It's very common to use "the" when referring to "the elements" (that is, to weather).
- Singin’ in the Rain
- Blowin’ in the Wind
- A Walk in the Sun
- Cipher in the Snow
- Under the Clouds of Love
I'm guessing that your friend caught hold of this silly notion that we use a to refer to a generic instance, and the when referring to a particular instance already named or known – as if those are the only times we use those articles. Not so! (In fact, that's one of the most common erroneous perceptions I've encountered on ELL.)
Truth is, that generic-vs.-particular instance is just one of many ways these articles are used; most dictionaries will list about a dozen more. Collins, for example, says the following about the:
- used preceding certain nouns associated with one's culture, society, or community
⇒ go to the doctor, listen to the news
- used preceding present participles and adjectives when they function as nouns
⇒ the singing is awful, the dead salute you
- used preceding a noun to make it refer to its class generically
⇒ the white seal is hunted for its fur, this is good for the throat, play the piano
- used instead of my, your, her, etc, with parts of the body
⇒ take me by the hand
If I say,
I'll be back in a little while; I'm going to go listen to the radio.
nobody asks me, "Which radio?", and nobody corrects me, saying that I should have said, "I'm going to go listen to radio," because "listen to the radio" is idiomatic.
Had Mitchell entitled her book Gone with Wind, it would have sounded awkward. She got it right.
You mention the figurative use of the wind to mean troubling events, Civil War, or the passage of time. Indeed, that's what the title refers to – irrespective of the presence of the article. In fact, Mitchell wasn't the first (or last) to use the wind figuratively or metaphorically. King Solomon analogized with chasing the wind. And when Kansas sings Dust in the Wind, you didn't think they were talking about a dust storm, did you?
I close my eyes only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Incidentally, crumbles to the ground is the correct way to express it – not "crumbles to ground."