Summary of the Novel
Gone with the Wind begins at Tara, the O’Hara family cotton plantation in Georgia, just prior to the Civil War. Hearing the news of Ashley’s engagement to Melanie, Scarlett O’Hara tricks Charles Hamilton into marrying her. After Charles’ death in the Confederate Army, Melanie (who returns to Atlanta after their marriage and Ashley’s enlistment) and Pittypat convince Scarlett to bring her baby for an extended stay. There, she becomes trapped by the war. On the night of Atlanta’s burning by the Union Army, with Melanie having just given birth, Scarlett realizes it is too dangerous to stay. She convinces Rhett Butler to steal a horse and wagon so they may return to Tara. They arrive, without Rhett, to find Ellen dead, Suellen and Carreen ill, Gerald out of his mind, no supplies or horses, very few slaves, and many of the neighboring plantations burned to the ground. On a return trip to Atlanta to raise the higher taxes newly demanded on Tara by the victors, Scarlett discovers Rhett is in jail. She sees him there and offers herself as collateral for the tax money. Although previously interested, his admiration for her now will not allow this, nor can he reach his money because of the political situation. Scarlett then lies to Frank Kennedy so that he will marry her. He has money and a store which promises more if Scarlett’s heartless and aggressive business methods are used. Having already been cast from society for her "unwidowlike" behavior, she has no reason not to pursue business. Marrying Frank means another separation from Tara since she will live at Pittypat’s house. Having promised herself she would never be hungry again, Scarlett finds another way of making money by buying and managing two saw mills. Afterwards, she borrows money from Rhett. Frank is not happy, but indulges her, thinking another baby will end such behavior. Ella is born but Scarlett does not convert to contentment with home and family. In Atlanta, Scarlett continues to do business, despite the dangers of Shantytown, an area through which she must travel inhabited by prostitutes, freed slaves, and lawbreakers. Archie refuses to continue as Scarlett’s bodyguard since she exploits ex-convicts who work in the mills. She is then accosted as she passes through Shantytown. Both Ashley and Frank are members of the Ku Klux Klan and feel they must protect her honor. In the fight, Frank is killed and Ashley wounded. Only Rhett’s warning and quick thinking save the rest. Widowed for the second time with two small children, Scarlett marries Rhett and befriends Scalawags and Carpetbaggers. She builds an imitation of southern society around her with Rhett’s money and these newly acquired friends. Upon Melanie’s death, Scarlett realizes she does not love Ashley but rather Rhett, only to learn that since the death of their daughter, Bonnie (for which Rhett blames himself), he has ceased to love her.
The Life and Work of Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell wrote only one book, Gone with the Wind, and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937, as well as the National Book Award. Written in 1936, Gone with the Wind set a sales record of 50,000 copies in one day and 1.5 million copies in its first year of publication, making it one of the most successful bestsellers ever written. It has been translated into at least 30 languages, including Braille (becoming the longest novel ever translated into this language). In 1939, the book was used as the basis of what is probably the most popular film ever made. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, which she uses for the setting of her story, on November 8, 1900, Ms. Mitchell wrote this novel over a period of 10 years, after her marriage to John March in 1925. During this time, she wove material from the stories of the Civil War she had heard at home (as the daughter of the president of the Atlanta Historical Society) into this historical novel of over 1,000 pages, written from the Southern point of view; local history had been a pervasive part of her childhood. The story, itself, begins just before the Civil War in 1861 and ends during the Reconstruction period. Her two main characters—Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler—are among the best-known in American literature. Although she attended Smith College during 1918-1919, when her mother died she returned home to keep house for her father and brother. On August 16, 1949, a car struck Ms. Mitchell, ending her life. In 1976, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind Letters: 1936-1949 was published. A continuation of the novel, Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, written by Alexandra Ripley, was published in 1991.
In April 1861, the Civil War began when the Confederacy bombarded Fort Sumter in South Carolina. President Lincoln declared war, called for 75,000 volunteers (for 90-day enlistments), and blockaded Southern ports. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee soon joined the Confederacy, while the border states of Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky became a major concern for both presidents. In July of 1862, Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, dashing any hopes the Confederacy had of military aid from Great Britain or France, who could not support the endorsement of human bondage by the South (since they now saw the Civil War as a struggle to end slavery). Up to this point, the war had been seen as a means to save the Union. A military policy used by the North was to strip Southern plantations of their labor supply as an economic sanction. Another policy was the use of blockades which kept the cotton in, the foreign military supplies out, and hindered the South by cutting into the supply lines. The Confederacy was doing poorly before the war: currency was almost worthless since it had never been declared legal tender and shortages were rampant. When the war ended in 1865, the South was ravished: farms, homes, and places of business in ruins; people missing; the land and people exhausted; slavery demolished; and the great plantations gone. Lincoln had high hopes for the reconstruction of the South, beginning with his 1/10 Plan, according to which when one-tenth of the qualified Southern voters for the year 1860 took an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, they would be permitted to set up state governments and ask for recognition by the federal government. When this was done, he intended to use his presidential power of pardon to restore full rights. After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson continued this policy. By 1871, all the states were part of the federal government again. In March of 1867, Congress legislated dividing the South into five military districts, each commanded by a general. With Grant’s presidency, Northern carpetbaggers appeared throughout the South, occupying key offices and controlling the political apparatus. They were aided by Southern scalawags, there for their own personal gain. Buying and selling the votes of the newly enfranchised became common. When Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president in 1876, the last army units from the South were recalled, causing the entire false economy to collapse and reconstruction (which failed politically, socially, and economically) to end.
Master List of Characters
Archie—murderer freed from prison for agreeing to fight in the Confederate Army; Melanie employs him as a bodyguard for Scarlett in Atlanta.
Will Benteen—Confederate soldier left at Tara to convalesce from pneumonia; stays to work Tara into a functioning farm; eventually marries Suellen.
(Eugenie Victoria) Bonnie Blue Butler—Rhett and Scarlett’s daughter; deeply loved and indulged by Rhett; Scarlett’s favorite child.
Rhett Butler—Scarlett’s third husband; years before their marriage, befriends and falls in love with Scarlett due to his admiration for her hard business dealings and calculating mind; shunned by society for his scandalous behavior.
Dilcey—Pork’s wife; bought by Gerald from John Wilkes’ neighboring plantation, Twelve Oaks, to honor Pork’s request that the newlyweds may live together.
Mrs. Elsing, Mrs. Merriwether, and Mrs. Whiting—the leaders of Atlanta’s society.
Charles Hamilton—Scarlett’s first husband; tricked into marrying her as revenge when she realizes Ashley really is going to marry Melanie, Charles’ sister.
Henry Hamilton—Charles and Melanie’s uncle; constantly at odds with his sister, Pittypat; the family lawyer.
(Sarah Jane) Pittypat Hamilton—Charles and Melanie’s spinster aunt; Scarlett lives with her in Atlanta while mourning Charles’ death; Ashley, India, and Honey Wilkes’ cousin.
Wade Hampton Hamilton—Scarlett and Charles’ son; born after Charles’ death of pneumonia following measles while serving in the Confederate Army.
Ella Lorena Kennedy—Frank and Scarlett’s daughter.
Frank Kennedy—Scarlett’s second husband; owns a store in Atlanta; was engaged to Scarlett’s sister, Suellen, for many years before Scarlett tricked him into marriage.
Mammy—body slave of Ellen O’Hara’s mother; raises Ellen, Ellen’s three daughters, and Scarlett’s children.
(Caroline Irene) Carreen O’Hara—the youngest of the three O’Hara sisters; becomes a nun after the death of her beloved, Brent Tarleton, in the Civil War.
Ellen Robillard O’Hara—Scarlett’s mother; a respected woman who raises her daughters to be Southern ladies.
Gerald O’Hara—Scarlett’s father; an Irish immigrant and self-made man.
(Katie) Scarlett O’Hara—the protagonist of the novel; born to the luxury of pre-Civil War plantation life in Georgia; eldest daughter of Gerald and Ellen O’Hara; wife of Charles Hamilton, Frank Kennedy, and Rhett Butler; mother of Wade Hampton Hamilton, Ella Lorna Kennedy, and Eugenie Victoria Butler.
(Susan Elinor) Suellen O’Hara—Scarlett’s younger sister; engaged to Frank Kennedy for many years before Scarlett marries him; marries Will Benteen.
Uncle Peter—Pittypat’s faithful slave.
Pork—Gerald O’Hara’s body slave; survives both Gerald and Ellen; continues to help keep the family plantation, Tara, from falling into Union hands during the Civil War years.
Prissy—Dilcey’s daughter; also purchased by Gerald as a surprise for Pork when he buys Dilcey.
Ashley Wilkes—a neighbor Scarlett convinces herself she loves although he is to marry his cousin from Atlanta, Melanie Hamilton.
(Beauregard) Beau Wilkes—Ashley and Melanie’s only child; born during the burning of Atlanta by the Union Army.
Honey Wilkes—one of Ashley’s sisters.
India Wilkes—another of Ashley’s sisters; becomes one of Scarlett’s many enemies in Atlanta.
(Melanie) Melly Hamilton Wilkes—Ashley’s wife; becomes Scarlett’s greatest defender and sister-in-law when Scarlett marries Melanie’s brother, Charles.
Estimated Reading Time
This is a lengthy book which takes some time to read. We would suggest finding your own pace and reading the book over a period of perhaps 40 hours. Break this into manageable reading periods, five or so chapters at a sitting, to allow yourself to complete the book without reading too much at a time.
Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Gone with the Wind, perhaps the most famous American novel of the twentieth century, tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern woman trying to maintain her identity as her world is torn apart by the United States Civil War. Upon publication, the novel attained instant popularity, and the premiere of the film version in 1939 met with equal enthusiasm.
The story begins when Scarlett, at age sixteen, experiences the first real disappointment of her pampered life. Ashley Wilkes, the man she loves, marries Melanie Hamilton, a soft-spoken and gentle woman whom Scarlett despises. Scarlett irrationally marries Melanie’s brother, but he dies a few months later, leaving Scarlett to discover that widowhood is the most restrictive of all female roles in her Southern society. The upheaval caused by the war, however, gives Scarlett some opportunities for independence. She eventually marries Frank Kennedy and manages a successful lumber business, but is widowed once again. Scarlett then marries an unprecedented third time, to the dashing but socially unrespectable Rhett Butler. Unwilling to admit her sexual attraction for Rhett, Scarlett convinces herself she is marrying him for his money. She continues to pursue Ashley, until she finally realizes, perhaps too late, that she loves Rhett.
Gone with the Wind is a long, sweeping tale and as such encompasses a variety of issues. The views on slavery held by most Southerners at the time...
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Scarlett O’Hara, sixteen years old, is the most popular belle in Clayton County, Georgia, where her family’s plantation, Tara, is located. The daughter of fiery Gerald O’Hara and Ellen Robillard O’Hara, Scarlett has her father’s courage and temper, which her genteel mother and her slave Mammy try to “refine.”
The best families in the county are invited to nearby Twelve Oaks plantation for Ashley Wilkes’s birthday party in April, 1861, where talk concerns whether the South would secede from the Union. Ashley announces his engagement to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton. When Scarlett tells Ashley she loves him, he says that Wilkeses always marry cousins. Scarlett later realizes that Rhett Butler, a scoundrel from Charleston, has been eavesdropping.
Upset by Ashley’s rejection, Scarlett accepts the proposal of Melanie’s brother, Charles. The party dissolves in chaos at the announcement that Union troops had fired on Fort Sumter. Both weddings occur immediately, so that the men can go fight for the Confederacy. Charles becomes ill and dies in the army, leaving Scarlett pregnant with their son, Wade Hampton. Scarlett then goes to stay with Melanie at her Aunt Pittypat’s in Atlanta, where the two young women nurse sick and wounded soldiers, a task Scarlett hates. Rhett, now a blockade runner, frequently visits the women.
As Union soldiers shell Atlanta, Melanie goes into labor, and Scarlett has to deliver the baby. Then...
(The entire section is 974 words.)
Mitchell grew up in Atlanta during an era when the Civil War and Reconstruction remained part of the living memory of many people; when the mere mention of General William T. Sherman's name brought curses to the lips of patriotic southerners; and when some people fervently believed that the Old South, in all its grandeur, would rise again. In 1930 a group of southern intellectuals including Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, and John Crowe Ransom published I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, a collection of essays extolling the values of traditional southern culture. The sentiments expressed in this work appealed to many poor southerners suffering the effects of the Great Depression. As the decade advanced and economic woes increased, only sectional pride and the memory of better times sustained a large segment of the population. Behind the agrarian idyll, however, stood the agrarian reality of the Old South—a plantation economy dependent upon the institution of slavery. When Mitchell's novel was published in 1936, it served the dual function of romanticizing a lost civilization and providing hope for the economic survival of that civilization's heir.
Was Tara still standing? Or was Tara also gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia?
(The entire section is 204 words.)
Twilight of the Old South
Scarlett O' Hara is the antiheroine of Gone with the Wind, a character who breaks the conventions of a romance novel from the first line of the book—"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it." A spoiled, high-tempered, and strong-willed sixteen-year-old Southern belle, Scarlett is the eldest of three O'Hara daughters who live an idyllic life on a north Georgia plantation called Tara. In the opening scenes, the O'Haras prepare to entertain their neighbors with a barbecue, and Scarlett plots to capture the man she loves—Ashley Wilkes—from her friend, Melanie. However, Ashley rejects her, and Scarlett's nemesis, Rhett Butler, overhears her humiliation. Rhett, a wealthy outcast from high society who "looks like one of the Borgias," is both amused by and interested in Scarlett.
The Civil War
News of the war reaches Tara, and Scarlett's life and the lives of everyone around her are immediately and irrevocably altered. Frustrated by circumstances and rejected by Ashley, she marries Melanie's brother, Charles, stealing him away from India Wilkes. Charles goes to war and dies, like most of the young men who attended the O'Haras' party. Inglorious in Scarlett's eyes, Charles dies from measles, not fighting. The widowed Scarlett grows restless at her plantation home, and relocates to Atlanta, moving in with her sister-in-law Melanie and her Aunt Pitty. Melanie feels great love and...
(The entire section is 937 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Scarlet O’Hara: the protagonist of the novel
Mammy: Scarlett’s mother’s body slave
Scarlett O’Hara is discussing with the twins Stuart and Brent Tarleton, her neighbors with whom she flirts despite not being interested in marrying either, their expulsion from the fourth college in two years. They insist it does not matter because the Civil War will soon start. They also tell Scarlett that Ashley plans to announce his engagement to Melanie at a ball the next night. Upon hearing this, Scarlett neglects to invite them to dinner, earning her a lecture on hospitality from Mammy, her mother’s body (or personal) slave. The boys leave accompanied by their own body slave, Jeems, but are afraid to face their mother. They go instead to see Abel Wynder, who is in charge of the cavalry troop that has been organized to prepare to fight for the Confederacy.
This chapter introduces the plantation lifestyle of pre-Civil War Georgia. Scarlett has been raised by her maternal grandmother’s body slave, Mammy, who instructs her in the art of womanhood and sees to her every need. While Scarlett is courted by all the acceptable young men, she secretly chooses Ashley and is stunned that he is to marry the sickly Melanie.
(The entire section is 214 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
Ellen O’Hara: Scarlett’s mother
Gerald O’Hara: Scarlett’s father
After the Tarleton twins leave, Mammy chastises Scarlett for not inviting them to supper and being out in the night air without her shawl. Scarlett realizes it is time for her father to come home and goes to the cedars at the end of the drive to meet him privately. As she waits, she contemplates wanting Ashley and his plans to marry Melanie. Her father arrives drunk and jumps the fence even though he broke his knee doing so the previous year. In return for Scarlett not telling Ellen that Gerald has broken his promise not to jump, he verifies that Ashley’s father has told him of the engagement. We learn that Gerald was at Twelve Oaks to buy Dilcey and Prissy so that they could live at Tara with Pork. Through their conversation we discover Scarlett does not share her father’s love of the land. As the chapter closes, Ellen is leaving, accompanied by Mammy, to attend to a poor white neighbor, Emmie Slattery, whose baby is dying.
Scarlett thinks she has loved Ashley since she first saw him and cannot understand why he does not declare his love, since it is obvious to her that he loves her, too. Gerald is concerned, not only because Scarlett will not accept that Ashley is marrying Melanie, but also because he feels Ashley is not a good match for Scarlett. According to Gerald, Ashley cannot...
(The entire section is 340 words.)
Chapters 3-5 Summary and Analysis
Pork: Gerald’s body slave
Dilcey: Pork’s wife
Prissy: Dilcey’s daughter
Suellen and Careen O’Hara: Scarlett’s two younger sisters
After hastily emigrating from Ireland under dubious circumstances when he was 21, Gerald O’Hara, a man without fortune or education, won an impoverished Tara during a drunken poker game, making a reality of his ambition to own a plan¬tation. Ten years later, realizing Tara needed a mistress and he a wife, he married Ellen Robillard, 28 years younger than he. She was from Savannah, where he had gone to ask his older brothers, James and Andrew, to help him find a wife.
After the death of her one true love, her cousin Philippe when she was 15, Ellen told her parents she would marry Gerald and move to Tara or join a convent. Along with Mammy and 20 house servants, Ellen became the able mistress of the plantation, the wonderful mother of three daughters (the three sons following died very young), and a good neighbor to all.
During a dinner at which Ellen is not presiding because she has taken Mammy with her to attend to their neighbor, Emmie Slattery’s dying newborn bastard, Dilcey and her daughter, Prissy, arrive from Twelve Oaks and thank Gerald for buying them both. Pork, Gerald’s valet, married Dilcey and this will allow the new family to live together at Tara.
Scarlett later overhears her...
(The entire section is 579 words.)
Chapters 6-7 Summary and Analysis
Charles Hamilton: Scarlett’s first husband
Rhett Butler: a guest at the barbecue who watches Scarlett
Ashley Wilkes: a neighbor Scarlett convinces herself she is in love with
Honey and India Wilkes: Ashley’s sisters
Melanie Hamilton: Charles’ sister and future wife of Ashley
Wade Hampton Hamilton: Scarlett and Charles’ son, born after Charles’ death
Scarlett, who has previously stolen Honey Wilkes’ beau, Stuart Tarleton, begins flirting with Charles Hamilton, although he has an “understanding” with Honey. Rhett Butler watches Scarlett so boldly that she asks who he is, only to be told of his terrible reputation. Rhett once compromised a young lady by keeping her out quite late without a chaperone. Melanie and Ashley spend their time exclusively with each other at the barbecue while Gerald begins a heated discussion about war. Charles uses the subject to discover Scarlett’s feelings for him, after which he declares his love for her and proposes. Rhett attempts to show the other men the lack of logic and common sense in the South’s fighting a war but to no avail.
During the rest period between the barbecue in the afternoon and the ball at night, Scarlett sneaks out of the bedroom to find Ashley. She succeeds, declares her love, and horrifies Ashley. Unbeknownst to her, Rhett is in the room and hears the entire...
(The entire section is 705 words.)
Chapters 8-10 Summary and Analysis
Pittypat Hamilton: Charles and Melanie’s spinster aunt
Uncle Peter: Pittypat’s slave
Mrs. Elsing, Mrs. Merriwether, and Mrs. Whiting: the leaders of Atlanta’s society
Henry Hamilton: Pittypat’s lawyer brother
Uncle Peter, Pittypat’s slave turned “keeper” who practically raised Melanie and Charles since they were orphaned very young and had Pittypat come to live with them, meets Scarlett, Wade, and Prissy (who comes along as the baby’s nurse) at the train station, giving orders the second he lays eyes on them. Scarlett is surprised to see that Atlanta is no longer the little town she remembers, born only nine years later than she and christened the same year as she. Due to the war, Atlanta is now a busy, sprawling city with many hospitals and other wartime industries.
On their way to Pittypat’s, Uncle Peter passes the leaders of Atlanta’s society and Scarlett sees her first “bad” woman (without knowing what a “bad” woman is). Scarlett agrees to join a hospital committee and continues to greet those from Atlanta who had come to Tara for her wedding less than a year before. While Uncle Henry, Pittypat’s lawyer brother, tries to explain the terms of Charles’ will to her, Scarlett is too excited and happy to be in Atlanta to pay attention.
Having worked hard getting things ready for the bazaar, Scarlett resents not being...
(The entire section is 982 words.)
Chapters 11-13 Summary and Analysis
A tired Scarlett returns from the hospital and secretly reads Melanie’s letters from Ashley. She is accustomed to doing so although she occasionally reminds herself that Ellen would not approve. She loses interest when she realizes Ashley is writing of possible defeat in the war. Scarlett is still convinced he loves her, but doesn’t know why she cannot understand him—his way of thinking or his actions.
Despite the deprivations of wartime and still wearing black clothes, Scarlett is happy to be out of mourning. The informality of wartime also greatly relaxes the rigid societal code of behavior; not only is Scarlett done with her formal mourning before the proscribed time, but she behaves as a young girl would: flirting, riding, dancing, going to parties—yet still dressed in mourning clothes. She thinks of herself as a young belle despite having a child (who is being so well cared for that she almost forgets him). The one “fly in the ointment” for Scarlett is she misses her mother who is so busy with Tara’s part in the war effort that she has little time to spare when Scarlett does visit.
Her most usual companion in Atlanta is Rhett. Her secret fears that he may betray her by revealing her thoughts and that she may be amusing to him make her hold her temper in check when she is with him, something she has done for only one other person before—Ellen. Yet she finds Rhett exciting, even though she knows she is...
(The entire section is 1101 words.)
Chapters 14-16 Summary and Analysis
Although the South continues to believe in its eventual victory, letters begin to trickle home from the soldiers asking for boots and supplies. News arrives of the fall of Vicksburgh to the west as Lee fights in Pennsylvania. Pittypat, Melanie, and Scarlett join the others at the offices of the newspaper to get news of Ashley.
Rhett joins them, announcing the first casualty lists have been sent to the newspapers and are being printed. He fights the crowd to bring them the first galley proofs. Ashley’s name is not on the casualty list, although the following are: Dallas McLure; Darcy Meade; Raiford Calvert; Joe Fontaine; LaFayette Munroe; and Brent, Stuart, and Thomas Tarleton. Rhett leaves to tell Dr. Meade of his son’s death and Scarlett takes the emotionally exhausted Pittypat home to put her to bed.
Afterward, as Melanie and Scarlett sit with Mrs. Meade awaiting the doctor’s arrival, Phil (the Meade’s younger son), makes it clear he wants to join the army, although his parents will not allow it. Melanie tells Scarlett how jealous she is that Scarlett has Charles’ child, both for having a baby and for having a part of Charles which remains after his death.
A haunted Ashley comes home on leave. Scarlett is frightened by how much she loves him. Arriving four days before Christmas, he brings the drunken Fontaine boys with him to await their own train home. After the emotional greetings, Scarlett begins...
(The entire section is 830 words.)
Chapters 17-18 Summary and Analysis
While the people of Atlanta assure themselves the Confederacy will not allow this all important city to be attacked, Mrs. Meade worries that her younger son, Phil, will have to fight; the wounded Captain Ashburn realizes his courtship of Scarlett is not progressing; Rhett and Wade continue developing a fondness for each other; and Pittypat has a dinner party to share the last remaining fowl—a rooster. Rhett arrives uninvited, despite the hard feelings the other guests have for him, and is reluctantly invited to stay.
As the enemy attacks closer to home, at New Hope Church, the homes of Atlanta are flooded with wounded since the hospitals become overloaded. Pittypat protests when it is her turn to house the wounded since she feels it is unseemly to have strange males in the house when Melanie is so obviously pregnant, but Melly insists.
Scarlett lies to Mrs. Merriwether, telling her Ellen needs her at Tara, but Mrs. Merriwether says she will write to Ellen to say how much more Scarlett is needed in Atlanta. Scarlett runs away from the hospital feeling she cannot stand it any longer, but runs directly into Rhett, who looks well-fed, clean, and stylish, much to Scarlett’s chagrin.
He explains how close the enemy really is—in the Kennesaw Mountains, only 22 miles away. As Atlanta becomes aware of the sounds of cannon, the Home Guard, including Phil Meade, marches out. Ashley’s body servant, Mose, appears...
(The entire section is 685 words.)
Chapters 19-22 Summary and Analysis
Scarlett is terrified as shells burst overhead and Melanie’s due date draws near. Prissy assures Scarlett she can manage the birth since her mother is a midwife. Scarlett longs to go home but doesn’t, only because of her promise to Ashley. She finds Wade troublesome in his fear and plans to have Prissy deliver him to Tara, then return to Atlanta in time for the birth but travel becomes too dangerous. As she becomes jaded by the terrible living conditions in a city under siege, she also becomes accustomed to soldiers knocking at the door for food, medical treatment, or a place to sleep.
Uncle Henry, on the way to protect Jonesboro, stops to say goodbye and asks Scarlett to inform Melanie her father-in-law is dead. As Uncle Henry fears, Jonesboro (which is only five miles from Tara) falls. Gerald writes of the battle and includes the information that Carreen, Scarlett’s youngest sister, has typhoid. As Scarlett sits alone, thinking of her dead beaux, Rhett appears, aghast that Melanie is still in Atlanta and Scarlett with her. While freely admitting to herself she doesn’t love him, Scarlett wants Rhett to love her. He tells her he doesn’t, but wants her to be his mistress. She is indignant and orders him to leave.
Thirty days after the siege begins, the bombardment simply stops. General Sherman is striking at Jonesboro again as a way to get into Atlanta. A courier brings Scarlett news from her father: Suellen,...
(The entire section is 947 words.)
Chapters 23-25 Summary and Analysis
Scarlett sits, waiting for Rhett to come take them away from the hell Atlanta has become. She sees flames and thinks the Yankees have come and are burning the city. Prissy returns and tells her it is their own soldiers who are doing the burning and that she saw Rhett, who told her his horse and carriage were already commandeered, but he promises to get a horse. Scarlett tells Prissy to prepare Wade and the baby to leave. She has not been able to bring herself to go to Melanie since the birth of the baby. Rhett arrives and argues with her that she cannot go home as she wants to; the road to Tara is unsafe, but she becomes hysterical insisting she will and Rhett concedes. He bundles them all into the rickety wagon he’s found. The only things they take are the daguerreotypes of Charles and his saber.
They ride through Atlanta, avoiding fire at every turn. Just before they come along the rear guard of the retreating Confederate troops, Rhett tries to give Scarlett a pistol to protect the wagon but she already has Charles’. Rhett maneuvers them safely through the city and makes certain Scarlett knows another, less dangerous road to lead them to Tara. He then tells her he’s leaving them—he has enlisted and must join his troop. At first, Scarlett thinks he is joking; then she takes it as a personal affront. After giving Scarlett a passionate kiss farewell, Rhett leaves.
Melanie faints before Rhett leaves. Scarlett does...
(The entire section is 1002 words.)
Chapters 26-28 Summary and Analysis
Beau Wilkes: Ashley and Melanie’s only child
Two weeks have passed. Scarlett knows Gerald lives in his own world. She plans to walk to Jonesboro to locate food, but her foot is infected and the horse is dead. When she sees a Yankee approaching the house, she sneaks the pistol from the drawer, hides it in the folds of her skirt, and kills him with it. Melanie lies to the others and mops the blood while Scarlett drags the body out of the house and buries it. Melly suggests they go through his knapsack and pockets where they find money and jewelry. They keep his horse.
Sally Fontaine arrives at Tara to warn them Yankees are coming again. Scarlett hides the pigs in the swamp, the food in the woods, the silver in the well, and has Pork hide Gerald. Melanie is told to take the horse and hide the cow and her calf in the swamp while Scarlett hides the money and jewelry in Beau’s diaper. Deciding she cannot let the Yankees burn Tara, she sends Wade to find his aunt in the swamp and goes to meet the Yankees. Wade refuses to go, silently clinging to her skirts as the Yankees ransack the house, take the jewels they see, kill the sow, and set fire to the cotton. As they attempt to take Charles’ sword, Wade sobs that it is his and the soldiers leave it for him after some squabbling. One of the soldiers, upset at leaving the sword, sets the kitchen afire. Scarlett cannot extinguish the fire herself....
(The entire section is 728 words.)
Chapters 29-30 Summary and Analysis
Will Benteen: Confederate soldier left at Tara to recover from pneumonia
General Johnston surrenders and the war ends. Pork spends five weeks on the road returning with clothes, seeds, and food. Scarlett is glad of the war’s end, thinking it will be the end of her fear. Suellen and Scarlett fight over the horse; Suellen wants to make use of him for social visits while Scarlett insists he is only for work. The argument ends when Scarlett slaps Suellen.
Scarlett continues as head of the house, buying seed, overseeing the planting, supervising the daily household tasks, and making sure there is food.
The Confederate soldiers begin to return home. All are lice-ridden and infected with dysentery. Mammy doses them with a blackberry root concoction to help with the dysentery, bathes them, and washes their clothes before she allows them in the house. Scarlett turns the parlor into a dormitory for them. When the soldiers have no news of Ashley, the family reminds Melanie that if he dies, a priest will write a letter home and because they haven’t received one, he must not be dead.
Uncle Peter comes to Tara with Pittypat’s pleas for Melanie and Scarlett to return to Atlanta. He and Mammy argue about where the girls are needed most, much to the family’s amusement. He gives Melanie a letter from Ashley which arrived in Atlanta. She promptly faints. While she is unconscious,...
(The entire section is 634 words.)
Chapters 31-32 Summary and Analysis
Part IV of the novel begins as Scarlett writes to Pittypat, once again, to explain why Melanie, she, and now Ashley, cannot return to Atlanta. Will enters her office to talk about the taxes which are being raised by the new Reconstructionist government since someone, possibly Mr. Hilton, wants to buy Tara and thinks he can do so at a sheriff’s sale if the new, much higher taxes cannot be paid. Scarlett finds this incomprehensible, so Will explains that Scalawags and Carpetbaggers are really in charge now, along with the garrisoned soldiers and those running the Freedmen’s Bureau, who just happen to be their former overseer, Jonas Wilkerson, and his assistant, Mr. Hilton.
Scarlett looks for Ashley in the orchard, saying she needs his advice but really looking for a private moment with him. He suggests going to Rhett but Scarlett discounts that idea. He tells her he is a coward, afraid of this new life, and she argues this is not so. He speaks in flowery terms she does not understand but he does kiss her palms. She urges him to run away with her, but Ashley insists he doesn’t love her and cannot possibly leave Melanie or Beau; he reminds her of her responsibility to her father and sisters.
When she begins crying, he kisses her then breaks from her embrace saying the embrace is his fault, not hers, and he will leave with his wife and child. But first, Ashley admits he does love her. Scarlett thinks the world is over for...
(The entire section is 833 words.)
Chapters 33-34 Summary and Analysis
The next day, Mammy and Scarlett arrive unannounced in a still-ruined Atlanta. They see rebuilding all around them but most of the shops bear names they do not know. Scarlett is disturbed by the number of Yankee soldiers. Belle Watling passes, obviously prosperous. The Meade and Whiting homes are gone. The Elsing’s is being repaired, as is the Bonnell’s, but Mammy and Scarlett do not see the families.
Scarlett presses Pittypat for information. She learns Pittypat’s farms, town property, and money are gone. Even the house she lives in really belongs to Melanie and Scarlett, and Uncle Henry is having trouble keeping the taxes paid on that. Scarlett knows he also saved one piece of downtown property for Wade and her. Pittypat tells her of neighbors renting rooms to other neighbors and of people doing whatever menial jobs they can to make money. Finally, she brings the conversation around to Rhett.
He is in jail for killing a freed slave who insulted a white woman. It is possible he may hang but the case still needs to be proved. Pittypat thinks the Yankees may make an example of him in retaliation for Ku Klux Klan activity but, then again, maybe they will not since he has millions in gold belonging to the Confederacy hidden somewhere—possibly in English banks.
The Yankees insist this money now belongs to them, but Rhett is not telling where it is. Scarlett has visions of marrying him quickly and his being...
(The entire section is 705 words.)
Chapters 35-36 Summary and Analysis
A dejected Scarlett walks back to Pittypat’s house, encountering Frank Kennedy along the way. He gives her a ride in his buggy and she looks at him anew. He asks about Suellen and tells Scarlett he’s settled in Atlanta now and has a moneymaking store here. He also tells her of the sawmill he wants to buy. He’s saving his money to marry Suellen so Scarlett knows he won’t lend her any if she asks. She resolves to marry him herself for his money.
She fabricates a story about going to Yankee headquarters to see if she could sell the soldiers some fancy work for their wives. She plays on his sympathies, flirting with him and asking him what she should do to earn money. She lies to Frank, telling him Suellen is going to marry Tony Fontaine. Mammy sees them coming home together and thinks Scarlett came to Atlanta to see Frank. She tells her she’s relieved because, while Rhett may have money, Frank is a gentleman. Mammy tells Scarlett she will help her win Frank.
Frank escorts them to Fanny Elsing’s wedding that night where Scarlett is welcomed warmly. Rene Picard, now married to Maybelle Merriwether, teases her about being a widow so long and she, nastily, teases him about delivering pies, but he just laughs. She declines to dance saying she’s still in mourning for her mother and spends the time comparing the room with what it had been before the war. Just being at the wedding, hearing the music and jokes, makes her...
(The entire section is 1131 words.)
Chapters 37-38 Summary and Analysis
Tony Fontaine arrives in Atlanta on a dark and stormy night, requesting help. He has killed Jonas Wilkerson, Tara’s former overseer, and needs money and a horse to flee. Wilkerson filled freedmen’s heads with the right to accost white women. While drunk, one of them caused Tony’s sister-in-law, Sally, to scream in fright. Tony shot him and went after Wilkerson.
Ashley met Tony on the way to Jonesboro to kill Wilkerson and wanted to do it himself because of the way Wilkerson acted about Tara, but Tony insisted he must do it. Ashley held back the others while Tony told Wilkerson why he was killing him and knifed him to death. Now Tony must flee to Texas.
Frank hints that such people are being tended to when Scarlett expresses her dismay at being able to do nothing to protect her own kind from freed slaves and Reconstructionists. He doesn’t tell her what is being done but says regaining the vote will finally rectify life for Southerners. In response to this lecture, she tells him she is pregnant.
Soldiers search their house again and again. Scarlett does not understand how Ashley could send Tony to them and hates Tony for bringing these searches upon them. She realizes the only rights existent in the South belong to the freed slaves and the Yankees. Everyone and everything else is regulated, including the newspapers and how or why a Southerner can be brought into court.
Former slaves are told...
(The entire section is 1251 words.)
Chapters 39-42 Summary and Analysis
Archie: a murderer freed from prison for agreeing to fight in the Confederate Army
Scarlett returns to a devastated Jonesboro wearing Mrs. Meade’s ill-fitting black dress. Will is not there to meet her train, but Alex Fontaine goes to fetch him from the blacksmith shop. Thinking she already knows how Gerald died, Alex castigates Suellen to Scarlett before he goes. Will greets her warmly and asks for permission to marry Suellen, explaining Carreen will never recover from Brent’s death and is planning to enter a convent. He tells her he decided the only way to stay at Tara, with Gerald dead and both Carreen and Scarlett living elsewhere, is to marry Suellen for propriety’s sake. When asked, he confesses that Ashley, Melanie, and Beau are going to New York, where Ashley will work in a bank.
She immediately connives to keep Ashley in Georgia by making him the manager of her second mill. She begins crying when her thoughts turn to Gerald. That’s when Will tells her Suellen was going to turn in a claim for property damage caused during the war by finagling the mentally murky Gerald into signing an Iron Clad Oath swearing he was a Union sympathizer during the war. His mind cleared at the last minute and he refused to sign so Suellen tried to get him drunk in order to get him to sign. She almost succeeded, but once again, he refused to sign at the last minute. He grabbed a horse and was killed...
(The entire section is 1693 words.)
Chapters 43-45 Summary and Analysis
Rhett returns after an absence of several months. He chides Scarlett for leasing convicts and hiring Johnnie Gallegher to manage them and the mill. She asks why he goes to New Orleans so often. He responds that his legal ward, a schoolboy, is there and asks her to keep this information to herself. He also went to Charleston because his father died.
His father had disowned him as a youth, making it necessary for his mother to lie in order to see him in secret. Rhett’s mother and sister were destitute since the war because his father refused to accept Rhett’s “tainted” money. They lived on the charity of their friends and whatever small amounts his brother (who also refused Rhett’s money) could send to them. One of these friends is Scarlett’s Aunt Eulalie, who shares whatever Scarlett sends with them. Once his father dies, Rhett buys his mother and sister a house and hires servants for them, allowing the neighbors to think the money comes from his father’s nonexistent life insurance policy.
Rhett is distressed, even though her loan from him is repaid, that Scarlett broke her promise that the money would not go towards Ashley’s support. He explains Ashley would be better off dead because the world he knows died in the war and he no longer knows what to do with himself. Rhett will no longer lend her money, should she need it, because she broke her promise by hiring Ashley to manage the mill which Rhett’s...
(The entire section is 1444 words.)
Chapters 46-47 Summary and Analysis
When Captain Jaffery gets no answers, he arrests some men and orders Belle and her girls to appear for questioning in the morning. Meanwhile, Frank and Tommy Wellburn’s bodies are placed behind Belle’s place to make it look as if they killed each other in a drunken fight over one of Belle’s girls. The whole town resents having to rely on Belle and Rhett for their alibis. While the Yankees are amused by the alibis, they feel kindly toward Scarlett in her loss. Mrs. Meade thinks the alibi is Rhett’s enormous, but lifesaving, joke on the people that disdain him.
Belle calls at Melly’s house, but stays in the closed carriage to warn her the note of gratitude Melanie sent is unnecessary and dangerous if the Yankees get it. She insists it is unseemly for Melly to call on her as she intends.
Scarlett regrets causing Frank’s death but only because she fears God will punish her for making Frank so unhappy. As she rests in bed, ruminating and drinking brandy, Rhett arrives saying he needs to see her about some business Frank and he had in common. That turns out to be a lie designed to make Pittypat leave the two of them alone together. Once alone, he derides Scarlett’s secret drinking.
As he comforts her, she unburdens herself, telling him she’s afraid to die and go to hell for marrying Frank when he loved Suellen. She tells him of her reoccurring nightmare of being back at Tara right after Ellen’s...
(The entire section is 756 words.)
Chapters 48-50 Summary and Analysis
As we move into Part V of the book, Scarlett and Rhett are on their honeymoon in New Orleans. Scarlett thoroughly enjoys Rhett’s Carpetbagger, Scalawag, and speculator friends, preferring to ignore his past activities. He buys her stylish clothes and she buys gifts for the family. Rhett reminds her to get Mammy a present, but she refuses saying Mammy was hateful, so he buys Mammy one. What Scarlett enjoys the most in New Orleans is the food and liquor.
While discussing how he invests his money, Rhett tells her he is going to have a house built near Pittypat’s and they will stay in the bridal suite of the National Hotel until it is completed. She chooses a garish style even as he warns her not to expect the Old Guard to come to their home even if they, the Butlers, are rich. He urges her to continue with the store and the mills reminding her, once again, he will not contribute to Ashley’s support.
The Ladies’ Sewing Circle for the Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy meet in Melanie’s home. They heatedly discuss whether or not to call on Scarlett, but Melly overhears. She tells them that if they will not call on Scarlett, they should no longer call on her. India slips out while the others cry, concede to Melanie, and embrace her. Later, Uncle Henry concurs with the ladies’ opinion of Scarlett as unworthy.
The families of the men involved in the Klan incident do call, but with less and less frequency...
(The entire section is 1172 words.)
Chapters 51-53 Summary and Analysis
Contemplating her slightly larger waistline, Scarlett decides not to have any more children. She goes to the mill where she and Ashley examine the books and is disappointed at how poorly he’s done in comparison to Johnnie Gallegher. Ashley explains he cannot be as harsh on the convicts as Johnnie is and blames Rhett for poisoning her when she tells Ashley he must be harsh. Her belief that Ashley loves her is intensified as he criticizes Rhett.
She tells Rhett she wants separate bedrooms to ensure no future pregnancies, but doesn’t tell him it’s also to be true to Ashley. Rhett tells Scarlett he could divorce her for this but won’t; he’s tired of her sexually. She cannot think how to tell Ashley she and Rhett have separate bedrooms, so doesn’t.
Wade tells Scarlett and Rhett that everyone but he is invited to Raoul Ricard’s (Maybelle and Rene’s son) birthday party. Scarlett pays no attention but Rhett questions him, discovering he is never invited to the Old Guard’s grandchildren’s parties and doesn’t enjoy the parties he goes to given by Scarlett’s new friends for their children. Rhett answers his questions about being in the army and being wounded in a positive light, even though it entails some lying, so Wade will be proud of him.
Rhett swears to himself that Bonnie Blue (his pet name for his daughter) will not be ashamed of him nor will doors be closed to her as she grows up, because...
(The entire section is 1277 words.)
Chapters 54-56 Summary and Analysis
Once safely home from Ashley’s party, Scarlett is an emotional wreck. After silently thinking in her room, she goes to get a drink when a very drunken Rhett asks her to join him in the dining room. She thinks it best not to let him see she fears him. He gives her a drink, telling her he knows all about her secret drinking, and forces her to sit down to discuss the evening with him.
He divulges that he knows Melly doesn’t believe Ashley and Scarlett are lovers; she’s too honorable “ . . . to conceive of dishonor in anyone she loves” and she loves both Ashley and Scarlett. He reveals he knows she has been lusting for Ashley since before they met, even as he was making love to her. She leaves to escape him but trips. Rhett picks her up, carries her upstairs, and begins to make love to her. Scarlett responds.
She knows now he does love her and thinks she can use this to her advantage. Rhett disappears for two days. He tells Scarlett he’s been at Belle’s and admits he previously set Belle up in business. He has come to say that he is leaving for Charleston and New Orleans and then points unspecified and to offer her a divorce, providing he can take Bonnie.
When Scarlett tells him Bonnie cannot go with him, he turns on her, informing her he refuses to let her do to Bonnie what she did to Wade and Ella: break her spirit. Scarlett wants to confess to Melly but Melly won’t listen, saying no explanation...
(The entire section is 940 words.)
Chapters 57-59 Summary and Analysis
A month later, Rhett sends Scarlett home to Tara at her request. Wade and Ella go too, minded by Prissy. Melanie avoids Rhett, embarrassed by what he’s told her in his drunkenness the night Scarlett began to recover. He comes to see her, to find out what the problem is, and to ask a favor: he wants Melly to help him persuade Ashley to take the money from him to buy the other half of the mill he shares with Scarlett and purchase her other mill.
Rhett fears for Scarlett’s health when she returns home and works as hard as she had before her illness. Rhett feels the store will be strenuous enough work for her but knows she won’t sell the mills to anyone but Ashley. He wants Melly to deceive both Ashley and Scarlett by not telling them where the money comes from when he sends it to Ashley.
Scarlett, who is now in good health, and the children return, to be met by Rhett. Scarlett chatters on with news of the country. When she asks what is new in Atlanta, Rhett tells her Ashley wants to buy the mills. Apparently, someone he nursed though smallpox at the military prison camp on Rock Island sent him money; Ashley doesn’t know who. Then Rhett manipulates her into agreeing to the sale. She suspects he may have a hand in this but he denies it.
Ashley buys the mills, refusing to take advantage of Scarlett’s low asking price, and there is a small ceremony. She immediately regrets selling them and is dismayed to...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)
Chapters 60-63 Summary and Analysis
Scarlett is fearful. She sees she can expect no solace from Rhett. While she wants to apologize for saying he murdered Bonnie, the longer she waits, the harder it is to do. He is becoming a silent, morose, untidy drunk who is rarely at home. Dr. Meade advises Scarlett to have another baby with Rhett so he will stop this drinking which will eventually kill him and which he does to forget the pain of his daughter’s death. Mammy goes back to Tara permanently, so the lonely Scarlett has only Melanie with whom to talk.
From the Old Guard, only Pittypat, Melanie, and Ashley call on Scarlett. She discounts the visits from her new friends saying they don’t know her. Scarlett finally understands why ex-Confederates talk of the war so much; it is to remind themselves they’ve been through terrible days and survived. She realizes that she has let these kinds of friends slip away from her and misses them now.
While she is in Marietta, Rhett sends Scarlett a telegram which causes her to leave Wade and Ella in the hotel with Prissy and return to Atlanta immediately. Melanie is dying of a miscarriage. Rhett is the only one who knew she is pregnant, solely because only he surmised why she suddenly became so happy. After meeting her at the train, Rhett takes Scarlett to Melanie’s house and leaves without entering himself. India, Pittypat, and Ashley are there. Ashley tells her Melly’s been asking for her and Scarlett sees in his...
(The entire section is 1254 words.)