- Scarlett’s views on marriage are cynical, viewing it as a means to an end rather than a source of happiness and love.
- Rhett values Scarlett’s strength and determination, but their constant bickering and lack of support for each other damages their relationship.
- The characters in Gone With The Wind struggle with loss, harship, and the changing times, but ultimately, they are resilient and capable of growth.
While it might not be considered a blockbuster today, Gone With The Wind was part of 1939’s biggest box office competition, and its quotes are still as insightful, romantic, and witty as they were over 80 years ago. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, it follows feisty Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Lee) before, during, and after the Civil War shakes the foundations of the antebellum South. While trying to secure her future as her estate, Tara, crumbles around her, she engages in a passionate love affair with the rakish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
Scarlett pines for the dashing and sensitive Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), but he loves the pure-hearted Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), and while Rhett isn’t the man of her dreams, his pragmatism helps the Southern belle through war, famine, and poverty. Despite losing her sense of identity as the aristocratic and sheltered world she’s known crumbles around her, Scarlett rises from the ashes a changed woman. Unfortunately, it’s too late to repair her relationship with Rhett, who has come to see her as spoiled and spiteful.
30 “Marriage, Fun? Fiddle-Dee-Dee. Fun For Men You Mean.”
Scarlett makes her feelings about commitment and marriage known early in Gone With The Wind when Rhett presses her on the subject. She treats it as a joke, but her humor belies her struggle to accept that while he may court her, Ashley doesn’t view her as marriage material. She views marriage as a means to an end when her hope for true love dies.
29 “Whatever Happens, I’ll Love You Just As I Do Now Until I Die.”
This quote by Melanie Hamilton is an example of unfettered affection between her and Ashley. Where Rhett and Scarlett’s romance is tempestuous and passionate, Melanie and Ashley’s is constant and enduring. Her ability to be honest is one of the reasons why Ashley marries her rather than Scarlett, whose tendency to view love as transactional prevents her from finding it.
28 “And, You, Miss, Are No Lady.”
Rhett Butler snaps this reply after Scarlett declares, “Sir, you are no gentleman.” Rhett would prefer that Scarlett drop the pretenses she hides behind in order to be considered more ladylike, but she clings to society’s edifice in order to be well-liked by others. Rhett finds her best qualities emerge when she’s authentically herself, rather than a feminine archetype.
27 “I’ve Never Heard Of Such Bad Taste.”
This is Scarlett’s response to Rhett Butler’s proposal of marriage. Rhett never fits into Scarlett’s carefully constructed expectations, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to win her heart. In fact, the effort emboldens him, until after years of trying to prove himself, the effort wears him out.
26 “I Seem To Be Spoiling Everybody’s Brandy, And Cigars, And Dreams Of Victory.”
When Rhett discusses the impending Civil War with Ashley Wilkes and Melanie’s brother (Scarlett’s future husband), they believe he’s speaking treason when he correctly deduces that the North is better equipped. They belittle his character, but Rhett is characteristically unphased. He mentions this quote, which reduces their outrage to nothing more than petty bickering.
25 “It Like To Turn My Blood Cold, The Things They Say To One Another.”
Mammy is a problematic character as far as representation goes in Gone With the Wind. That being said, she’s always candid about what’s going on around her, and she states what the audience is thinking. She recognizes that though Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara share a great love, they also cut each other down far more than they build each other up, which is incredibly unhealthy.
24 “If You Don’t Care What Folks Say About This Family, I Does!”
Mammy’s role in Gone With The Wind is important to keep the events of the main characters in perspective. She always reminds Scarlett about what’s the most important to focus on, including keeping up appearances no matter what state her life is in. As this quote proves, she takes pride in her household and the family she supports, even if she often operates thanklessly unseen.
23 “Hardships Make Or Break People.”
Ever the realist, Rhett Butler understands that transformation and growth come from tackling difficult things. After nearly losing her home and her dignity, Scarlett O’Hara proves that she won’t break. Unfortunately, Ashley’s decision to marry Melanie Hamilton after courting her is the inciting incident in Scarlett’s life that makes her constantly validate herself through men’s eyes instead of her own.
22 “If I Said I Was Madly In Love With You, I’d Be Lying And What’s More, You’d Know It.”
Scarlett declares this to Rhett Butler when he questions her feelings for him. Where he’s able to be effusive about his emotions, she won’t dignify his affections with a response other than being coy. Unfortunately, her reservations only make her more of a challenge for someone like Rhett, who finds winning her love as his highest priority.
21 “You’re Like The Thief Who Isn’t The Least Bit Sorry He Stole, But Is Terribly Sorry He’s Going To Jail.”
Rhett makes this observation of Scarlett based on her inability to ever admit her part in any coercion. Whether it’s trying to stick her nose into other people’s professional or personal business, she always begs forgiveness rather than asking permission. Rhett finds the quality amusing at first, but this conscious refusal to see Scarlett’s true character will lead to a lot of pain for him.
20 “Tomorrow, I’ll Think Of Some Way To Get Him Back.”
Scarlett O’Hara might be one of literature’s most vivid characters for her intrepid fortitude in the face of adversity, but it’s rooted in her perpetual optimism. Unfortunately, this optimism comes from a certain amount of delusion and denial. Every new day brings a new opportunity, even if it means trying to get her erstwhile lover back.
19 “I’m Very Drunk And I Intend On Getting Still Drunker Before The Evening’s Over.”
Rhett Butler is considered one of literature’s most rakish heroes, and as played by Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind, truly comes across as a 19th-century Han Solo mixed with a little James Bond. This line perfectly exemplifies his cheeky sense of humor as well as his penchant for imbibing. His Bohemian behavior is in sharp contrast to Scarlett’s need to be in control all the time.
18 “I’d Cut Up My Heart For You To Wear If You Wanted It.”
Rhett is so desperate for Scarlett’s love that he’ll say and do anything to get it. In the same way she thinks Ashley’s love with make her better, so Rhett believes that earning Scarlett’s love will change his personal worth as well. Trying to get happiness from external validation only places them more at odds with each other.
17 “I Want The Old Days Back Again And They’ll Never Come Back.”
After the war, Ashley Wilkes struggles to work the land at Scarlett’s estate, Tara. He pines for the days when life was simpler, before families were split apart, and death and disease hadn’t ravaged the South. Unfortunately, his gentle sensitivity is tested by the realities of his situation, and the fact that he has to depend on Scarlett to provide for his family.
16 “I Am Haunted By The Memory Of Them And Of The World Falling About My Ears.”
Ashley represents a loss of innocence for the South, and with his sophomoric words about its past, showcases the fact that its future won’t include cotillions and sipping fine wine while indentured people of color work the cotton fields. Things weren’t hard for Ashley and the people in his class, and now he must face the brunt candor of hopelessness and humiliation.
15 “Dear Scarlett! You Aren’t Helpless. Anyone As Selfish And Determined As You Are Is Never Helpless.”
One of Rhett’s virtues throughout Gone With The Wind is his unwavering belief in Scarlett’s spirit and her ability to persevere when she puts her mind to something. While her ends don’t always justify the means, Rhett doesn’t buy any time she feigns helplessness. He values her strength and determination, but the way she disregards others’ feelings to get what she wants makes her a complicated heroine.
14 “Really, Scarlett, I Can’t Go All My Life Waiting To Catch You Between Husbands.”
In Gone With The Wind, Scarlett has been married twice, to Melanie’s brother Charles and to her sister Suellen’s husband Frank, by the time Rhett gets his chance to propose. This crack at her marriage record highlights the his character’s charm and wit. It’s debatable whether Scarlett ever married out of love or security.
13 “Life’s Under No Obligation To Give Us What We Expect.”
Ashley Wilkes was often the voice of reason in Scarlett’s life, able to cut through her vapidity with this sort of preponderance. This line is particularly prescient when Ashley returns from the war after being captured and placed in a prison camp. His life, like the rest of the characters in Gone With The Wind doesn’t turn out like he’d hoped.
12 “You Should Have Told Me Years Ago That You Loved Me.”
Scarlett confronts Ashley about his feelings for her, as evidenced by this gutsy quote. She had to accept that he married Melanie instead of her, and whether he made it out of duty or out of love, he continued to string Scarlett along. Ashley never had the guts to tell Scarlett that he loved her to her face, if he ever really did.
11 “Death, Taxes And Childbirth! There’s Never Any Convenient Time For Any Of Them.”
For most of Gone With The Wind, Scarlett doesn’t have to encounter life’s harsh truths. The flippancy of this line proves that she doesn’t value serious events like death, taxes, or childbirth, things that will nearly break her later. Scarlett uses humor to deflect the fact that she’s secretly terrified.