On the surface, Rhett Butler is a textbook example of the charming rogue. His dark, good looks and supposedly wild behavior are the source of considerable gossip among the ladies. His most common expression is one of cynical amusement, and his war heroics are illegal and leave him with a healthy profit. He views social niceties as ridiculous and says exactly what he thinks, no matter who is listening or what their reaction might be. Most important to Rhett’s charm is his sexuality. Unlike the proper, repressed gentlemen and ladies that surround him, Rhett believes that sex is an important part of life that should be explored and enjoyed at every opportunity.

At heart, though, Rhett desperately wants to be accepted, not in terms of social position—though Rhett is later willing to take that route for Bonnie’s sake—but in the sense that he wants to be with someone who no longer makes him feel so alone. His family’s complete rejection left Rhett emotionally isolated, making him hide his soft heart and readiness to help others. Rhett sees himself in Scarlett, and he is convinced that only someone who is also a rebellious outcast would allow him to be an important part of her life. When Scarlett treats Rhett as an inferior, he focuses his affection on Bonnie, who he sees as the only person he will ever love unconditionally. Melanie Hamilton is able to see the gentler, nobler side of Rhett, and he in turn genuinely respects and admires her as he does few other people. After Bonnie and Melanie die, he loses his strength.