The most powerful driving force in one of American literature’s greatest monuments is time. It acts almost like an all-powerful character that, by the exertion of incredible force, it bends, and breaks, and re-arranges all other characters both in the topos of society and that of morality.
At first, the arm of the imminence of war instills in our Southern personae a Romantic inspiration and contemplation of future glory. Scarlett and Rhett seem to be the only ones immune to this effect: her, because of her lack of interest and boredom in contemplating topics not relating to love or marriage and him because of his unique ability to see beyond the idealized South into the crude realities of practicality. I believe it is this exact ability of Rhett’s that wighed the most in his becoming a social pariah.
The War (the first of time’s instantiations) violently pulls Scarlett away from her privilleged, care-free state of comfort and forces her engage with the world’s unpleasant realities and even fight for survival in a couple of key moments. Needless to say, all these events occuring in a relatively short period of time (the American Civil War lasted 4 years) and with such intensity have the permanent effects on Scarletts view of life and personal morality. She experiences a “wake-up call” pushes her on the opposite side of the Weltanschauung displayed by the other Southerners both before and during the war.
During the Reconstruction (the second manifestation in the time’s continuum), Scarlett’s moral metamorphosis completes. That is not to say she simply becomes and immoral character, although that is also the case, but decides to anchor her beliefs in values that the rest of the Southerners despise or reject entirely. She becomes as outrageous as Rhett before the war. The tradition and the “old way of life”, which Ashley was the only one to correctly predict was already gone, irregardless of the outcome of the war, have failed Scarlett. From her perspective, time forces people to understand and accept certain values and reject others. The cruel manifestations of time did not save Ellen, the strongest element binding her to the old ways, and did not save Tara from poverty.
“Gone With The Wind” is a masterpiece about the implacability of time’s passing. No matter what happens, after all, tomorrow is another day.