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The climax, or highest point of emotional intensity, of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind comes with the horrific destruction of the South symbolized by the burning of Atlanta by the heinous General Sherman. With this burning, the resplendent houses of the aristocracy of the South are razed, and along with their homes, the way of life which these people lived is completely destroyed.
When Scarlett returns to the O'Hara plantation, Tara, she finds it in ruins. Concomitantly, her father verges on madness and her mother is dead. Scarlett vows to never be hungry again and goes forth to do whatever she feels she must to make money in order to rebuild her beloved Tara. As a beautiful Southern Belle who becomes, as Rhett calls her in Chapter 43, "a fine honest rogue," Scarlett symbolizes the end of a once genteel race.
After her return to Tara, Scarlett realizes that all her mother has taught her is no longer of use. Yet, as Scarlett clearly recalls the oft-told family tales of how her ancestors had prevailed over misfortune and found new fortune in the red earth of Georgia, for "[M]align fate had broken their necks, perhaps, but never their hearts." Scarlett resolves that "Tara was her fate, her fight, and she must conquer it."
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