Rhett Butler: The Charismatic Anti-Hero of ‘Gone With the Wind’

Rhett Butler: The Charismatic Anti-Hero of ‘Gone With the Wind

Welcome to CKSA, your trusted source for all things classic cinema. In this article, we delve into the enigmatic character of Rhett Butler, brought to life by the legendary actor Clark Gable in the 1939 epic, ‘Gone With the Wind.’ Join us as we explore the complexity of this classic cinema anti-hero, examining his character, actions, and the captivating performance that continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.

Dark, Dashing, and Scandalous

Rhett Butler, a character as dark as he is dashing, brings an element of excitement and unpredictability to Scarlett O’Hara’s life. His tumultuous past, including being expelled from West Point and disowned by his aristocratic Charleston family, mirrors Scarlett’s own pursuit of her desires, regardless of societal norms. Rhett is a man who pursues what he wants relentlessly and refuses to accept defeat. His fortune is amassed through professional gambling, wartime blockade-running, and food speculation, all of which earn him the disdain and even hatred of the Southern aristocracy he dubs the “Old Guard.” Rhett possesses a keen ability to expose hypocrisy and self-delusion, often puncturing egos and illusions with a mix of agility and pleasure.

The Pragmatic Opportunist

While Ashley Wilkes remains trapped in a world of ideals and nostalgia, Rhett thrives on change and reality. His opportunism aligns him with the New South, representing an era of progress and adaptation. However, as the narrative unfolds, we witness Rhett’s deeper attachment to the Old South. On two pivotal occasions, he sacrifices his own desires to support the Confederate cause and later embarks on a quest to preserve remnants of the antebellum South. This underlying sentimentality adds complexity to Rhett’s character, revealing a man partially driven by emotion. Ultimately, Rhett symbolizes pragmatism, the practical acceptance of the harsh reality the South faces in a rapidly changing world. He acknowledges the profound economic and societal transformations brought about by the U.S. government and strives to adapt, while still cherishing the idealized Southern past.

A Complex Love Story

Rhett’s turbulent relationship with Scarlett O’Hara, a woman obsessed with Ashley Wilkes, serves as a central theme in the story. Despite their eventual marriage, their union is marked by an emotional chasm. Rhett’s reluctance to express his feelings, coupled with Scarlett’s fixation on Ashley, creates a barrier between them. Rhett is acutely aware that Scarlett disdains easily won affections, and as a result, he refrains from openly acknowledging her power over him. Instead, he engages in verbal sparring, debates, and, at times, resorts to cruelty and indifference to capture her attention. Yet, Rhett’s genuine affection for Scarlett is evidenced by his unwavering support of her, encouraging her to defy societal norms and even providing financial assistance for her entrepreneurial endeavors.


Rhett Butler, portrayed by Clark Gable, remains a classic cinema anti-hero whose depth and complexity continue to intrigue and captivate audiences. His tumultuous journey through ‘Gone With the Wind’ mirrors the turbulent era in which he lives, embodying the spirit of change, adaptation, and pragmatic acceptance of reality. Despite his flaws and enigmatic persona, Rhett Butler endures as a character who transcends time, a symbol of resilience and transformation in a world undergoing profound upheaval.

Share your thoughts and insights on this captivating anti-hero and stay tuned for more explorations of classic cinema on CKSA.

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