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I think that Ellen's most pressing relevance in the novel is that she represents what represents Scarlett's hopes, her reality, and her differences. Ellen is the mirror or the looking glass for Scarlett. On one hand, Ellen's embrace of the maternal and feminine role with such vigor is what Scarlett wishes she could be. The manner in which she operates as wife, mother, and head of the plantation is something that early on Scarlett aspires to be. At the same time, Scarlett seeks to want to walk her own path, be her own person. While her sisters are more willing to embrace what it means to be a "woman" as defined by society and taught by Ellen, Scarlett sees herself as something else in the early stages of the narrative. This is seen when she discredits Tara, denigrating it as something she would never embrace. However, when Atlanta burns to the ground and as Scarlett recognizes that Tara is the only place to take the pregnant Melanie, Scarlett ends up becoming a more modernized version of her mother, understanding the need to look after the family. It is interesting to note that Scarlett wants to go back to Tara to be with her mother, to be in her mother's care. Since Ellen dies before they reach Tara, Scarlett has to quickly undergo a change from being with her mother to actually being the role her mother represented. It is in this light that Ellen's characteristics are brought out in the most forceful light.
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