Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Gone with the Wind is a historical romance that uses Scarlett O’Hara as the symbol for Reconstruction in the South. Like Atlanta, which sheds its image of Southern gentility after the Civil War, Scarlett is allowed to break away from the conventionalities of proper Southern womanhood. The exigencies of war, its devastation and defeat, enable Scarlett to adopt behavior more suited to her energy and character as she struggles to support her family, to restore the plantation Tara to productivity, and later to become a commercially successful businesswoman in Atlanta, operating a general store, a lumberyard, and a mill.
Scarlett is motivated by her need to survive and to care for an extended family, which includes Ashley and Melanie Wilkes, their child, and the loyal family slaves. Only Scarlett has the determination, courage, and practicality—perhaps even the stubbornness—to accept the challenge of survival in the radically changed post-Civil War world. Her second and third marriages, to Frank Kennedy and Rhett Butler, are marriages of expedience, both for commercial gain.
Scarlett lacks both analytical and sensitivity skills, replacing them with her determined will to act. Thus, as she faces death, starvation, rape, exhaustion, loss of her beloved mother, and fear of losing Tara, as she acknowledges the commodification of sex and marriage disguised as romance by her culture and barters her body for tax money, she is forced to face...
(The entire section is 569 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*The South. Southern region of the United States. Most of the characters of Margaret Mitchell’s novel see the “South” as encompassing the states between the Lower Mississippi River on the west to the Atlantic Ocean on the east, from Tennessee on the north to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida to the south. However, the novel’s central characters—with the exception of Rhett Butler—have a narrower view of the South, which they see as encompassing the region between their part of Georgia, east to Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. To others, the limited area includes only the Clayton County and Atlanta area.
The novel depicts the South as a great lady who sheds tears of blood on the Civil War battlefields. Her strength endures just as the strength of the Southern women when fighting to hold on to a way of life that is fast sliding away with the loss of each Confederate soldier and the destruction of homes, plantations, and towns. During the Civil War, Union general William T. Sherman—who became famous for his devastating march through Georgia—said that the spirit of the Southern matriarch would have to be broken for the Union to win the war. As the novel progresses, the South slowly relinquishes her gentility and gracefulness to the realities of an unfamiliar, unwelcome, and harsher way of life.
Tara. Elegant plantation of Gerald O’Hara and his family, located in...
(The entire section is 1060 words.)
Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Margaret Mitchell worked steadily on Gone with the Wind for four years, from 1926 to 1929, but it was not published until 1936, receiving a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. It is an antiwar novel that depicts the devastation of war not only as it affects an entire region but also as it specifically affects the land and women’s lives, forcing them into independence, poverty, and/or loneliness.
Like other Southern women writers, Mitchell identifies the Southern lady either with ideal passivity, selflessness, and exquisite moral virtue or with feminine beauty and flirtatiousness, at the same time that her main female character struggles against these limitations to become a person. Issues of women’s work, independence, and need for wholeness, rather than role-playing, are typical issues faced by these writers, including Mitchell.
Mitchell raises two key feminist issues, but she leaves them for her readers to resolve. One occurs when the drunken Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs to their bedroom. Many feminist critics condemn this as a rape scene which, therefore, may be used to romanticize rape, denying its pain and dehumanization in real life. The second issue revolves around the final scene in which Rhett rejects Scarlett’s newly realized love for him and leaves her. Is Rhett Butler worthy of the person Scarlett is in the process of becoming? Can a strong male hero accept a strong female counterpart? These questions are made more...
(The entire section is 479 words.)
The Great Depression and Reconstruction Eras
Although Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind focuses on the Reconstruction years following the Civil War, many of Mitchell's initial readers living through the Great Depression could identify with the hardships endured by Scarlett and her family. When all the slaves of Tara run off, and Yankees loot the plantation by burning cotton and stealing valuables, the O'Hara family is left with very little. This experience was one shared by many plantation owners in the South, some of whom also lost their land because they were unable to pay the new taxes. Similarly, many people in the 1930s had lost their jobs, savings, and homes after the stock market crash of 1929.
Economic recovery during the 1930s was slow. Those who were lucky enough to keep their jobs often had to take salary cuts. Like Ashley, Melanie, and their son in Gone with the Wind, many people moved in with relatives, sharing resources to make ends meet. Others were much less fortunate. Many jobless, homeless people traveled across the country in search of work. Some people who had lost their homes were forced to live in shacks, and lines at soup kitchens grew longer every day.
In order to save money, many Depression-era women began sewing their own clothes and preserving homegrown fruits and vegetables rather than buying them. Some enterprising families made extra money by taking in borders, selling home-baked...
(The entire section is 760 words.)
Gone with the Wind opens in 1861 on the O'Hara family's plantation, Tara, a spot of pastoral splendor that Mitchell modeled on an antebellum estate near Jonesboro, Georgia, some thirty miles south of Atlanta. The neighboring plantation to Tara, Twelve Oaks, belongs to the Wilkes family. It is at a barbecue at Twelve Oaks, on the eve of the Civil War, that Ashley announces his betrothal to his cousin Melanie and that Scarlett first meets Rhett. Following the outbreak of war, the scene shifts to the mayhem of Atlanta and the subsequent arrival of Sherman's army, which burns the city. During Reconstruction, the setting continues to shift between rural and urban poles as the novel follows the fates of Scarlett and her contemporaries.
(The entire section is 122 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. At the time the story begins, how old is Scarlett?
2. Why could Stuart and Brent Tarleton not go home yet?
3. How do the twins know of Ashley’s engagement?
4. Why does Jeems accompany the twins?
5. Why is Ashley considered “different” from other young men?
6. Why are the officers of The Troop elected by the members?
7. Why is there no need to teach the members of The Troop to shoot?
8. Why doesn’t Jeems want to be sent home by himself?
9. Why are the Tarleton twins considered to be desirable husbands?
10. Why doesn’t Scarlett want to hear any more talk of the war?
1. Sixteen is considered the age for being “the belle of the ball,” the time to flirt with the young men of your own class in order to attain a proper husband. Scarlett is in all her glory now, enjoying the flirting, the clothes, the intrigues, the parties, and the attention.
2. After being expelled from their fourth college in two years, the Tarleton twins know their mother will not only deny them the Grand Tour of Europe but will be considerably angry since their brothers, Tom and Boyd, left school with them feeling it would not be honorable to stay in a college which expelled their brothers.
3. Pittypat is Charles and Melanie’s aunt as well as Ashley’s cousin. While at the train station in...
(The entire section is 529 words.)
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett try so hard to please Mammy?
2. Why does Scarlett depend on Gerald to tell the truth about Ashley’s engagement?
3. What is Scarlett’s opinion of Ashley’s interest in writing poetry, reading books, and listening to music?
4. How does Gerald treat Scarlett?
5. Why does Gerald feel Scarlett will never be happy with Ashley?
6. Upon what does Gerald place the highest value?
7. Why does Ellen leave?
8. What are Scarlett’s feelings toward her mother?
9. Upon what does Scarlett feel her parents’ marriage is based?
10. How do we know Gerald is kindhearted?
1. Mammy was Ellen’s mother’s body slave, raised Ellen, and then the O’Hara girls. She feels she should know everything that transpires in these children’s lives and, if she does not, will go directly to Ellen who will demand explanations from the girls.
2. Gerald has just spent the afternoon with Ashley’s father, John Wilkes.
3. Plantation young men are expected to hunt, gamble, dance, indulge in politics, learn about the plantation, and possibly attend college. Scarlett has no interest in even talking about reading, much less doing it.
4. Gerald decides to will Tara to Scarlett upon his death. With this in mind, he treats her as a first-born son.
5. Gerald knows...
(The entire section is 415 words.)
Chapters 3-5 Questions and Answers
1. Why did Ellen marry Gerald?
2. Why does Scarlett refuse to accept Ashley’s engagement?
3. How did Gerald obtain Tara?
4. When do Dilcey and Prissy come to live at Tara?
5. Why is Mrs. Tarleton opposed to Ashley and Melanie’s marriage?
6. When is Jonas Wilkerson dismissed?
7. How does Mammy know Scarlett is not a lady?
8. What does Scarlett plan to do at the barbecue?
9. Why is Ellen not presiding at dinner when Pork’s new family arrives?
10. What is Scarlett’s opinion of the Tarleton sisters?
1. When Ellen was a girl of 15 in Savannah, she was in love with her wild cousin, Philippe Robillard, but he was killed in a brawl in New Orleans. Wanting to leave her family and her memories of Philippe, Ellen accepted Gerald’s proposal and agreed to move to Tara, vowing she would enter a convent if her family attempted to prevent this marriage and her subsequent move.
2. Scarlett has convinced herself that Ashley is marrying Melanie because he does not know Scarlett loves him.
3. Sitting in a saloon, Gerald overhears a stranger talk of his ruined plantation and arranges an introduction with the thought of winning this plantation in another drunken poker game. Betting with his brothers’ money, he does just that.
4. Pork, Gerald’s valet, married Dilcey who...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
Chapters 6-7 Questions and Answers
1. Who are the couples at the barbecue?
2. Why does Scarlett not stay with the other girls during the rest period between the barbecue and the ball?
3. What is Ashley’s reaction when Scarlett proposes to him?
4. Why does Rhett Butler overhear the proposal?
5. When does Charles Hamilton die?
6. Why does Scarlett go visiting?
7. Why does Scarlett flirt with Charles Hamilton?
8. How does Melanie defend Scarlett when the other girls call her “fast”?
9. How did Rhett Butler earn his terrible reputation?
10. In what way does the start of the Civil War hasten Charles and Scarlett’s marriage?
1. Honey Wilkes and Charles Hamilton are planning to wed, Carreen is besotted by Brent Tarleton, Ashley and Melanie will announce their engagement that night, India Wilkes still cares for Stuart Tarleton even though Scarlett has spirited him away, and Frank Kennedy is already showing his interest in Suellen.
2. The barbecue is already over and Ashley has paid no attention to Scarlett, so she feels she must seek him out privately.
3. Ashley meets her proposal with silence, then consternation. He attempts to make a joke of it, then asks her to pretend she’d never told him she loves him when he sees she is serious.
4. Rhett is taking his own nap on a sofa in the library, having already alienated the rest of the male guests with...
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Chapters 8-10 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett come out of mourning?
2. Why did Mrs. Elsing and Mrs. Merriwether not ask Scarlett to come out of mourning?
3. What are Scarlett and Melanie expected to do?
4. Why does Dr. Meade first interrupt the proceedings at the bazaar?
5. Why is Scarlett dismayed to see Rhett?
6. How does she scandalize society?
7. About what does Ellen write Scarlett?
8. How does Scarlett react when Melanie defends her?
9. About what does Gerald tell Scarlett?
10. Why does Scarlett not have to return to Tara?
1. A bazaar is being held to benefit the hospitals. Mrs. Bonnell was to manage a booth but her children have the measles. The McLures, who were also to help, have to go to Virginia to fetch their wounded brother. Mrs. Merriwether and Mrs. Elsing ask Pittypat and Melanie to take their places since the remaining young women will not tend the booths, preferring to dance and court. Scarlett uses the need for women to tend the booths as an excuse to come out of mourning.
2. Society’s rigid code of behavior demands that widows not appear at social functions for at least a year.
3. The girls are expected only to manage a booth selling whatever goods the ladies of the town have made.
4. Dr. Meade announces that in order to raise more funds to buy medical supplies from...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapters 11-13 Questions and Answers
1.What is Scarlett searching for as she secretly reads Ashley’s letters?
2. How does Rhett initially gain acceptance in Atlanta’s society?
3. What does Mrs. Merriwether admonish Pittypat, Melanie, and Scarlett to do?
4. Why does Melanie refuse to do as Mrs. Merriwether demands?
5. Why does Dr. Meade write a letter to the newspaper?
6. What does Scarlett attempt to persuade Rhett to do?
7. Why does Rhett bring Scarlett the colorful bonnet from Paris?
8. Why does Melanie ask Scarlett to intercede on her behalf?
9. Why does Belle Watling speak with Melanie?
10. Why is Scarlett outraged that the handkerchief Belle tied the money in has Rhett’s initials on it?
1. She is still searching for evidence that Ashley is in love with her but doesn’t know it.
2. Because of his trips to Europe for the Confederate Cause, Rhett is in a position to see the new fashions and takes careful note of them to relate to the ladies in Atlanta.
3. Mrs. Merriwether admonishes Pittypat, Scarlett, and Melanie to stop receiving Rhett.
4. She feels it unjust to bar Rhett from their home since, although the words are different, Ashley and Rhett’s sentiments are the same.
5. Without naming Rhett, Dr. Meade writes a letter to the newspaper against speculators, profiteers, and...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Chapters 14-16 Questions and Answers
1. When do the Southerners begin to suspect they are not winning the war?
2. Why do the people gather at the newspaper office?
3. Why is Melanie jealous of Scarlett?
4. Why does Ashley bring the Fontaine boys home on their layover between trains?
5. Why is Scarlett angry Melanie is giving Ashley a coat for Christmas?
6. How does Scarlett confound Ashley when she catches him alone just before he leaves?
7. How does Scarlett feel when Melanie announces her pregnancy?
8. Why does Scarlett not leave Atlanta as she had planned?
9. What information about Ashley does Rhett discover when he uses his influence?
10. Why does Ashley refuse to take part in a prisoner exchange?
1. Soldiers are sending home letters asking for boots and explaining how they have to loot both corn from the farmers’ fields and pieces of uniforms from dead Yankees and each other.
2. A crowd is gathering in front of the “Daily Examiner” because the newspapers will be printing the first casualty lists.
3. Melanie is jealous of Scarlett because she has Charles’ child. Melly is afraid Ashley will be killed in the war and she will not have the comfort of having a child of his to live on after his death.
4. The Fontaine boys are drunk and aggressive. There is a two hour wait at Atlanta before their...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Chapters 17-18 Questions and Answers
1. What is the path of the battles as they come closer to Atlanta?
2. Why does Pittypat have a dinner party?
3. Why is Rhett unwelcome at social events?
4. What is Scarlett’s main concern before the battle of Atlanta?
5. Why does Pittypat protest having the overflow wounded from the hospital in her home?
6. Why is Big Sam in Atlanta?
7. When does the exodus begin?
8. Why do Mrs. Merriwether, Mrs. Elsing, and Mrs. Meade not leave?
9. Why does Melly stay in Atlanta?
10. Why does Scarlett, in turn, stay?
1. As Part III of the book begins, the Yankee army is above Dalton, 100 miles northwest of Atlanta, near the Tennessee line and begins to push the Confederate troops 65 miles back, closer to Atlanta at New Hope Church.
2. Because of the blockades, supplies are severely limited. Pittypat is worried because the pregnant Melanie has not had chicken in weeks since they have already eaten them all, so she decides to slaughter her sole remaining rooster.
3. Rhett alienates the Confederates by being realistic about their dire position in the war.
4. Scarlett worries that 19 is an advanced age for courting.
5. Melanie is now five months pregnant. Pittypat feels it is inappropriate for strange men to see her in this condition and, even more, is afraid that seeing some...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
Chapters 19-22 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett want to go home?
2. What are Scarlett’s plans for Wade?
3. Why does Prissy tell her not to worry?
4. Why does Uncle Henry visit?
5. What does Rhett ask Scarlett to do?
6. When news does a courier bring from Gerald?
7. When does Scarlett strike Prissy?
8. Why is it that Dr. and Mrs. Meade cannot attend to Melanie?
9. What does Melanie ask Scarlett to do?
10. Why does Scarlett send for Rhett after the birth?
1. Scarlett is afraid; there are wounded and dying soldiers everywhere and they constantly stop at the house to ask for aid, food, and sleeping space.
2. Scarlet plans to send Wade with Prissy, then have Prissy return before the birth of Melanie’s baby. She simply wants Wade out of her way but the roads become too dangerous to implement her plan.
3. Prissy tells Scarlett not to worry because her mother is a midwife and Prissy has watched her at work many times, learning her skills.
4. Uncle Henry, as a member of the Confederate Army, is on his way to Jonesboro to help protect the railroad there so that the Yankees cannot use this area as an entry into Atlanta.
5. Rhett asks Scarlett to be his mistress, explaining he doesn’t want to marry and has waited a long time to declare himself to her.
6. The news is that...
(The entire section is 340 words.)
Chapters 23-25 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett think the Yankees have arrived?
2. What is it Rhett manages to bring?
3. When does Rhett leave them?
4. What do they discover when they wake up?
5. How is Gerald different?
6. Why does Mammy not take responsibility for the family as Scarlett had hoped she would?
7. Why is Dilcey able to nurse Melanie’s baby?
8. Why are Suellen and Carreen not much help?
9. How does Wade begin to act?
10. Of what does the food at Tara consist?
1. Scarlett sees the flames and light from the burning of supplies by the Confederates. In anticipation of evacuating Atlanta, and not wanting to leave anything the Yankees can use, the rear guard of the Confederate troops empties the commissary warehouses, then sets fire to them, the foundry, and the supply depots.
2. Rhett manages to bring only an old rickety wagon and a near dead horse.
3. Rhett leaves them only after conducting Melanie, Prissy, Scarlett, Wade, and the newborn baby safely through the fires and the drunken mobs.
4. They wake to find they are at the Mallory place near Tara but no one is there and the house is burned down. While there is water, there are only a few mostly rotten apples left.
5. When Scarlett sees her father, her first thought is that he is an old man. Later, when she becomes...
(The entire section is 367 words.)
Chapters 26-28 Questions and Answers
1. When does Scarlett commit murder?
2. What do Scarlett and Melanie find in the thief-soldier’s pockets?
3. What is Grandma Fontaine’s advice to Scarlett?
4. What do the Yankees do the second time they come to Tara?
5. How is Beau instrumental in the family’s survival this time?
6. Why do the soldiers leave Charles’ sword?
7. Why does Frank Kennedy come to Tara?
8. What does he tell them about Atlanta?
9. What does Frank ask Scarlett?
10. Why do the women try to make it a lively evening for the soldiers?
1. Scarlett is alone when she hears a horse. Seeing it is a Yankee cavalryman, she rushes into the house for her pistol. He comes in, unaware that she is there, and begins to steal whatever he can carry. He hears her and she shoots, killing him in cold blood.
2. Before Scarlett drags the body out to bury it, Melly suggests they search it. Scarlett finds a wallet stuffed with money in his pocket and many kinds of gold, silver, and jewels in his knapsack.
3. Grandma Fontaine advises Scarlett to pick her own cotton rather than let it rot. When she learns of Ellen’s death and Gerald’s mental infirmity, the old woman advises her to save some fear for it’s unnatural for a woman not to fear.
4. This time, Sally Fontaine warns them of the approach of a group...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Chapters 29-30 Questions and Answers
1. Where is Pork sent?
2. Over what do Suellen and Scarlett fight?
3. When do the Fontaine brothers become angry?
4. Why does Mrs. Calvert praise Mr. Hilton?
5. Why is Cathleen Calvert going to marry Mr. Hilton?
6. What does Carreen ask Beatrice Tarleton to do?
7. What is the condition of the returning Confederate soldiers?
8. Why does Uncle Peter come to Tara?
9. Who is Will Benteen?
10. What effect does Ashley’s arrival have on Scarlett?
1. Pork is sent to Macon to buy cotton and garden seed.
2. Never having walked anywhere before, Suellen thinks she needs the horse to go visiting. Scarlett maintains the horse is for work and must rest when not working. The argument ends when Scarlett slaps Suellen.
3. Scarlett goes to Mimosa to buy corn seed. The Fontaine boys agree but then will not accept the money. There is a certain amount of pride still left in Alex and Tony (who never plowed or farmed before) and Scarlett, unwittingly, injures it.
4. Mrs. Calvert is a Yankee who came south when she married 20 years ago. She is constantly making social blunders since she does not understand Southern ways. Mr. Hilton is her husband’s overseer and also a Yankee. By telling this to the Yankee soldiers, the burning of their house was averted twice. Both Cathleen and Cade,...
(The entire section is 358 words.)
Chapters 31-32 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett not go back to Atlanta?
2. How does Ashley spend his time?
3. About what does Will tell Scarlett?
4. For what purpose does he think the taxes are being raised?
5. What does Ashley tell Scarlett?
6. What does Scarlett understand about Ashley?
7. What does she plan to do first?
8. What does Scarlett ask Mammy to do?
9. What does Scarlett remember about Rhett’s feelings for her?
10. Why is Mammy going to Atlanta with Scarlett?
1. Scarlett is still needed as the head of the house. While she has Will to share the responsibility, she is the decision-maker and supervisor since he is not family.
2. Ashley is trying to be a farmer, to do his share of whatever is necessary on the plantation.
3. He explains that the taxes on Tara will be assessed at an additional $300.
4. Will believes that Hilton wants Tara for himself. The two men have the power to raise the taxes so high that Scarlett would not be able to pay them. Tara would then be offered at a sheriff’s sale and Hilton could buy it.
5. When they are alone in the orchard, Ashley tells Scarlett he loves her but cannot act upon his feelings.
6. Scarlett understands Ashley’s honor will not allow him to leave Melanie and Beau; his loyalty will keep him at Tara but away from...
(The entire section is 325 words.)
Chapters 33-34 Questions and Answers
1. When they arrive in Atlanta, what do Mammy and Scarlett see?
2. What does Scarlett learn from Pittypat?
3. Why is Rhett in jail?
4. How does Scarlett lie to Mammy and Pittypat?
5. Why does Scarlett sneak out?
6. How does she gain entry to the jail?
7. Why does Rhett not refuse to see her?
8. What does she pretend to feel?
9. How does Rhett know Scarlett is lying?
10. When does she allow him to see her hatred for him?
1. Much of the town is still destroyed but there is furious building and repairing happening. There are Yankee soldiers everywhere and freed slaves are driving carriages for hire.
2. Pittypat tells Scarlett that Rhett Butler is in jail.
3. Rhett is seemingly in jail for the murder of a freed slave who insulted a white woman. However, there is no proof of his guilt as yet so the town surmises he is going to be hung in retaliation for Ku Klux Klan activity—in other words, he is going to be the sacrificial lamb.
4. Scarlett tells them she has a cold, and plans to stay in bed all day.
5. She sneaks out to the firehouse (which is being used as a jail by the Yankees) to see Rhett.
6. The first sentry is just about to refuse Scarlett’s request to see a prisoner when he thinks she starts to cry. He quickly calls another sentry to...
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Chapters 35-36 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett lie to Frank about why she was at Yankee headquarters?
2. What does Frank tell her?
3. Why does Scarlett resolve to marry Frank?
4. Why does Mammy offer to help Scarlett win Frank?
5. When does Frank realize Scarlett trapped him into marriage?
6. When Frank has the grippe, what does Scarlett discover by going to the store?
7. What does she realize?
8. What does Rhett admit?
9. How does Rhett explain Ashley’s feelings for Scarlett?
10. What does Rhett agree to do?
1. Scarlett tells Frank the lie because she knows his opinion of Rhett is very low. She also wants him to think the situation at Tara even worse than it is.
2. In the course of their conversation, Frank tells Scarlett he went into active service soon after he’d been to Tara for the commissary department and was wounded. After the war, he saw all the hospital equipment piled along the railroad tracks by the retreating Confederate soldiers who didn’t have time to burn them as they’d planned so the Yankees couldn’t make use of them. He collects these goods and resells them cheaply.
3. Scarlett needs Frank’s money. She feels she must save Tara and Rhett has just told her he cannot help.
4. Mammy thought, correctly, that Scarlett’s coming to Atlanta for the tax money would...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapters 37-38 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Tony Fontaine arrive, unannounced, in the middle of the night?
2. When does Scarlett tell Frank she is pregnant?
3. Why are the former slaves not succeeding in their new lives?
4. Why does Scarlett push herself to succeed quickly?
5. Why does she have trouble hiring a manager for the second sawmill?
6. Why does Scarlett begin socializing with Yankees?
7. Why doesn’t she care for their wives?
8. Why does Uncle Peter refuse to drive for Scarlett?
9. Why does Rhett take to “accidentally” meeting Scarlett on her business route?
10. What does he ask her to do?
1. Tony Fontaine kills Jonas Wilkerson in a knife fight. He is now fleeing to Texas and needs money, a horse, a coat, and food—quickly and quietly. Ashley tells him to go to Scarlett’s house in Atlanta for the things he needs.
2. After Tony leaves, Frank tells Scarlett this reign of terror and fear will end when every Southern man can vote. She doesn’t understand when he explains. He finishes by saying it may not even happen until the next generation. It is then that she abruptly tells him she’s pregnant.
3. The former slaves are handed their freedom and their rights but they receive no counsel on what to do with them.
4. At the time of the novel, as soon as women become pregnant, they...
(The entire section is 397 words.)
Chapters 39-42 Questions and Answers
1. How did Suellen cause her father’s death?
2. Why does Will want to marry Suellen?
3. Why is Carreen going to enter a convent?
4. Why does Ashley want to go to New York?
5. Why does Melly prevent him from doing so?
6. Once in Atlanta, what does Melly do?
7. What happens to the freedman accused of rape?
8. Why does Melly send Archie to Scarlett?
9. Why does Archie resign?
10. What does Scarlett do when she returns to the mills after her daughter’s birth?
1. Drunk from the brandy Suellen gave him to muddle his thinking, Gerald attempts to jump a fence with a horse. But this is not his usual horse and it refuses to jump, causing Gerald to go sailing over its head and land in such a way as to break his neck.
2. In order to live at the Tara he loves and works so hard for, Will has to marry Suellen.
3. When Brent Tarleton was killed in the war, Carreen’s heart broke. Although she cares for Will and speaks freely to him, she is not in love with anyone except Brent and feels a religious life is the only one she wants now.
4. A friend with whom Ashley took the Grand Tour of Europe before the war has offered him a job in his father’s New York bank.
5. Scarlett insists to Melly that she needs Ashley to manage the mill since she cannot get anyone else and...
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapters 43-45 Questions and Answers
1. Why has Rhett been gone for so many months?
2. Why will he no longer be available to Scarlett for loans?
3. Why is Big Sam sent to Tara?
4. What does Scarlett discover about Johnnie Gallegher?
5. How does she endanger the town’s men?
6. Of what are Frank and Ashley members?
7. What is it that Melly and India know?
8. Why does Rhett arrive at Melly’s unannounced that night?
9. How does he prevent Ashley’s arrest?
10. Why does Rhett speak to Scarlett alone?
1. Rhett has a legal ward, a boy, who goes to school in New Orleans. He goes there often to visit him. But this time, Rhett also went to Charleston where his family lives.
2. Scarlett made a bargain with Rhett when she borrowed the money to buy the mill that none of this money would go towards Ashley’s support. By coercing Ashley to take the manager’s position at the mill, she’s broken this agreement and Rhett will loan her nothing more.
3. Big Sam worked for the Confederate Army until his captain was killed. He tried to hide then because there was no one to tell him what to do and he had heard Tara was burned down. A Yankee colonel took him to Savannah and then north with him. He stayed until he got homesick. On his way back to Tara, he heard a Yankee soldier say something he couldn’t tolerate and choked him...
(The entire section is 562 words.)
Chapters 46-47 Questions and Answers
1. What does Captain Jaffery tell Belle Watling and her girls to do?
2. Where are Frank and Tommy’s bodies?
3. What do the townspeople resent?
4. Why does Belle come to Melly’s house?
5. Why does Scarlett regret being the cause of Frank’s death?
6. What has she taken to doing secretly?
7. To what does Rhett tell Pittypat he and Scarlett must tend?
8. What is Scarlett’s nightmare?
9. What does Rhett ask Scarlett?
10. What does she ask Rhett to bring her?
1. Captain Jaffery tells Belle Watling she and her girls will have to appear before the provost marshall. They do and she gives her word that all 12 men under suspicion were at her house the night in question and are actually regular customers who always come on Wednesday night.
2. Under Rhett’s orders, Archie moves Frank and Tommy’s bodies from the old Sullivan plantation to the lot behind Belle’s place.
3. While Rhett saves all the men who are under suspicion of Klan activity with his lies, the town resents the laughter he has caused among the Yankees which is directed at them.
4. True to form, Melly sends Belle a note of gratitude. Belle comes to her house in a closed carriage to tell Melly that her note was unnecessary since she remembers how kind Melanie was to her during the war when she wanted...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Chapters 48-50 Questions and Answers
1. What do Rhett and Scarlett do on their honeymoon?
2. Back in Atlanta again, where do Rhett and Scarlett stay?
3. What does The Ladies’ Sewing Circle for the Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy discuss?
4. About what does Rhett try to warn Scarlett?
5. Why isn’t Scarlett’s “crush” a success?
6. Why is Scarlett cast out by the Old Guard?
7. How does Melanie fear she’s offended Scarlett?
8. Why does Scarlett want an abortion?
9. Why is Wade afraid during the birth of the new baby?
10. When does Mammy begin to develop respect for Rhett?
1. Rhett and Scarlett have fun on their honeymoon in New Orleans.
2. Rhett and Scarlett stay in the bridal suite of the National Hotel when they return from their honeymoon in New Orleans. Rhett has decided to have a large house built for them near Pittypat’s.
3. The Ladies’ Sewing Circle for the Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy discusses whether or not to call on Scarlett.
4. Rhett tries to warn Scarlett about her present actions undermining her future.
5. Scarlett’s “crush,” or combination reception-ball, is not a success because she invites Governor Bullock. Her Old Guard friends hear a rumor to this effect two days before the party and decline her invitations.
6. Once Scarlett...
(The entire section is 338 words.)
Chapters 51-53 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett tell Rhett she wants separate bedrooms?
2. Why is Wade unhappy?
3. What does Rhett decide about the children?
4. With whom does he spend almost all of his time?
5. Why does Bonnie begin screaming?
6. What is Melanie giving Ashley?
7. Why does Scarlett go to the lumber yard?
8. What are Ashley and Scarlett discovered doing?
9. What does Scarlett try to do after they are discovered?
10. Why won’t Rhett let her do this?
1. Initially, Scarlett blames her expanding waistline on pregnancies. Since Rhett won’t allow abortions, abstinence is the only birth control she knows and she thinks the separate bedrooms will cool Rhett’s ardor.
2. Wade is bored on a rainy day. He cannot visit or have someone come to play because all the other children are at Raoul’s birthday party. Rhett immediately realizes the Old Guard has ostracized Wade for his mother and stepfather’s past behavior.
3. Rhett decides he cannot allow the children to be shunned this way. If this is how Wade is treated, he knows if he doesn’t make some changes, it will be the same for Bonnie. He begins to curry the favor of the Old Guard matriarchs.
4. Rhett is always with Bonnie when he is not working. He takes her for rides and walks, stopping often to say hello to the townspeople...
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Chapters 54-56 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Scarlett look for a drink after Ashley’s surprise party?
2. What does Rhett tell Scarlett?
3. After disappearing for two days, why does Rhett come home?
4. Why doesn’t Scarlett confess to Melly?
5. Why is there a feud?
6. How does Scarlett feel when she discovers she is pregnant?
7. When Rhett returns after three months, what do he and Scarlett immediately begin to do?
8. Why does Scarlett miscarry?
9. What does Rhett do during her illness?
10. In her delirium, about what does Scarlett think?
1. Ashley’s surprise birthday party is a terrible experience for Scarlett. She stands between Melly and Ashley while Ashley looks ashamed and Melly radiates love and trust in her as they greet the guests. Melly frankly shields Scarlett and Ashley from any word of scandal. The thought that she owes whatever remains of her reputation to Melanie causes Scarlett to crave liquor.
2. A very drunk Rhett gives his wife a drink and tells her he knows all about her secret imbibing and her lust for Ashley.
3. Rhett intimates he’s been at Belle’s for the past two days and has come home only to pack and get Bonnie and Prissy. He’s taking them on an extended trip beginning with Charleston and New Orleans. He also tells her he’ll never approach her sexually again and she may...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Chapters 57-59 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Rhett come to see Melanie?
2. What is the “cover story” for the money?
3. About what do Rhett and Ashley agree?
4. About what can Scarlett not disagree?
5. Why does she fear Rhett is involved in the Klan?
6. What does Rhett buy for the children?
7. What does Bonnie love to do?
8. Why do the children stay at Melanie’s home?
9. Why does Mammy come to speak with Melly?
10. Why won’t Rhett allow Bonnie to be buried?
1. Rhett thinks the store will be enough to keep Scarlett occupied without tiring her out. He is worried about her health. He also knows the only person she will sell the mills to is Ashley. He wants Melanie to deceive Ashley and Scarlett by not telling them Rhett gave Ashley the money to use in purchasing the mills from Scarlett. Melanie agrees only when Rhett impresses upon her that she needs the money to provide for her son.
2. When Melanie explains to Rhett she cannot say the money is from one of her relatives because they don’t have any money, he arranges to send the money to Ashley along with a letter saying it’s from someone he nursed through smallpox while imprisoned at Rock Island.
3. Rhett and Ashley agree that “free darkie” labor is more palatable than convict labor.
4. Rhett sarcastically asks if the money Scarlett...
(The entire section is 403 words.)
Chapters 60-63 Questions and Answers
1. How does Rhett react to Bonnie’s death?
2. Why does Rhett call Scarlett back to Atlanta from Marietta?
3. Why won’t Rhett go into Melanie’s house?
4. What is it Dr. Meade warns Scarlett not to do?
5. What does Melanie ask Scarlett to do?
6. What does Ashley want from Scarlett?
7. What is it Scarlett realizes about her feelings for Ashley?
8. What do Pittypat, India, Ashley, and the others expect Scarlett to do?
9. As she runs home, what happens to Scarlett?
10. Why is Rhett leaving?
1. After Bonnie’s funeral, Rhett becomes a distant drunk who is never home. He is untidy and forgets to change his clothes.
2. Rhett sends Scarlett a telegram stating Melanie is ill and to return immediately from Marietta.
3. He cannot bear to see her dying so he does not go into the house after bringing Scarlett there from the train station.
4. A contemptuous and disapproving Dr. Meade sees Scarlett and ushers her in to see Melanie, warning her this is not the time for a confession about Ashley.
5. Melanie asks Scarlett to look after Beau, to see he goes to college, to secretly look after Ashley’s health and business, and to be kind to Rhett.
6. Scarlett looks for Ashley, wanting him to comfort her but he needs comfort from her.
(The entire section is 328 words.)
Historical romances have been popular in American literature since the nineteenth century—many of them set in the Civil War era and many of them sappy love stories providing only murky glimpses of an intriguing time period. Mitchell prevents Gone with the Wind from sinking into such a morass by building strong, memorable characters and, over the course of 1,300 pages, charting their personal fortunes against the backdrop of an era whose lingering image the book itself has come to define. Rhett masks his devotion to Scarlett with sarcastic defensiveness; her childish crush on Ashley blinds Scarlett to her true love for Rhett; and Ashley wavers between passionate admiration for Scarlett and dedication to Melanie. Mitchell's depiction of this love triangle maintains reader interest and propels the book's plot.
Thomas Dixon's racist novel, The Clansman—the source for D. W. Griffith's pro-Ku Klux Klan silent film The Birth of a Nation (1915)—served as inspiration for Mitchell who, as a young girl, devised a dramatic script starring herself as the savior of the South. It is not surprising, considering the Gone with the Wind scene in which the men ride out to vindicate Scarlett's name and restore order to the shantytown area, that Dixon's novel would seem to Mitchell a fair and accurate appraisal of the post-Civil War South. Another book published in the same year as Gone with the Wind, William Faulkner's Absalom,...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Gone With the Wind deals with the period of the greatest internal conflict the United States has ever endured. Unlike many of its predecessors, it covers the Civil War and Reconstruction after a brief but glorified scene in which life in the antebellum South is presented at the barbecue at Twelve Oaks. Because of its popularity, this novel is easily the major source of information for many people around the world as to what slavery and the war and its aftermath were "really like," so its themes and characters are of great significance. The strongest criticism that has been leveled at the book is that it presents the system of slavery and the quasi-aristocratic lifestyle of the wealthier plantation owners in an uncritical manner and entirely from the slave owners' point of view, so that blacks, "white trash," and lower-class urban whites like Belle Watling all have "places" beneath the ruling class and are accepted and tolerated if they accommodate themselves and their aspirations to that value system. The ruling class is filled with good people who possess no faults greater than teenage petulance: The women work extremely hard in maintaining the plantations, and the best of the men are esthetic, sensitive and gentlemanly, if a bit effete. When the Old South is destroyed, it is not by freedom fighters but by crass and insensitive Yankees who eliminate the last bastion of grace and charm in their desire to teach the South a lesson.
Of course blacks have...
(The entire section is 1563 words.)
Compare and Contrast
1870s: The only proper occupation for women is wife and mother. Only dire financial circumstances force women to work outside the home, and almost none own their own businesses.
1930s: While it has become more acceptable for women to work, it is definitely not the norm; only 22 percent of women work outside the home and few women own businesses independent of their husbands.
Today: Nearly 60 percent of women are now employed outside the home and 37 percent of all U.S. businesses are owned by women.
1870s: Although the 14th Amendment guarantees the full citizenship of African Americans, including the right to vote, many Southern whites are appalled by this idea and begin terrorizing or murdering African Americans for exercising their right to vote.
1930s: In the South, many African Americans are prevented from voting by educational tests they must pass or the poll taxes laws, which require them to pay a tax in order to vote.
Today: The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s abolished many discriminatory voting practices in the South, and now no legal barriers exist to prevent African Americans from voting.
1870s: Many small farmers and plantation owners lose their land because they can't pay the new taxes; Reconstruction programs are implemented to stimulate the economy and create jobs by offering financial aid to various industries.
(The entire section is 345 words.)
Topics for Discussion
1. Does Melanie make a more suitable wife for Ashley than Scarlett would have?
2. Why does Scarlett marry Melanie's brother, Charles? Why does she later marry Frank Kennedy?
3. Rhett makes his fortune as a blockade runner. What does this mean? Does Scarlett approve of his activities?
4. Scarlett is groomed to be a "southern belle" but fails to fit the mold. What does she do wrong?
5. When Scarlett returns to Tara, she finds the crops burned and the animals killed. Why do the northern troops destroy southern property?
6. Scarlett's family owns slaves. What is Scarlett's attitude toward blacks? Are her views representative of her class?
7. Why do the southerners believe they are morally right in fighting the Civil War?
8. What is the significance of Scarlett delivering Melanie and Ashley's baby?
9. One of the most famous lines in modern literature is Rhett's farewell to Scarlett: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Why is this statement so important to the book's ending?
10. Will Rhett ever reunite with Scarlett? What elements in the novel support your position?
(The entire section is 174 words.)
Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Research the historical accounts of the burning of Atlanta and compare them to Mitchell's account.
2. Research and report on the part slaves played in the Civil War.
3. Research "Sherman's march to the sea," a military campaign that became the South's symbol for bitterness against the Union. Analyze how Mitchell uses this as a backdrop to the novel.
4. Research the Reconstruction era and analyze Mitchell's use of the facts and myths of that period.
5. Mitchell was a feature writer for the Atlanta Journal while she was writing Gone with the Wind. Report on the stories she wrote.
6. Study the characteristics of antebellum architecture and discuss how they reflect the era.
(The entire section is 109 words.)
Topics for Further Study
Research the New Deal programs implemented during the Depression era and compare them to programs initiated in the South during the Reconstruction period.
Investigate the effect that Northern Carpetbaggers and Southern Scalawags had on Georgian politics and culture.
Compare Mitchell's portrayal of slave life with slave narratives and other historical accounts of slavery. Which aspects of Mitchell's depiction of slave life on a plantation are realistic? Which are not?
Trace the development and activities of the Ku Klux Klan from their formation to the present day.
Imagine you could host a talk show with some of the characters from Gone with the Wind. One topic could be: Can Scarlett get Rhett back and can they salvage their relationship? Who would side with Scarlett? Rhett? Why? Think of two more topics and write three different episodes of the talk show.
(The entire section is 139 words.)
Techniques / Literary Precedents
Historical romances have been popular since the nineteenth century, many of them set approximately during the Civil War, and this tradition is certainly evident in Gone With the Wind. Margaret Mitchell's strongest innovation here was in the quality of the relationship between the two star-crossed lovers, Scarlet and Rhett. An ordinary triangle would have been interesting, but much of the tension and reader involvement comes from the obvious similarity between Rhett and Scarlett, his devotion to her hidden behind his sarcastic defensiveness, her childish crush on the scholarly Ashley, her blindness to what she really needs until it is too late, and her final, apparent loss of the one best man in the world for her (for the last word on them has not been spoken by the end of the novel). All this maintains reader interest and identification very effectively.
The one book that Margaret Mitchell ever attempted to make a play from was Thomas Dixon's racist novel, The Clansman (1905), which was the source for D. W. Griffith's pro-Klan silent film classic, The Birth of a Nation (1915). As a young girl she had devised a script starring herself, as was characteristic of her, in the lead role as the savior of the South. As an adult, she wrote to Dixon telling him how much she had loved the book and how she had been afraid he would "sue for a million dollars" after her parents had impressed upon her the fact that she had violated copyright in presenting the play...
(The entire section is 753 words.)
The 1939 film version of Gone with the Wind may well be better known than the novel. In the years following the novel's publication, endless speculation about who would play the movie's lead roles fueled public anticipation to the point of hysteria. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a personal letter encouraging the producers to give a screen test to her own maid, Lizzie McDuffie; mothers shamelessly pushed their children as candidates for the part of little Bonnie Butler. The decisions to cast Leslie Howard as Ashley and Olivia de Havilland as Melanie were relatively straightforward. Clark Gable won the coveted part of Rhett Butler in August 1938, edging out Ronald Colman, Errol Flynn, and Gary Cooper. But it was the search for Scarlett that engrossed the public and concerned producer David O. Selznick above all casting problems. Thirty-one women were screen-tested for the part, including Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Tallulah Bankhead, and Bette Davis, who declared in her 1962 autobiography that "it was insanity" that Selznick denied her the role. The final group of hopefuls included Joan Bennett, Jean Arthur, Paulette Goddard, and Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown British actress whom Selznick added to the list after meeting her on the set of the burning of Atlanta. Anne Edwards, the biographer of both Leigh and Mitchell, reports Selznick's reaction: "I took one look and knew she was right—at least as right as far as my conception of how Scarlett O'Hara looked ......
(The entire section is 516 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
Lay My Burden Down, edited by B. A Botkin (1945), is a collection of interviews with former slaves, recorded and transcribed by the Federal Writers' Project. Men and women describe their experiences as slaves.
A Stillness at Appomatox is Bruce Catton's 1953 history of the Civil War. The final book of his three-volume Army of the Potomac historical series, it won a Pulitzer Prize.
The Battle-Ground, by Ellen Glasgow (1902), focuses on two aristocratic families who live on adjoining Virginia plantations during the Civil War era.
James McPherson's Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (1982) traces Civil War events and also examines relevant pre- and postwar issues and activities.
Scarlett, Alexandra Ripley's 1991 sequel to Gone with the Wind, continues the story of Scarlett and Rhett.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), chronicles the mistreatment of a slave named Uncle Tom at the hands of his cruel master, Simon Legree. Stowe wrote the novel, in part, to further the abolitionist cause.
(The entire section is 160 words.)
For Further Reference
Edwards, Anne. The Road to Tara. New Haven and New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1983. This biography stresses Mitchell's personal life and relates the author's experiences to the attitudes expressed in her work.
------. Vivien Leigh: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977. An interesting account of the complex woman whose own offscreen personality has often been compared to her portrayal of Scarlett in the film version of Gone with the Wind.
Farr, Finis. Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta. New York: Morrow, 1965. This biography helped trigger a critical reassessment of Gone with the Wind. It remains a good source of material on Mitchell's life and work.
Harwell, Richard. Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" Letters, 1936- 1949. New York: Macmillan, 1976. This collection of letters written by the author between the time of her novel's publication and her death in 1949 also includes a short biographical introduction.
Pratt, William, and Herb Bridges. Scarlett Fever. New York: Macmillan, 1977. Billed as the "ultimate" Gone with the Wind book, this is essentially a catalogue of gossip and trivia about the novel, the film, and the people connected with both projects.
(The entire section is 182 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Athearn, Robert G. American Heritage New Illustrated History of the United States, Volumes 7 & 8. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1963.
Conroy, Pat. Preface of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, Macmillan, 1996.
Edwards, Anne. Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell, Ticknor and Fields, 1983.
Lingley, Charles Ramsdell, and Foley, Allen Richard. Since the Civil War—Third Edition, New York: Century Co., Inc., 1935.
Ludwig, Linda. "Margaret Mitchell," American Women Writers, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1981.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind. New York: Warner Books, 1964.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, Commager, Henry Steele, and Lenchtenburg, William E. A Concise History of the American Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Stampp, Kenneth M. The Era of Reconstruction 1865-1877. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966.
For Further Study
Stephen Vincent Benet, "Georgia Marches Through," Saturday Review, July 4, 1936, p. 5.
An early review praising the novel's realism and readability.
James Boatwnght, "Totin' de Weery Load," New Republic, September 1, 1973, pp 29-32.
A review citing moral and political objections to Gone with the Wind.
Finis Farr, Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta, Morrow,...
(The entire section is 357 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Edwards, Anne. Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell. New Haven, Conn.: Ticknor & Fields, 1983. A biography of Mitchell which describes her as a mixture, like Scarlett, of Southern belle and emancipated woman, both conventional and rebellious.
Egenreither, Ann E. “Scarlett O’Hara: A Paradox in Pantalettes.” In Heroines of Popular Culture, edited by Pat Browne. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987. Places Scarlett O’Hara in the context of popular culture heroines while describing her resistance to such limits.
Gailliard, Dawson. “Gone with the Wind as Bildungsroman: Or, Why Did Rhett Butler Really Leave Scarlett O’Hara?” Georgia Review 28 (1974): 9-18. Argues that the work is a female maturation novel. Scarlett moves from being a “Southern Lady” to becoming a “New Woman,” but not with impunity, for she loses Rhett. Sees her as a child, and when she grows up, he leaves.
Harwell, Richard, ed. “Gone with the Wind” as Book and Film. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1983. A series of essays from both scholars and the popular press that review the traditions of Southern and Civil War novels, Margaret Mitchell as person and writer, the novel and its characters, and Gone with the Wind as a film event....
(The entire section is 526 words.)