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Stuart and Brent Tarleton, the twins visiting Scarlett, tell her that Ashley Wilkes is going to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, in the first chapter thus setting up the plot for most of the book. They know about the impending marriage because they had been in Atlanta the day before. As they were waiting for the train to take them back home, Melanie's Aunt Pittypat Hamilton saw them and stopped to chat. She told the twins that there was going to be an engagement announced the next night at the Wilkes' ball. Stuart goes on to explain that the couple hadn't intended to announce their engagement so early, but the possibility of war hurried the upcoming wedding. Ashley Wilkes is considered different from most of the young men in the area because Ashley likes to read and think. Many of the young men in the area would rather hunt and carouse whereas Ashley likes quieter activities. Also, Ashley is not as hot-headed and prone to fighting as the other young men in the county. Finally, Ashley is a bit different because his family still observes an old tradition of marrying cousins.
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