Gerald O'Hara is the character in Gone With the Wind perhaps the least able to cope with the change caused by the Civil War. Gerald, unable to accept his wife's death and the end of the Southern order of chivalry, retreats into his childhood and hands the management of Tara over to his eldest daughter, Scarlett O'Hara.
Although not an objector to the war, in many ways Gerald resembles Goodhue Coldfield from Absalom, Absalom! Both men find themselves powerless to change their absolutist beliefs and are destroyed by their inflexibility. Gerald can also be compared to Ashley Wilkes, whose wife, Melanie Wilkes, provides the means for his survival.
In the passage, Scarlett O'Hara has just returned to Tara and bravely tells of her mother's death and her father's infantilism to Grandma Fontaine.
(from chapter 27 of Gone With the Wind)
Scarlett stood with her hand on the horse's bridle, a dull feeling at her heart.
"Now," said Grandma, peering into her face, "what's wrong at Tara? What are you keeping back?"
Scarlett looked up into the keen old eyes and knew she could tell the truth, without tears. No one could cry in the presence of Grandma Fontaine without her express permission.
"Mother is dead," she said flatly.
The hand on her arm tightened until it pinched and the wrinkled lids over the yellow eyes blinked.
"Did the Yankees kill her?"
"She died of typhoid. Died--the day before I came home."
"Don't think about it," said Grandma sternly and Scarlett saw her swallow. "And your Pa?"
"Pa is--Pa is not himself."
"What do you mean? Speak up. Is he ill?"
"The shock--he is so strange--he is not--"
"Don't tell me he's not himself. Do you mean his mind is unhinged?"
It was a relief to bear the truth put so baldly. How good the old lady was to offer no sympathy that would make her cry.
"Yes," she said dully, "he's lost his mind. He acts dazed and sometimes he can't seem to remember that Mother is dead. Oh, Old Miss, it's more than I can stand to see him sit by the hour, waiting for her and so patiently too, and he used to have no more patience than a child. But it's worse when he does remember that she's gone. Every now and then, after he's sat still with his ear cocked listening for her, he jumps up suddenly and stumps out of the house and down to the burying ground. And then he comes dragging back with the tears all over his face and he says over and over till I could scream: 'Katie Scarlett, Mrs. O'Hara is dead. Your mother is dead,' and it's just like I was hearing it again for the first time. And sometimes, late at night, I bear him calling her and I get out of bed and go to him and tell him she's down at the quarters with a sick darky. And he fusses because she's always tiring herself out nursing people. And it's so hard to get him back to bed. He's like a child. . . .