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Melanie's gracious, loving spirit, as well as her strength, courage, and unselfishness are shown throughout the novel. This passage demonstrates all of these characteristics as Melanie nurses the wounded soldiers in Atlanta, men who are suffering horribly in terrible conditions:
Melanie, however, did not seem to mind the smells, the wounds or the nakedness, which Scarlett thought strange in one who was the most timorous and modest of women. Sometimes when holding basins and instruments while Dr. Meade cut out gangrened flesh, Melanie looked very white. And once, after such an operation, Scarlett found her in the linen closet vomiting quietly into a towel. But as long as she was where the wounded could see her, she was gentle, sympathetic and cheerful, and the men in the hospitals called her an angel of mercy.
Melanie's sacrifice is clear. She puts aside her own great distress in order to help and comfort the wounded and dying.
This passage from the novel shows Melanie's behavior toward Rhett Butler, who is often reviled by those around her. Melanie, however, does not judge or condemn others, not even the notorious Rhett Butler:
In all her sheltered life she had never seen evil and could scarcely credit its existence, and when gossip whispered things about Rhett and the girl in Charleston she was shocked and unbelieving. And, instead of turning her against him, it only made her more timidly gracious toward him because of her indignation at what she fancied was a gross injustice done him.
Melanie's strong sense of fairness is also part of her character. For all her many admirable character traits, Melanie Wilkes is perhaps the most beloved character in the novel.
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