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Gone with the Wind - Success and EthicsGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics


Gone with the Wind (1939)


Famous for...

  • The biggest box office success ever.
  • The two year search for someone to play Scarlett O’Hara. The English actress, Vivien Leigh, was chosen.
  • The final line of Vivien Leigh’s co-star, Clark Gable (as Rhett Butler): “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – voted by the American Film Institute as the best line in cinema history. Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics


Based on...

American Margaret Mitchell’s (pictured right) 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind.


Set in...Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

1861-3 in Georgia, USA, just before and during the American Civil War.

The Southern states (like Georgia) formed the Confederacy to fight for slavery against the Unionists, led by Abraham Lincoln (pictured right).



Victor Fleming (pictured right below).

 Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics


Eight including

  • best film director.
  • best actress (Vivien Leigh).
  • best supporting actress (Hattie McDaniel) as Scarlett’s housemaid – the first African American Oscar winner.


Key charactersGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), beautiful plantation owner’s daughter - pictured right.

Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), her husband and businessman.

Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), her neighbour.

Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland), Ashley’s wife.

Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), Scarlett’s slave housemaid.


The storyGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Scarlett O’Hara is the daughter of Gerald O’Hara (pictured right), the owner of Tara, a large slave cotton plantation in Georgia.

She is beautiful but hot-tempered and spoilt. At a barbecue  she slaps Ashley Wilkes (from the neighbouring Twelve Oaks plantation) after he announces his engagement to Melanie Hamilton, his cousin.

Scarlett castigates the roguish businessman Rhett Butler for witnessing her outburst and then spitefully marries, Charles, Melanie's brother. He dies of pneumonia after (like Ashley) joining the Confederate army as the American Civil War begins.

Scarlett moves to Atlanta, where she:

  • dances with Rhett at a fund-raising ball.
  • rejects his advances.

She then:Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

  • returns home for Christmas.
  • tells Ashley (on leave, pictured right) that she loves him.
  • grudgingly helps Melanie nurse wounded troops (back in Atlanta).

During Atlanta's destruction by the Union army, she

  • flatly refuses to help with the amputation of a soldier's leg.
  • delivers Melanie's baby boy.   


  • bravely rescues them.
  • ensures their safe return to Tara.
  • is slapped by Scarlett (after giving her a goodbye kiss).
  • joins the Confederate army. Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Scarlett finds Twelve Oaks burned down, and, despite her mother’s death and Tara’s pillage and destruction  (pictured right), she vows to re-build it and “never be hungry again”.

At the end of the war, Ashley:

  • returns to work (unsuccessfully) at Tara.
  • refuses Scarlett’s offer to run away with her.

After her father’s death, she marries Frank Kennedy, her sister's fiancé and  the rich owner of a lumber mill. She runs this successfully (even trading with the despised Yankees from the North), so she can pay Tara's property taxes.

She persuades Ashley to help her, but she is attacked. Trying to find the attackers, Frank is killed and Ashley wounded in a fight with Union troops. Rhett saves Ashley.

Soon after Frank’s funeral, Scarlett:Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

  • marries (the now wealthy) Rhett who promises to restore Tara (pictured right together).
  • builds a mansion in Atlanta.
  • has a daughter, Bonnie.

But they are driven apart by Scarlett’s pining for Ashley and her refusal to have no more children.

At the lumber mill Scarlett consoles Ashley with an embrace after he yearns for the pre-war past. His sister, India, sees this and spreads malicious gossip about them. But Melanie won’t believe it, but it makes Rhett very jealous.

After Ashley’s birthday party, a drunk Rhett tells Scarlett that he will make her forget Ashley and drags her up to the bedroom. The next morning Rhett apologizes and offers her a divorce.

On his return from a trip to London with Bonnie, she says that she’s pregnant. After he tells her: “Cheer up. Maybe you’ll have an accident”, she lunges at him, falls down the stairs and loses the baby.

They attempt a reconciliation but are devastated by Bonnie’s death in a riding accident, both blaming each other.Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Just before dying in pregnancy, Melanie asks Scarlett to:

  • look after Ashley.
  • be kind to Rhett (pictured right).

Ashley is devastated, making Scarlett realize that she could never have meant anything to him. She:

  • runs home.
  • begs Rhett not to leave.
  • says she really loved him (not Ashley). Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

He decides to leave anyway, and she asks him what she will do without him.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, he replies (pictured right).

Weeping after his departure, she gains hope and resolution from her love of Tara (the family plantation), finally saying:

“Tomorrow is another day”.


Lessons for success and ethics


1. Be positive and optimistic

When Rhett finally leaves her, Scarlett finds optimism and resolve from remembering her:Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

  • love of Tara.
  • fantastic achievement of re-building it.

She refuses to be daunted by the wartime devastation of Tara.  

“They're not going to lick me!”, she says defiantly.


2. The greatest certainty is uncertaintyGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

The film shows how unpredictable the future can be. The Civil War destroys:

  • the plantation owners’ old life.
  • slavery that made them rich.


3. Love changeGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Ashley finds it difficult to adjust to the new post-war America, unlike Scarlett who sees it as an exciting opportunity.


  • trades with the Yankees to make the lumber mill successful.
  • resurrects Tara with hard work and determination.

Rhett also makes a fortune by adapting to the changing world.


4. Keep your principlesGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Melanie and Mammy (Scarlett’s housemaid, pictured right together) are the film’s happiest people, because they:

  • have a clear conscience.
  • stay true to their principles (love, forgiveness and virtuous living).

Scarlett and Rhett are both unprincipled and prepared to do anything (however immoral) for what they want. Scarlett even steals her sister's fiancé!

Ashley suffers because he is

  • weak and doesn’t tell Scarlett to back off.
  • destroyed by guilt and remorse (caused by Melanie’s death).

 Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

5. Purpose is paramount

Scarlett is determined to keep Tara alive, while Melanie finds purpose in her devotion to Ashley and her family.


6. Accept reality

Scarlett won’t accept that Ashley doesn’t want her, until it’s too late to save her marriage to Rhett.

But she wisely stays at Tara (the real love of her life) rather than run away with Ashley. This would have been a disaster because of Scarlett's selfishness and idealization of Ashley into something he wasn't.


7. Family firstGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Unlike Melanie (pictured right), Scarlett is more interested in work than her family. She:

  • uses her husbands for her own advantage.
  • only fully appreciates her daughter, Bonnie, when she dies.

Ashley refuses to:

  • run off with Scarlett.
  • desert his wife and son.


8. Selfishness stinksGone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

Scarlett’s relationships (and so happiness) are destroyed by her selfishness. She:

  • is manipulative.
  • always wants her own way.

Rhett is similar.

“I believe in Rhett Butler. He’s the only cause I know. The rest doesn’t mean much to me”, he says.

But he does redeem himself by

  • rescuing Scarlett and Melanie from Atlanta.
  • joining the Confederate army (when it's on the point of defeat).  

 Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics

9. Keep your self-respect

Ashley's self-respect is destroyed by his:

  • dependence on Scarlett.
  • failure to stand up to her (and give his undivided attention to his family). 


10.  Fight for a fabulous future

Don't dwell on the past but look to the future.

“Tomorrow is another day!”, as Scarlett says at the end of the film.


Key quote on positive thinking

After all, tomorrow is another day!, Scarlett (the film’s last line).


Key quote on motivation

As God is my witness, they're not going to lick me! I'm going to live through this, and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again, Scarlett (on returning to Tara)


Key quote on love

There's one thing I do know, and that is that I love you, Scarlett...Because we're alike - bad lots both of us, selfish and shrewd, but able to look things in the eyes and call them by their right names, Rhett


Key quote on money

Land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it's the only thing that lasts, Gerald O’Hara (Scarlett’s father).


Key quote on ethics

I believe in Rhett Butler. He’s the only cause I know. The rest doesn’t mean much to me”, Rhett.


Key quotes on relationships

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn, Rhett (to Scarlett).

 What a gentleman says and what he thinks are two different things, Mammy


Two film websites to recommend

1. filmsite.org (run by Tim Dirks).

2. aveleyman.com (run by Tony Sullivan)

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