Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell|
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GONE WITH THE WIND PLOT SUMMARY / ANALYSIS
By May of 1864, the Yankees are amassing for an attack on Dalton, but the people of Atlanta are not alarmed. According to Dr. Meade, General Johnson is standing between the Yankees and Atlanta like "an iron rampart." In an attempt to cheer Melanie and Mrs. Elsing’s daughter Fanny-whose beau Dallas McClure is dead-Miss Pittypat decides to have a party and share the last chicken. Rhett joins the party without invitation, but is on his best behavior for most of it. He treats Fanny with kindness and puts Scarlett’s little boy Wade to sleep in his arms. Finally, however, when talk turns to war he speaks up, informing the company that Sherman is rumored to have over 100,000 men with him in the mountains and that General Johnson only has 40,000, including the deserters. Mrs. Meade protests that there are no deserters in the confederate army, and Rhett corrects the word to "furloughs" from which men have never returned to the battles. Dr. Meade responds with an assurance that one Confederate is worth a dozen Yankees; Rhett too, counters this as he reminds them that the Confederates are without bullets, food or shoes. Dr. Meade loses his temper, insisting on the surety of the mountain for invaded people throughout history.
In an attempt to save her party, Pittypat asks Scarlett to play the piano. However, Scarlett can think of nothing but war songs until Rhett comes to her rescue and tells her to play "My Old Kentucky Home."
Dr. Meade’s predictions prove true to a point. Sherman is unable to break through the mountain fortifications of Johnston. However, the Yankees simply pull back and move around the confederates, coming at them from behind. This action forces a repeated movement of pull back and fight, pull back and fight for the Confederates. It is as effective as if it were outright retreat and brings the Yankees to Kennesaw Mountain.
Scarlett continues working in the hospital although the novelty has
worn off and she is sick of the smells and screams of men who have to
endure amputations without anesthetizing. One day she sneaks away from
the hospital and orders Rhett to take her riding someplace where no one
will see her. They see a line of marching troops, the home guard that
includes her father’s black overseer, Big Sam and several of the other
male slaves from Tara. Their leader, Captain Randall, tells Scarlett that
they are using the "biggest bucks" of the county to dig additional
rifle pits around Atlanta in the event of a siege. He catches himself
and assures her that there won’t be a siege, but that Old Joe is taking
precautions. Scarlett suspects that Captain Randall is teasing her, but
when she tries to get a straight answer out of him, they end up in a quarrel.
The drafting of the slaves from the plantations is the beginning of the end, and Scarlett knows it in spite of Old Joe's denial. Aunt Pittypat's pitiful attempt to have a party and share her last rooster is symbolic of the people's refusal to give up the old ways in their hearts and minds even if they are driven to the wall and forced to surrender literally. Perhaps Rhett's presence and his way of forcing them to acknowledge that many of their men have deserted-even though that desertion may be given fancy names-keeps them in touch with enough reality to be able to save themselves at the necessary moment.
Rhett illustrates his ability to probe the very depths of Scarlett's thoughts by asking her if Ashley ever kissed her. She is able to lie easily enough to most people, but she cannot lie to Rhett. Her only recourse is silence, which he interprets as assent.
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Ruff, Dr. KSC. "TheBestNotes on Gone With the Wind".
. 09 May 2017