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Who is Scarlett O'Hara?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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Scarlett O'Hara is the protagonist in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind, which was later turned into an epic film. The character's full name is Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler. O'Hara is a Southern belle who grows up on a plantation in Georgia called Tara.

Scarlett's mother, Ellen, is French-American and her father, Gerald O'Hara, is Irish. Scarlett has always had feelings for the boy next door, Ashley Wilkes, but later she also becomes attracted to blockade runner pilot, Rhett Butler. In April of 1861, when she is sixteen years old, the Civil War is breaking out and Tara is at risk. Although Scarlett has led a previously spoiled existence at Tara, she becomes strong and brave and ready to defend Tara and her family from the Yankees at any cost.

Scarlett O'Hara is described by Mitchell as being small in stature with striking eyes and a heart-shaped face. In a time when it was expected that women be submissive and lady-like, Scarlett not only stands up to save her family and family home from war, but at one point she even manages two lumber mill businesses. She also drinks corn whiskey.

In chapter 24 of Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara tries to think of how she will save Tara and how she must first try to get enough food for her family at Tara. She realizes that it is up to her to help her family and she remembers her strong ancestors. She realizes these powerful ancestors "all had suffered crushing misfortunes and had not been crushed." Mitchell tells us that Scarlett gains confidence and strength from her ancestors in the line: "All of those shadowy folks whose blood flowed in her veins seemed to move quietly in the moonlit room."

By the age of nineteen, Scarlett is a strong woman who considers herself too strong for charity even though she is a widow with a small child. She gets through each day the best she can and one of Scarlett's most famous lines is "Tomorrow is another day." She is sometimes torn between her love for both Ashley and Rhett. She is wilful and powerful, and yet, she also comes close to not getting the man she realizes she wants.

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