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Did Scarlett Get Rhett Back?

A photo of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in an embrace

I finished Gone With The Wind a little confused. It took a good few minutes for me to be happy with the way it had ended and not upset that there was no more. I’d seen a sequel on my boyfriend’s mother’s bookshelf but knew it wasn’t by Mitchell.

I suppose my discontent arose from the ending being so ambiguous for such a long novel. I felt cheated that I’d spent almost an entire month reading Mitchell’s words for her to leave me in the lurch. But the more I thought about it I realised that whilst yes, I did feel cheated, she left us enough to form a more complete conclusion. A conclusion that begs discussion because I’m sure everyone has a slightly different opinion or at least a different reasoning for which side of the debate they fall.

To me, it is most easy to say that Scarlett did not get Rhett back, that they did not end up together. Yet interestingly, in the case of someone saying ‘yes’, this is one occasion where I’d not feel the need to ask them to elaborate.

I’m going to cover both options. I think both are plausible and the evidence behind each is so vast that I did later wonder if this is exactly why Mitchell chose ambiguity. Ambiguity leads to lots of thinking which leads to your book being remembered. And from the way Mitchell wrote her story, from the way she handled Scarlett, I really wouldn’t put it past her.

And I believe that although this post has more evidence stacked for ‘no’, those who say ‘yes’ would be able to produce more than I have here.

So in defence of the ‘no’, which I’m starting with because it means I’ll have to end this piece discussing the ‘yes’ I don’t subscribe to and I know that in doing so I’m going to give myself even more to think about.

No, Scarlett Didn’t Get Rhett Back

The first point that comes to mind is that Scarlett intends to leave the matter until tomorrow. She’s not going to think about it now. Of course she’s not thinking straight, she would be a little in shock and disbelief, but her leaving it until later does suit her overall carelessness. It’s a pity she treats the situation like any other, and it does infer that she doesn’t love Rhett enough (though surely she does otherwise the ending wouldn’t be so dramatic – and it also fits the rest of the calamity going on around her). Indeed Mitchell leaves Scarlett neatly with no one left in the world who loves her, besides her servants and possibly Wade and Ella. As much as Mitchell is fair to Scarlett that is a pretty damning and somewhat apt conclusion.

Would sleeping on the matter make Scarlett forget or not care? Given that she bounces back from bad situations well and quickly enough, one could assume she might wake up and damn Rhett to hell before leaving for Tara. And we all know how procrastination goes – leave it and you’ll end up leaving it and leaving it and so forth.

Once she’s back at Tara, Scarlett is likely going to be very happy just by being there. She’s got Tara, she doesn’t need Rhett. Perhaps Tara is actually her true love? This possibility is suggested throughout the book but it is incredibly well supported at the end. Perhaps, for all their compatibility, Rhett is a poor second in her eyes.

When Rhett walked out the door, Scarlett could have run after him. But she didn’t. And although she tried to persuade him to stay, to convince him she loved him, and those tears were surely real, it isn’t as though she became completely passionate. Indeed in this time of crisis she actually stopped herself from touching him, and she went about the discussion as though there would be another conversation later, another chance to make it right. Then again, Scarlett is used to getting her own way and getting whichever man she wants, maybe she didn’t feel the need for an outburst. This of course leads back to her decision to leave it until the next day.

Of course the issue with that is that she won’t know where Rhett is. Unless she spends all that time that comes after her necessary sleep with visiting acquaintances and sending telegrams, she may not find him again.

A point suggested earlier in the book is that they are now different. Since Bonnie was born, Rhett tried to change himself, change the way people saw him. And it worked. Scarlett is possibly even worse than she was before, and the difference between them is vast. In societal terms, Scarlett would blot any future success Rhett had unless her love was enough to make her want to change her nature.

Now Bonnie is dead and without Bonnie there is nothing except history (and the house, which we can assume Rhett would sell) tying the couple together. They do not share friends, Melanie is dead also, there is nothing between them when the love has gone.

Lastly, Rhett has Belle, who he may not love as he does Scarlett, but Belle is caring and kind towards him. Rhett might even have taken Belle with him.

The case for ‘no’ is pretty sound.

Yes, Scarlett Did Get Rhett Back

But there are some ‘yeses’ about. Chief amongst them is surely the compatibility – the couple have a lot of chemistry and they are very much the same person. Scarlett is the woman for Rhett, most certainly, and even though she’s only just realised it, Rhett’s always been the man for Scarlett.

Scarlett is good at manipulating. And she can charm a man’s stockings off. Even if Rhett is a tougher cookie than most men of her acquaintance, there is still a chance.

And Scarlett isn’t one for giving up. She might have felt like giving up when she fainted on the ground looking for food, but she’s courageous and doesn’t like being told what to do. She would make the utmost effort for something she believed in enough.

Scarlett’s finally in love. After all this time and after all the heartache over Ashley, surely she deserves a chance? It is purposefully ironic that the day she realises the truth and understands Ashley is the same day Rhett leaves her, but love is worth fighting for.

The way Mitchell ends it, waiting until tomorrow, suggests a circle, a story that goes on and on. In this way Scarlett could get her chance.

Finally, and most fitting of Scarlett’s usual nature, there’s not much money at Tara compared with her house in Atlanta. Her mills have been sold, her store makes little money, and if she lives at Tara she’ll be sharing rooms with Suellen. For someone who wants riches, and perhaps sadly, for someone who has experienced poverty and then got herself together, Scarlett will want Rhett’s money.

In conclusion

I do wonder how long Rhett had been considering leaving Scarlett. Was telling her to sell Ashley the mills a malicious act? Or was he preparing what he thought might one day be the way, making it easier for Scarlett to get her damned Ashley? Or was it simply that Rhett wanted her to fit in?

From the little I’ve written about ‘yes’ compared to ‘no’, I am now wondering whether ‘yes’ is at all possible. They do seem flimsy reasonings. I’m still on the side of ‘no’, and I believe it’s likely Rhett and Scarlett would never have crossed paths again (except perhaps for one of those stereotypical old age nostalgia scenes).

What do you think? Did Scarlett get Rhett back?

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September 30, 2013, 12:42 pm

It’s been awhile since I read it but I do think she would get him back. This is a woman who gets what she wants once she puts her mind to it. Having finally realized Ashley is a fool and Rhett’s the guy for her, I think she’d set her mind to getting him back. She just needs a little time to figure out how.


September 30, 2013, 1:41 pm

I read this book over and over the summer I was 12 or 13, a period in my life when I preferred happy endings. I never thought Gone With the Wind could have one, though. I think the whole point is that if you don’t appreciate what you have while you’ve still got it, it will be gone. Scarlett gets a lot of second chances, but they’re not infinite.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

September 30, 2013, 2:02 pm

I think the beauty is that you never know! I like the idea that we can have these discussions for ever and will never know the truth. I remember having an identical reactio to you when I finished the book and went straight out to read one of the numerous sequels out there (I chose Rhett Butler’s People but I regretted doing it. It isn’t always good to know how other people think the story will progress….

Erin @ Quixotic Magpie

September 30, 2013, 4:42 pm

I love Gone with the Wind, and Scarlett, although she is not necessarily morally upright. Lol. I think that Scarlett used up all her chances with Rhett, and that her true love is Tara. That is the one thing she is not willing to lose. She is a survivor, and I believe that she winds up ok, although without Rhett.


September 30, 2013, 7:29 pm

What an interesting post, Charlie! I’ve read the sequel Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and enjoyed it, though I think I’m probably in the minority there as it seems to get a lot of criticism. I sort of wished I hadn’t read it though, because I think the way Gone With the Wind ends is perfect the way it is, even if it’s not particularly satisfying. And to answer your question, no, I don’t think she would get him back!


October 1, 2013, 2:37 am

I’ve always loved the ending of GWTW. I believe that it ended there for a reason…that WAS the end of the story. Scarlett is back at Tara, which is an adequate love (after all, she never was able to control Rhett like she wanted). Rhett and his pride keeps him from allowing Scarlett back.

As well suited as the two are in some respects, they’re just too alike…and stubborn. Since neither of them would budge, they have to live without the one who would bring them the most earthly happiness.

vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas)

October 1, 2013, 1:12 pm

If we think in 19th century terms rather than when it was written, surely one or the other must suffer some disfiguring horrid blood-into-handkerchiefs disease during which the other faithfully and selflessly nurses them back to health and cleanses their moral sins. It’s usually the woman, of course, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work the other way round. Ashley needs to pop his clogs though.



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