Gone with the Wind is a novel written by Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman’s March to the Sea. A historical novel, the story is a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem written by Ernest Dowson.
Gone with the Wind was popular with American readers from the onset and was the top American fiction bestseller in the year it was published and in 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide.
Written from the perspective of the slaveholder, Gone with the Wind is Southern plantation fiction. Its portrayal of slavery and African Americans is controversial, as well as its use of a racial epithet and ethnic slurs. However, the novel has become a reference point for subsequent writers about the South, both black and white. Scholars at American universities refer to it in their writings, interpret and study it. The novel has been absorbed into American popular culture.
Margaret Mitchell was imaginative in the use of color symbolism, especially the colors red and green, which surround Scarlett O’Hara. Mitchell identified the primary theme as survival. She left the ending speculative for the reader, however. She was often asked what became of her lovers, Rhett and Scarlett. She replied, “For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult.” Two sequels authorized by Mitchell’s estate were published more than a half century later. A parody was also produced.
Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the book in 1937. It was adapted into a 1939 American film. The book is often read or misread through the film. Gone with the Wind is the only novel by Mitchell published during her lifetime.