Gone With the Wind Literary Elements

Gone With the Wind Literary Elements


Historical Fiction

Setting and Context

Georgia during the American Civil War and Reconstruction

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person omniscient narrator who almost entirely follows the protagonist Scarlett O'Hara

Tone and Mood

Reverent, Solemn, Witty, Dignified

Protagonist and Antagonist

Scarlett O'Hara is the protagonist of the novel. The antagonist is the American Civil War and the destruction and disruption it carries.

Major Conflict

Scarlett O'Hara could marry any man in Georgia but she has set her sights on Ashley Wilkes. She confesses her love to Ashley, but he informs her he has decided to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton. Even after Ashley is married, Scarlett continues to pursue him, even through three marriages of her own.


Scarlett O'Hara marries the dashing Rhett Butler and begin a seemingly loving and fulfilling life together. Scarlett continues to struggle with her feelings for Ashley and they are caught sharing an embrace. The scandal and betrayal strains Scarlett's relationship with Rhett. Melanie ultimately dies and Rhett leaves Scarlett.


Margaret Mitchell uses foreshadowing heavily throughout the novel. When Rhett Butler first meets Scarlett, he tells her that she is not a lady. Following the war, Scarlett breaks gender and social norm after norm, proving that she does not act like a traditional lady. In another instance of foreshadowing, Scarlett's father, Gerald O'Hara, dies while jumping on his horse. Scarlett and Rhett's daughter, Bonnie, takes an affinity to horses. She too leaps over a jump with her horse only to fall and break her neck. Her death was one of the final breaking point's in Scarlett and Rhett's marriage.


Margaret Mitchell dramatically employs understatement at the onset of the novel when the men of Georgia discuss the impending war. The men trivialize the war. They are convinced it will be over before it starts and the South with gloriously defeat the North. Naturally, the reader is aware that this will not be the case.


The title, Gone with the Wind, is an allusion to the poem Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson. This poem laments lost feelings of love, which certainly reflects the major themes of Gone with the Wind. Scarlett struggles with her feelings for Ashley and Rhett throughout the course of the novel. She throws away her marriage with Rhett because of her unrequited feelings for Ashley, only in the end to realize she was never meant to be with Ashley at all. By the time she understands her love for Rhett, it is too late.


Margaret Mitchell uses imagery generously throughout the novel. She frequently uses visceral sounds and descriptions to depict the horrors of war and it's aftermath.


In the final chapter of Gone with the Wind, Scarlett rushes home to Rhett after Melanie's death. She confesses that she truly loves Rhett and had never loved Ashley. She tells Rhett, "I— I don’t believe I’ve cared anything about him for ages." This, of course, is not the case, as she had just previously been caught embracing Ashley. The sentiment still rings true somehow, but is none the less a paradox.


Many of Scarlett's most memorable speeches are memorable due to their parallelism. "As God is my witness, as God is my witness, the Yankees aren’t going to lick me. I’m going to live through this, and when it’s over, I’m never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill — as God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again" The repetition of both "as God is my witness" as well as "I'm never going to be hungry again" serves to emphasize this dramatic moment.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Metonymy is used throughout the novel, notably through the use of the word "heart." The word "heart" in Gone with the Wind is often used as a substitute for love. Synecdoche is most obviously seen the use of the word "South" as it applies to the Confederate States and their loss in the American Civil War. The word "South" is used in place of saying the government, politicians, soldiers, and citizens of the Confederate States.


Mitchell often uses personification when describing the Georgian land. She depicts the land after rain as, "moist hungry earth, waiting upturned for the cotton seeds, showed pinkish on the sandy tops of furrows, vermilion and scarlet and maroon where shadows lay along the sides of the trenches." While earth itself cannot be hungry, the personification illustrates how fertile the land is after a storm. Similarly, the land is also often depicted as having feelings of it's own. For example, "the plantation clearings and miles of cotton fields smiled up to a warm sun, placid, complacent."

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