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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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The latter part of 1862 had been happy for Atlanta, as the Confederate forces had achieved several significant victories. By spring of 1863, the people are assuring themselves that it would be over with just one more victory. In July they receive news that Lee is marching into Pennsylvania, taking the battle to the enemies' own backyard. They are somewhat less elated, however, to hear that Lee has given orders that no private property will be touched, that looting will be punished by death and that the army will pay for whatever it needs, this in spite of the devastation the Yankees have left behind them in the southern states.

On July 3rd, Atlanta receives word of heavy fighting and casualties near Gettysburg. On the 5th they hear that Vicksburg has fallen, leaving most of the Mississippi River in the hands of the Yankees and cutting the Confederacy in two. Soon casualty lists start coming in. Ashley is safe, but many other families have lost husbands, sons and beaux. All three of the Tarleton boys have been slain. Rhett sees Scarlett’s grief and for once offers genuine sympathy. He confides in her his own news that General Lee has retreated back into Maryland and thus must have lost in Pennsylvania.


The purpose of this chapter is primarily to update the information of the war and to begin the change of attitude among the people. As those gallant young men begin to appear on the casualty lists, the war itself must move from the realm of fantasy and romance into a state of realism, horror and loss.



Ashley comes home for a short furlough right before Christmas of 1863. Cade Calvert, two of the Monroe boys and the Fontaines come home with him. Scarlett is jealous because Melanie has obtained enough gray broadcloth to make Ashley a new coat and is giving it to him for Christmas. Scarlett tries to think of a way that she could get one of Rhett’s many hats and dress it up for him from herself. Instead she cuts up a shawl to make a sash for him.

Scarlett spends the week trying unsuccessfully to maneuver a few minutes alone with Ashley; on the day he is leaving, she waits downstairs for him. She begs to go to the train with him, but he refuses. Ultimately she gives him both a hat and the sash and promises that she would do anything for him. He responds by asking her to look after Melanie. As he reaches the door she dashes after him and begs him to kiss her goodbye. He does so, losing control for a brief minute as she wraps her arms around his neck in a strangle hold. Then he pushes her away and says good-bye, ignoring her protestations of love for him. She imagines that she sees love for her in his face, but that it is coupled with shame and despair.


Ashley's behavior creates confusion. Is he secretly in love with Scarlett as she believes, or does his sense of honor merely create a dilemma in that he cannot bring himself to hurt her by telling her that he doesn't love her? He does seem to be unable to resist her, but I think it is something more complicated than a neglected or denied love affair.


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