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Love of Money
Scarlett and Rhett both pursue wealth at the cost of their reputations. Rhett, however, knows that he has done so while Scarlett never fully understands that money cannot buy either happiness or respect.
Fantasy versus reality
Scarlett's love life is based in fantasy. However, it is a fantasy she was taught from the time she was a child. She was raised to behave in a certain artificial way-even though she doesn't always do it-and to expect men to respond in a certain way. To her, strength is something one can see, like a garment, and she associates the debonair bearing with manliness. By the time she gets over her fantasy love, it is too late.
In other things, however, she faces reality with a brutality that infuriates the people of Atlanta. She is chillingly practical and determined in the face of even the worst criticism.
Loss and Change
The Civil War brings devastating loss and life changes to the people of the south. The tendency to tear down everything of the past is a heritage that persists in the city of Atlanta, Georgia to this day. Yet, while the people of the north who moved into Atlanta brought their own ways, they had a romanticized perception of the old Southern society and wanted to be a part of it. Among the southerners themselves, those who found a way to fit into the new economy had a chance of surviving while those who could do nothing but look back longingly to the past died, sometimes of starvation.
Margaret Mitchell said herself that if the novel has a theme, it is "survival." The novel presents many characters, some who survive, and many who do not. For example, although they are minor characters, the Elsings survive because they "stoop" to using their home as a boarding house. Although Aunt Pittypat thinks such mercenary activities are deplorable, Scarlett admires them for it, wishing she could have found paid boarders for Tara. The Merriwethers also survive because Mrs. Merriwether makes pies and other pastries and sells them to the soldiers. Toward the end of the story, she takes a bank loan (arranged by Rhett) to establish a bakery.
Scarlett's second husband, Frank Kennedy, probably would have survived without Scarlett to take over his business. Even though he couldn't bring himself to force people to pay him, he had acquired enough to be able to buy one of the mills; Scarlett just got to it first. In Jonesboro, the Calverts do not survive because they are a people caught in the middle. The connections Mr. Calvert had via his Yankee wife do not hold up once the war is over. When Mr. Calvert dies, his family no longer belongs. A reader could go through the story in this manner, drawing conclusions about who will be successful in the new south and who will die in dignified poverty, if we want to call it that.
POINT OF VIEW
The novel is written in an omniscient view point, primarily from Scarlett's perspective, but switching to the view of Rhett, Melanie, or Ashley whenever a part of the story where Scarlett is absent needs explaining. The sections about the war are in an objective third point, clearly the voice of the narrator as she explains things the characters would not have known.