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Rhett Butler is Bad Gentleman Example.

rhett butler character analysis
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Gone with the Wind is a cinematic masterpiece. Earlier I wrote articles about Scarlett Ohara, Melanie, and Ashley Wilkes’s. Today, I would like to talk to you about Rhett Butler personality, which always evokes conflicting feelings in readers. 

To some, he is an abuser, a narcissist, a rebel, a gambler and a bold one. To others, he is a courageous warrior, a gentle lover who is touchingly devoted to his wife and a loving and caring father.

With age, the perception of the character often changes, and Rhett Butler becomes an anti-ideal rather than an ideal. Or is he still not?

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Rhett Butler actor in Gone with the Wind.

Predatory white smile. A mocking look. Soft catwalk. Rhett Butler himself.

Clark Gable for the role of Rhett Butler was approved almost immediately. He is a well-known actor who fits the bill perfectly, proving with every character, look, and word that he is this bold, strong, wickedly charming Captain Butler. Look into the eyes of Clark Gable – you will see Rhett in them.

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Rhett Butler character analysis.

At first glance, Rhett Butler seems like the sanest of the bunch: well-learned, if very individual, moral standards, access to his own feelings, and at the same time the ability to cope with loss – a rare set!

We also note that he did not break under the yoke of circumstances when his family separated from him and left him without money. Instead, he began to work and earn.

And the more the better: gradually, he becomes the wealthiest hero of the novel, which is why he is immediately associated with a prince who can solve all women’s problems. But, unfortunately, especially in youth, books like Cinderella can lead to an exchange of concepts when “rich” is equated with “ideal”.

As we recall, at the beginning of the film, we are immediately told that Rhett belongs to “one of the best families in Charleston,” At the same time, he is only accepted into one decent home, including his own family`s home. He only ended up in “Twelve Oaks” because he was visiting Kennedy on business. 

And why, in fact, such an attitude towards him? Yes, because Rhett Butler is a seasoned businessman who wanted to spit on all the conventions. And he makes no secret of it. For him, every situation is an opportunity to profit financially.

No gentleman.

Curiously, Margaret Mitchell copied the character traits of the hero Rhett Butler from her first husband.

The comparison of the character with Margaret’s first husband is already suspect for he was far from ideal. Was Margaret trying to create a perfect hero out of her failed husband? Or was he allowing her to create a realistic and vivid character nothing more?

In fact, Rhett was engaged in a less than noble business – speculating in commodities and smuggling. Nevertheless, the profession largely determines a person and his moral character.

At first, Rhett did not regret the girl with whom he had spent the night in the forest and refused to marry her, even if it was a mistake, and they accidentally got lost. But he showed interest in her and invited her to ride. Until that night, he needed her for some reason, but after that – no. That was pretty cruel, especially considering what shame awaited her afterwards.

Besides, his way of communicating with Scarlett causes displeasure. He often criticizes her, mocks, insults, and belittles her.

I have read many articles about how much Rhett loved Scarlett, but she did not appreciate it. And I can say that it is not so. Seriously, did an adult burned down businessman lose his head from a 16-year-old home girl? Yeah, she has him on the hook.

rhett butler character analysis
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Well, the fact that Rhett often visits the brothel is his disadvantage, not his dignity. Especially considering the state of medicine in the 19th century. At that time, it was simply dangerous for health.

So Rhett Butler is undoubtedly an attractive character like any “bad” guy, but never romantic, not in love (except with himself), and not sentimental. He is an absolutely cynical, self-centered, cold-blooded, calculating person. Although, of course, he is very charming against the background of other male characters in this novel.

And yet, beneath a mocking and indifferent shell, there is a kind heart. Rhett was never capable to become heartless. When the South finally lost the war, and all Southern hopes collapsed along with the conquered Atlanta, Rhett Butler went to join the retreating army of the broken South. 

He went to war, knowing full well that all was lost. Rhett was smartly dressed in suits at a time when all men wore military uniforms. Rhett laughed at fools who wanted to die prematurely. We knew everything about Rhett Butler except what he really was.

rhett butler personality
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Did Rhett Butler love Scarlett?

I believe Rhett was interested in Scarlett because she did not succumb to his charm. Besides, she practically rejected him.

She was too different from all those girls Rhett was used to seeing in secular society – too passionate, too straightforward, too bold, and too unapproachable for him. And he is, after all, a hunter. For him, it became a matter of inner honor before himself to reach out to her.

And not just to seduce but to make this girl fall in love with him. Not a very noble goal, it seems. At the same time, leaving her and Melanie with the children in the steppe was not difficult because his sense of duty had suddenly awakened.

Yes, he was not a wonderful husband. However, when he finally married Scarlett, Rhett knew she still thought she loved Ashley. So why did he marry her in the first place? Yes, because he saw that she was coming to terms with herself, that she saw getting out of poverty and becoming a sawmill owner. At that point, after the war, sawmills were practically a “gold mine,” and Scarlett was no longer interested in him.

For some reason, he didn’t marry her earlier when she made a move on Frank (and with a strong desire, he could have stopped her then too). But no. Captain Butler did not do this until he realized a little more and maybe did not make it. On the one hand, he liked her independence; on the other hand, this independence made him angry because it is difficult to influence an independent woman.

When Bonnie died, he wallowed in his grief and did not think about his wife, who had lost two children in a short time.

And when Rhett finally left, choosing the most “appropriate” time to do so, he did so not because he was tired of waiting for her to love him, but precisely because did his job. Yes, it has taken many years, and yes, it has proven difficult. But for him, it is even more exciting that he has achieved his goal. Because Rhett is used to winning, and when he wins, he keeps going.

rhett butler character analysis
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Do Scarlett and Rhett end up together?

The ending of the story left readers used to happy ends so unsettled that they could not believe what happened.

But Rhett Butler will never return to her. The book clearly states that he “stopped watching her like a cat watches a mouse.” That is, he initially wanted to conquer her, to bind her to him. But it didn’t work. Rhett cheated on her many times, and although he said he liked her the way she was, he began to torment her precisely because of who she was. Since he had gotten as his wife not the best person, but a uniquely strong personality, he tried to make her fit for him. And again, it didn’t work.

But many viewers, in their analysis of Gone with the Wind, believe that Rhett simply realized that the ball is now on his side. He will run away from her while she chases after him, but he still has some feelings for her.

I think you might love Scarlett mini tv series if you dream about an alternative finale for this couple.

rhett butler character analysis
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Final words.

So, we see that Rhett Butler is an ambiguous person. Romantics see him as a hero, but when you come right down to it, there is little joy in living with such a person.

What do you think of this character?

Share this blog post if you enjoyed it. I would really appreciate it!

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I`m in love with movies and psychology. Here I write how we can use movies for healing and self-growth. Also, be sure to check out my movie lists. You will find cool suggestions for movie night.

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  • Great analysis! I agree that Clark Gable was a perfect choice, he really is Rhett. Rhett was a complicated man, but he was also a man of that era, so different from what we now deem acceptable. I read the book when I was 16 and the difference was huge already back then, now it’s even more prominent. But I loved that book, and it’s still a masterpiece ☺️

  • Well, I am probably biased as I think most of main characters in movies are considered having a bad boy personality. I believe that that is what sells and what looks good to the masses. But going back to Rhett, he seemed like he had a dual personality but I think it is just his character in the movie but the fact that it left an impression on us means that he played his character well!

    Maureen |

  • What I’ve learned over the years is that we’ve evolved tremendously from what may have been considered a “gentleman” decades ago. Times have changed.

  • I didn’t realize that the author based it on one of her ex’s. So interesting! And I’ve always loved Gone With the Wind, although it’s so long. Ha!

  • What a movie! Dark, dashing, and scandalous, Rhett brings excitement to Scarlett’s life and encourages her impulse to change and succeed.

  • Clark Gable is definitely one of the few real actors/artists in the entire USA film production. The actors from the old school are so much better than these new ones, the ones that can play only one or two different characters in their entire careers.

  • It is interesting to see how things change over time, from our perceptions to what is considered acceptable. I wasn’t very familiar with Rhett Butler, and learned a lot from your post.

  • Your analysis of Rhett Butler is a fascinating read, providing great insights into his complex character. The article is well-written and engaging, making it an enjoyable exploration of one of literature’s most memorable figures.

  • I have to be honest, I’ve never watched ‘Gone with the Wind.’ I know it’s a classic, but it was never something I was ever interested in seeing. With that being said I want to watch it to see what you’re talking about in regard to Rhett Butler!

  • Brilliant review and in regards to the character Rhett Butler and your analysis I could not agree with you more xx

  • Gone with the wind is my ultimate favourite book! I also loved the movie. I think he did love Scarlett, but she was very narcissistic. There were a lot of misunderstandings there, I think there was a lot of guilt in his daughter’s death that caused him to be bitter towards her.

  • Rhett Butler is often lauded as a romantic hero but In truth, he is a rake and scoundrel. I’d say.

  • It is interesting to see how things change over time, from our perceptions to what is considered acceptable. I wasn’t very familiar with Rhett Butler, and learned a lot from your post.

  • Wow, this is an excellent analysis of Rhett Butler! I must see this movie again. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. This review is convincing me I should.

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I`m in love with movies and psychology. Here I write how we can use movies for healing and self-growth. Also, be sure to check out my movie lists. You will find cool suggestions for movie night.

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