Old South” creates a feeling of nostalgia and regret for a world that is lost. Another term, “Ante-Bellum South”, which also refers to the South, furthermore refers to the classical civilization that was proudly claimed by the Old South. Both terms have clinging to them something of the South’s enduring mythology. The novel Gone with the Wind, as well as other publications, has hardened the image of the chivalrous, romantic and heroic South of the 19th century and not even novels like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which tries to create a counter-image, were strong enough to drive out the mythical idea of the South.

Margaret Mitchell depicts Southern people as a civilization that has fought for its beliefs and ideals and has lost. She introduces strong characters to the reader which stand for either the old and lost chivalrous civilization (Melanie and Ashley) or for the new South (Scarlett and Rhett), which makes the best of what is left to them. In between, Mitchell has settled characters that struggle with both old and new traditions and habits.

3 Gone With the Wind – the novel

Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind was published in 1936. It consists of 63 chapters in five parts that can be divided into two large parts, namely the Civil War (parts I, II and III) and Reconstruction (parts IV and V). It not only provides historical facts and information about the Civil War, but it also tells a story of a Southern society from a white Southern point of view and describes the personal fate of Scarlett O’Hara. Its main characters are Scarlett and Rhett Butler as well as Melanie Hamilton and Ashley Wilkes. It is the traditional constellation for a national legend as all four characters are interrelated throughout the novel.

Mitchell does not draw clear lines between events, especially not with Scarlett. There are episodic storylines and sometimes large gaps between events. Furthermore, not everything about the war is told. The reader gets informed by characters talking about certain events or talking about what they have heard from second hand, but the narrator also provides the reader with facts. As many people who played an important part in the Civil War are mentioned and interweaved into the plot, the novel becomes more realistic. Mitchell creates very vivid characters and although there are uncountable characters brought into and out of the storyline, the reader never gets confused.

4 Gone With the Wind – the film

Gone with the Wind was released in 1939, produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming. It was awarded ten Oscars and it has been named by the American Film Institute as number four among the top 100 American films of all time. “Today it is considered one of the most popular and greatest films of all time.”[2] Unlike the novel, the film is divided into 56 parts or chapters, but the actual plot begins with chapter 4 and ends with chapter 54, so there are in total 50 chapters of the story.

The film begins with an introduction:

Margaret Mitchell’s story of the Old South” (Ch.1), “There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South… Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair of Master and of Slave. Look for if only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind… (Ch.3)

The viewer is reminded that it is only a story and not the retelling of history by the phrase “no more than a dream remembered”, for it could also be “a time remembered”, which it isn’t. Furthermore, there is an introduction of the characters with the names of the actors and their names in the story and their relation to other characters, which is not found in the novel.

To shorten the playtime of the film, some passages from the novel are expressed by text in the film, especially the battles between North and South. Texts with music in the background are settled in between the plot and the viewer can read it for himself so that the film does not have to show it. There are also certain events cut out in the film which the director did not feel are necessary to understand the whole storyline.[3] For example Scarlett has only one child whereas she has three in the novel. If one knows both novel and film, it becomes clear that the director set a different focus on the plot than the novelist. Moreover, events are changed in the film to fit better into the story. For example, Gerald dies under different circumstances in the film, for the director did not feel the circumstances in the novel fitting into his storyline.

Some have criticized the film for romanticizing, sanitizing or even promoting the values of the Ante-Bellum South, in particular its reliance on slavery. The book is far more open in the matter of freedom of speech than the film, and it leaves no doubt that this was necessary in order to show what people really felt without putting "makeup" that would take out the accurate nature of the book. One shall not forget that the novel is over a thousand pages long and a director never can translate all of a novel exactly. Furthermore, a director always has a chance to put emphasis on something different than the novelist to give a film his personal note.

5 The Character of Scarlett

Scarlett O’Hara is the main character in the book and simultaneously the most outstanding and remarkable one. The story begins shortly before the war begins when she is 16 years old and ends when she is 28. The first passage begins with a description of her face and the narrator lets the reader know that there is more to Scarlett than her appearance: “…her true self was poorly concealed…Her manners had been imposed…her eyes were her own.” (Mitchell, 25) Scarlett is a very selfish character and likes to be the center of everything: “…she could never long endure any conversation of which she was not the chief subject.”(27) The reader gets to know that Scarlett is not interested in political discussions or anything like that, for she is a young woman concerned about things like picnics and men: “There’s nothing worse than a barbecue turned into an indoor picnic.”(29) Her interests change later on, but her character stays the same.


[1] Ranson, Edward and Hook, Andrew. The Old South. p.107

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind_(film), 04 Feb. 2008

[3] Vertrees, Alan David. Selznick's vision : 'Gone with the wind' and Hollywood filmmaking. p.21ff

Excerpt out of 16 pages


"Gone with the Wind" – Scarlett O’Hara in the novel and the film
A Comparison
Ruhr-University of Bochum
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
583 KB
Gone with the wind, Vom winde verweht, Scarlett O'Hara, Gone with the wind analysis
Quote paper
Jennifer Koss (Author), 2008, "Gone with the Wind" – Scarlett O’Hara in the novel and the film, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/148935


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: "Gone with the Wind" – Scarlett O’Hara in the novel and the film

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free