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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Scarlett faces the repercussions of her night of dancing. Although Aunt Pittypat thinks her behavior utterly scandalous, Melanie, to Scarlett’s chagrin, defends her and says that perhaps they have been selfish in their grief and ought to begin getting out more.

A little slave boy brings Melanie a package, which Pittypat at first interprets as a note that Ashley is dead. Instead it is Melanie’s wedding ring, redeemed for ten times its value by Rhett Butler and returned to her with a note complimenting her for her courage. The gesture wins Melanie’s heart and convinces her that Rhett is a gentleman after all and must be invited to Sunday dinner. Scarlett thinks that an invitation to dinner was his primary motive for redeeming the ring.

Scarlett receives a severe letter from her mother followed by a visit from her father who is supposed to return with her to Tara. He intends to have a talk with Butler first, and ends up getting drunk and gambling away $500. Butler brings him home and helps Scarlett get him into the house and onto a settee in the parlor. The next morning, she taunts her father with his "disgraceful behavior" and promises not to tell her mother about it if he will leave her in Atlanta and tell Ellen that the stories of Scarlett’s behavior were nothing but the gossip of a couple of old biddies.


This chapter foreshadows the growth of a quiet, but powerful friendship between Melanie and Rhett. The fact that the most noble character in the book likes the "rogue" validates our own fondness for him.

As the previous chapter suggested, we can't help but like him as he uses his influence to protect the people he is interested in. He returned Melanie's ring because he could see how it tortured her to donate it and that she genuinely loved her husband. However, he donated far more for the ring than it was worth and toward the cause in which he himself did not believe. He also acts to protect Scarlett from having to return to Tara when he deliberately gets her father drunk. Once Scarlett has something to hold over her father, she can get her own way. She and her father both fear Ellen's wrath.



Scarlett snoops into a packet of letters Ashley has written to Melanie. Melanie generally shares portions of the letters with the family, but it is the parts she doesn’t read that torment Scarlett. By this time she has been surreptitiously reading the letters for so long that it doesn’t bother her conscience. She seeks information that would reveal that Ashley still loves her, or at the very least, that he doesn’t love his wife. He addresses Melanie as "my dear," not honey or darling, which seems comfortingly formal to Scarlett. In this latest letter, he talks primarily about the war, reminding Melanie of the tall stranger at the barbecue who had predicted that the south would lose. Ashley says they have been betrayed into thinking that one or two of them could whip a dozen Yankees, and that war is nothing like the boys had thought it would be. His dread of losing irritates Scarlett; she returns the letters in anticipation of a better one on another day.


It seems that Scarlett has no conscience when it comes to gleaning information for herself. She thinks she has found proof that Ashley really doesn't love his wife, but is too shallow to see that he is actually sharing his deepest feelings in his letters to her. Ashley is a symbol of a lifestyle and will never change. He participates in the war but he doesn't believe in the war or in the southern cause. He believes, like Rhett, that the south is doomed to lose and wishes they had listened to him instead of to the statesmen who predicted an easy victory. He also realizes that whether the south wins or loses, they will lose the easy, lazy, slow lifestyle of which he was a part. These are concerns that he could not share with his comrades or with anyone that he did not trust completely.


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