The novel’s protagonist. Scarlett is a pretty, coquettish Southern belle who grows up on the Georgia plantation of Tara in the years before the Civil War. Selfish, shrewd, and vain, Scarlett inherits the strong will of her father, Gerald, but also desires to please her well-bred, genteel mother, Ellen. When hardships plague Scarlett, she shoulders the troubles of her family and friends. Scarlett’s simultaneous desire for the Southern gentleman Ashley and the opportunistic New Southerner Rhett Butler parallels the South’s struggle to cling to tradition and still survive in the new era.
Scarlett’s third husband, and a dashing, dangerous adventurer and scoundrel. Expelled from West Point and disowned by his prominent Charleston family, Rhett becomes an opportunistic blockade-runner during the war, emerging as one of the only rich Southern men in Atlanta after the war. Rhett proves himself a loving father and, at times, a caring husband. Though he loves Scarlett, his pride prevents him from showing her his love, and it even leads him to brutality. Candid, humorous, and contemptuous of silly social codes, Rhett exposes hypocrisy wherever he goes. He represents postwar society, a pragmatic, fast-paced world in which the strong thrive and the weak perish.
The handsome, chivalrous, and honorable heir to the Twelve Oaks plantation near Tara. Ashley bewitches Scarlett through most of the novel. After the war, Ashley becomes resigned and sad, and he regrets not marrying Scarlett. Committed to his honor and Southern tradition, he cannot adjust to the postwar South. Ashley represents the values and nostalgia of the Old South.
The frail, good-hearted wife of Ashley Wilkes. Melanie provokes Scarlett’s jealous hatred throughout most of the novel. After the two women suffer together through the Civil War, however, a strong bond forms between them. Eventually, Scarlett understands that Melanie’s unflagging love and support has been a source of strength for her. Like Ashley, Melanie embodies the values of the Old South, but in contrast to Ashley’s futile dreaming, Melanie faces the world with quiet but powerful inner strength.
Scarlett’s father. Gerald is a passionately loyal Confederate who immigrated to America from Ireland as a young man. His strong will, tendency to drink, and selfishness echo in Scarlett’s nature. Scarlett also inherits Gerald’s love for the South and for his plantation, Tara.
Scarlett’s mother, and a descendent of the aristocratic Robillard family. Ellen marries Gerald and devotes herself to running Tara after her father forbids her love affair with Philippe, her cousin. Refined and compassionate, strong and firm, Ellen serves as an impossible ideal for the willful Scarlett. Even after Ellen’s death, Scarlett struggles with the competing desires to please her mother and please herself.
Scarlett’s childhood nurse. Mammy is an old, heavyset slave who was also nurse to Scarlett’s mother, Ellen. Loyal and well-versed in Southern etiquette, Mammy keeps Scarlett in line. After Ellen’s death, Mammy becomes for Scarlett one of the only living reminders of the Old South.
Scarlett’s weak-willed but kind second husband. Frank is described as an “old maid in britches.” Scarlett steals him away from her sister Suellen so that he will pay the taxes necessary to save Tara.
Melanie’s brother and Scarlett’s first husband. Charles is a timid and bland boy for whom Scarlett feels no love. Charles’s death early in the war confines Scarlett to the role of widow. Scarlett finds the social expectations surrounding widowhood—that she wear a black veil, for example, and refrain from laughter and pleasure—overly restrictive.
Melanie and Charles Hamilton’s aunt. Aunt Pittypat is a flighty old maid who faints from shock several times a day. Scarlett lives with Aunt Pittypat for much of her stay in Atlanta.
Scarlett’s third and last child. Bonnie is the daughter of Rhett Butler. Spoiled and strong-willed like her mother, Bonnie elicits utter devotion from Rhett and eventually replaces Scarlett as the center of Rhett’s attention.
Scarlett’s younger sister. Suellen is a selfish, petty girl who marries Will Benteen after Scarlett steals Frank from her.
Scarlett’s youngest sister. Carreen is a good-natured girl who turns to religion after the war and joins a convent.
Ashley’s cold and jealous sister. India never forgives Scarlett for stealing Stuart Tarleton from her during their youth. At one point India catches Scarlett embracing Ashley and gossips about the sight, causing a great debate among all of Atlanta society.
The gigantic slave and foreman of the field hands at Tara. Big Sam saves Scarlett from her attacker in Shantytown.
Gerald O’Hara’s first slave. Pork is loyal and devoted to the O’Haras.
The daughter of Dilcey, a slave at Twelve Oaks. Prissy is a foolish, lazy young slave prone to telling lies. The late discovery of Prissy’s lie that she knows how to assist at childbirth compels Scarlett to deliver Melanie’s baby herself, which is one of Scarlett’s first significant acts of self-sufficiency.
A young woman whose poor white family lives in the swamp bottom near Tara. Emmie is considered “white trash,” and Scarlett’s class-conscious, genteel society dislikes Emmie, as does the narrator.
The Yankee overseer of Tara whom Gerald fires for impregnating Emmie Slattery. Jonas works for the Freedmen’s Bureau after the war and marries Emmie. He raises taxes on Tara to try to force out the O’Haras, prompting Scarlett’s marriage to Frank Kennedy.
An Atlanta prostitute with whom Rhett Butler has a long-term affair. She wins the gratitude of the Atlanta Ku Klux Klan by providing them with an alibi for a murder.
A one-legged Confederate soldier who becomes a fixture at Tara after the war despite his lack of family or wealth. Will makes Tara a marginally profitable farm. His competence allows Scarlett to move to Atlanta and leave him in charge.
Scarlett’s oldest child. The son of Charles Hamilton, Wade inherits his father’s timid and bland disposition.
Scarlett’s second child. Ella Lorena is the ugly, silly daughter of Frank Kennedy.