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 Clayton County, Georgia. Tara symbolizes the way of life and the entire world as perceived by plantation families. Her graceful hospitality, the well-greased joints of farming, entertaining, caring for the sick and elderly, reflect the strength and loving care of the matriarchal society. The functioning of this family within a Celtic society symbolizes the work supervised and completed to conquer the wilderness and create the lavish homes, in which white women rule supreme and their men sit back and bask in the glory of their smiles. Just as the characters feel security within the arms of the matriarch and her “mammy,” Tara itself provides safety and security for all of those who live within its confines.
*Jonesboro. Seat of Clayton Country, immediately southwest of Atlanta. As the home of the central government of Clayton County, this town provides the controlling elements. In the prewar period, it embraces the formation of the Troop, maintains its status as transportation and communication center, and houses county governmental agencies and privately owned commercial businesses. During...
(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.)
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?
(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?
(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...
(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...
(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....
(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...
(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?...
(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,...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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?
(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...
(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....
(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....
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(The entire section is 328 words.)
Compare and Contrast
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For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
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...
(The entire section is 526 words.)