Rhett Butler is the handsome, dashing fictional hero of Gone with The Wind. Margaret Mitchell introduces him as the problem-solving pragmatist who is sure that the South cannot win a protracted war with the North. In the course of the novel, Rhett becomes increasingly enamored with the survivalist instincts of Scarlett O'Hara in the chaos surrounding the war.
Like Thomas Sutpen and Charles Bon from Absalom, Absalom!, Rhett decides to join in the Southern cause, but unlike his fellow Confederate, Ashley Wilkes, Rhett is not spiritually paralyzed by the South's loss.
Rhett takes leave of Scarlett after rescuing her and Melanie Wilkes from the burning of Atlanta. Scarlett cannot comprehend Rhett's sudden decision to fight, which underscores her total rejection of the Southern chivalric ideal.
Scarlett takes her burdens on alone and it hurts Rhett that she won't just lay them at his feet and he would carry them for her. Rhett is not the type of man to wait forever and twelve years to most people is an eon. He leaves because he knows that is what he has to do. He has to get away from Scarlett. Her confession of love is something that startles him but also is something he expects. He knows that Scarlett could never be happy with Ashley and when she discovers that, he most likely does not want to be around when she throws her obsession onto him. When he finally gets Scarlett's love, he is not happy and leaves.