Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler: the unforgettable romance!
Gone with the Wind is a historical romance set in Georgia during the American Civil War. The story features the struggles and love interests of self-centred Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a plantation owner, who has to use every means at her disposal to rise from poverty following General Sherman's 'March to the Sea'.
The love match between sassy Scarlett and the attractive but contemptuous Rhett Butler, has become one of the most famous romances in fiction and on film. In fact, Gone with the Wind won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937 and the film version became one of the most celebrated movies of all time, winning eight categories in the 12th Academy Awards.
Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men did not realize this when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. Her eyes were green, and her skin was that soft white skin which Southern women valued so highly, and covered so carefully from the hot Georgia sun with hats and gloves.
On that bright April afternoon of 1861, sixteen-year-old Scarlett sat in the cool shadows of the house at Tara, her father's plantation. Stuart and Brent Tarleton sat each side of her. They were friendly young men with deep red-brown hair, and were clever in the things that mattered in north Georgia at that time - growing good cotton, riding well, shooting straight and behaving like a gentleman.
'Don't you two care about being sent home from the University of Georgia for bad behaviour?' Scarlett was saying.
'The war will start soon,' said Brent. 'You didn't think we'd stay in university with a war going on, did you?'
'There isn't going to be a war,' said Scarlett, looking bored. 'Ashley Wilkes and his father told Pa just last week that our men in Washington will come to an agreement with Mr Lincoln about the Confederacy. Anyway, the Yankees are too frightened of us to fight. And if you say "war" once more, I'll go inside the house and shut the door!'
They looked across the red earth of Gerald O'Hara's land, which stretched away as far as the eye could see. The white house was like an island, sitting in a wild red sea, the earth blood-coloured after the rains of recent weeks.
'Scarlett, you'll promise to dance with us at the party at Twelve Oaks tomorrow, won't you?' said Brent.
'If you do, we'll tell you a secret,' said Stuart.
'What secret?' asked Scarlett. 'Who told you?'
'Miss Pittypat Hamilton, Ashley Wilkes' cousin who lives in Atlanta. Charles and Melanie Hamilton's aunt,' said Stuart.
'She said that we'll hear news of a wedding tomorrow night, at the party,' said Brent.
'Oh, I know that!' said Scarlett, disappointed. 'It's about Charlie Hamilton and Honey Wilkes. Everyone knows they'll get married some day.'
'No, it's about Ashley,' said Stuart. 'He's going to marry Charlie's sister, Miss Melanie!'
Scarlett's face did not change but her lips went white - like a person who is in the first moments of shock.
'They weren't going to marry until next year,' said Stuart, 'but with all the talk of war, both families think it will be better if they're married soon.' He smiled. 'Now, Scarlett, you must promise to eat supper with us at the party.'
'Of course I will,' said Scarlett automatically.
'And give us plenty of dances?'
'Yes.' She spoke as if in a dream.
'And sit with us at lunch, too?' said Brent.
'What?' said Scarlett. 'Oh, yes, of course.'
The twins were unable to believe their good luck. They talked on about the dance, and Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton. They laughed and joked, and waited for Scarlett to invite them to supper; and it was some time before they realized she was not listening to them.