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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Scarlett arrives in Atlanta and is met by Peter, Miss Pittypat’s slave who drives the carriage and does just about anything else Pittypat needs. She also meets Mrs. Merriwether and hears of Mrs. Meade and Mrs. Whiting. Mrs. Merriwether speaks of a hospital, but Scarlett has no idea what she is talking about. In the distance she spots Belle Watling, the town prostitute. Upon arriving at her aunt’s house, she is greeted by Dr. Meade and his wife and thirteen year old son, Phil.

In spite of her distaste for the idea, Scarlett has no choice but to assist in one of the hospitals with all the other women. Her spirits improve in spite of that duty. Her only real complaint is that the women treat her deferentially, out of regard for her widowhood. It is expected that she is still in mourning, but in reality, her heart is in Virginia with Ashley.


This chapter introduces the core citizens of Atlanta with whom Scarlett will have to interact. With the exception of Belle, the women call on each other, share regular rounds of gossip and control who is "received" and who isn't. The manners of this society are highly exaggerated and artificial, even more so than on the plantation. Scarlett is a child, not yet out of her teens, but she is treated as if she were twice her age and is expected to act matronly and in a manner that befits a grieving widow. It seems that widows were expected to wear black and maintain an air of solemnity for several years, and the ideal widow never married again, always remaining "true" to the memory of her dead husband. This seems like a lot to expect of any woman, but even more so for one who was in no way in love with the person she married. This is only the first of many occasions when Scarlett's habit of using people to her own ends backfires.



Atlanta holds a bizarre/picnic as a means of raising money for the hospitals. Scarlett mopes for half the day because as a widow of barely a year, it isn’t considered proper for her to attend gala events. However, her hopes are revived when Mrs. Merriwether and Mrs. Elsing come by looking for help to manage the McClure booth as the McClure girls have had to go to Virginia to fetch their wounded brother, and the Bonnell children have measles, which eliminates their mother. Miss Pittypat and Melanie decline, but Scarlett speaks up, saying they ought to help the cause of the hospital, and anyway, Charles would want it that way. Everyone is shocked, but they all see the gesture as one of supreme sacrifice on Scarlett’s part.

Scarlett is sitting in her booth reveling in the music and dancing, in spite of the fact that she cannot participate in the dance, when Rhett Butler, known in the area as "Captain Butler" appears. He exchanges repartee with the two girls, his comments for Melanie kindly and gentlemanly, but his words and looks for Scarlett both sarcastic and laden with an undercurrent of secret knowledge. He taunts her about her marriage to Charles and about her "sacrifice" in appearing at the bizarre as he knows she never loved Charles in the first place. He promises, however, that her secret is safe with him.

During the evening festivities, Dr. Meade makes a speech, thanking Captain Butler for his courageous blockade running and asking for a sacrifice from all present. Rene Picard, a Louisiana Zouve and beau to Maybelle Merriwether carries around a basket for all to toss their jewelry and gold coins into. Scarlett tosses in her wedding ring, and in a moment of intense emotion, Melanie takes off hers also and tosses it into the basket. Rhett Butler notices the look of agony on Melanie’s face as she parts with Ashley’s ring as well as the defiance on Scarlett’s. Scarlett and Rhett argue again as she accuses him of being less than a gentleman and he challenges her for her true thoughts about the "cause." Rhett himself has been running Yankee blockades to bring supplies to the south, but he has been doing it for the money, not for belief in any cause, and he makes no secret of the fact.

The final event of the evening is a dance. Then gentlemen are asked to bid for the lady they would like as a partner. Rhett bids for Scarlett. Dr. Meade tries to refuse the offer, but Scarlett speaks up and says she will take the dance. She tosses public expectation along with her reputation to the wind and dances "for the cause." She and Rhett discuss the ongoing war briefly. Rhett expects the south to lose, but he intends to become a millionaire himself in the process.


Scarlett begins her habit of flaunting public opinion. She has an excuse in "doing it for Charlie," but she really just wants to have some fun. She doesn't believe in the "glorious cause" any more than she loved her husband. We also have some additional characterization of Rhett. The narrator portrays the negative feelings of the people, but we like him anyway. He is an opportunist, and he does like money, but he's not insensitive. His practical approach to the war makes sense in hindsight, as he was simply honest regarding his own sentiments. However, if the war was going to be fought, he had enough business sense to use it to his advantage, and he really didn't hurt anyone else in making his own fortune. The fact that he has money enables him to make more and to provide things for people when no one else could. His words aggravate Scarlet because she is just like him, only less honest about it and more apt to hurt others in her attempts to get what she wants.


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