Summary of the novel
April 1861 Plantation Tara, stretching twenty-five miles from Atlanta, Georgia.
Twins Tarlton, Stewart and Brent, in love with the charming daughter of the owner of Tara, sixteen-year-old Scarlet, give her two news. First, the war between the North and the South is about to begin. Secondly, Ashley Wilkes marries Melanie Hamilton, which will be announced tomorrow, when the Wilkes’ house hosts a big reception.
The news of the impending war for Scarlett is nothing compared to the report of Ashley’s marriage. The subject of the sighing of almost all the young people of the district, Scarlet herself loves only Ashley, who, she thinks, is not indifferent to herself. She can not understand what he found in Melanie, this very real blue stocking.
Scarlet appears at the Wilkes’ reception. She hopes to talk to Ashley and get him to change his mind. Among the guests is a certain Rhett Butler, who is told about the most eerie things. He was expelled from the military academy of West Point, and then was expelled from his home by the father after he refused to marry a girl whom, in the general opinion, compromised. But Scarlet now does not care about Butler. She needs to talk to Ashley. Having seized the moment, she is explained with him in the library. Alas, her plans go to rubble. Ashley is firm in his intention to marry Melanie. He loves Scarlet, but the mind takes over the feelings and suggests that Melanie is the same as he. They think and look at the world in the same way, and so there is a hope that their marriage will be happy.
Ashley leaves the library, Scarlet remains alone and furiously fires a vase into the wall above the sofa. To her confusion, it turns out that Rhett Butler was dozing on the couch, who was awakened by their explanation with Ashley. He expresses admiration for Scarlet’s spirit and determination and is surprised why Ashley Wilks remained indifferent to her virtues. Scarlet furiously slams the door and leaves.
Rumors about the war are being confirmed. Young people gather with weapons in their hands to defend the rights of their native South. On the first of May, the wedding of Ashley and Melanie should take place. To annoy them, Scarlet takes courtship of the shy and faint brother of Melanie Charles and agrees to become his wife. Their wedding takes place one day before the wedding of Ashley and Melanie.
Two months later Scarlet becomes a widow. Charles dies of pneumonia, never having been in combat. Scarlet has a son, Wade. In May 1862, she moved to Atlanta. She is forced to mourn and lead the sad existence of a grieving widow, although her whole nature is opposed to this.
But one day she appears at a charity bazaar in favor of the hospital, where she again meets Rett Butler. A cynic and a scoffer, he sees it through, understands perfectly well what inspired her to marry, and this freaks her out. When there is a collection of jewelry to buy medicines, she tears her wedding ring off her finger. Melanie admires her action and gives her own ring. Then Captain Butler buys the right to dance with Scarlet. This puts the local guardians of public morality in turmoil, but what to do – Butler insists on his, and the hospital needs money. Butler is tolerated solely because he delivers to the South numerous goods, despite the fact that the northerners have arranged a naval blockade of the southern ports. However, pouring oil on the fire of idle talk, Butler claims that he is not dealing with this feeling of patriotism, but for personal gain. He doubts that the southerners will be able to win, and the death for the cause of the South for him is no more majestic than the death on the rails under the wheels of the locomotive.
Rumors of Scarlet’s “scandalous” behavior reach Tara, and her father arrives in Atlanta to take her daughter home. But the meeting with Captain Butler leads to unexpected consequences. Gerald gets drunk and pisses in poker all the money that was meant to buy the most necessary. This embarrassment causes him to moderate his moral indignation, and Scarlet remains in Atlanta.
She occasionally meets with Rhett Butler, whose ironical attitude to what society honors as a shrine, and outrages, and attracts Scarlet, although she still loves Ashley Wilks.
Gradually, the situation in the theater of military operations is complicated, and the former self-confidence of the southerners gives way to the understanding that the war is long and difficult.