This is war, and the wreck and rebuilding that follows it, told entirely from the woman's angle. It is the Civil War and Reconstruction seen from this new angle that makes Gone With The Wind so popular. The book has sold more than 30 million copies, in 27 languages and in at least 185 editions. The film has been seen by more individuals than the total population of the United States and its sales from television showings approximate 50 million dollars. It seems to me that GWTW is the best novel that has ever come out of the South. Not only is it a stirring drama of individual lives, but an authentic account of a community of Southern plantation owners during the Civil War and the dark days of Reconstruction that followed.
The main thread of the story follows the fortunes of one woman, Scarlett O"Hara. Scarlett was only sixteen when the Civil War began, and grew up on a beautiful plantation south of Atlanta named Tara. She was in love with Ashley Wilkes, who lived at a neighboring plantation named Twelve Oaks. Furthermore, she knew that he loved her, but was set to marry plain Melanie Hamilton. He tried to tell Scarlett his reasons. They were true as far as they went; he was obeying the aristocratic tradition of marrying, for marriage, not for love. Melanie was his own kind, refined, sensitive, cultured, capable of fidelity to a husband. Scarlett was the opposite, bold, radiant, and possessed a "passion for life." At this time, the guns at Sumter were heard and war had begun. Scarlett tried to save her bride by marrying Charles Hamilton, Melanie's brother, out of spite. In three weeks, Charles dies at training camp due to disease, and Scarlett is left a widow of a man that she didn't love, and mother of a boy, Wade, that she didn't want. In hopes of cheering her up, her mother sends her to Atlanta to live with Melanie and Melanie's Aunt Pittypat. .
In Atlanta, Scarlett's boredom is only somewhat relived, because she still may not participate in any social activities.