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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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The fighting reaches Atlanta. The fortress at Kennesaw Mountain held, but again Sherman has pulled his troops back and come around, trying to get between the Confederate soldiers and Atlanta. General Johnson is removed from command and General Hood is put in his place. Soon, however, wounded men are coming back in a steady stream from the battle. Pittypat’s house on Peachtree Street is one of the first houses reached by the wounded, retreating men. They collapse on her lawn, begging for water. General Hood returns to the fortifications around Atlanta and attacks the Yankees more aggressively than Johnston had. Within eleven days he loses almost as many men as Johnston had lost in seventy-four, and Atlanta is under siege, hemmed in on all sides. In the night, after shells have been falling in the streets of Atlanta, the people begin evacuating, heading for Macon. Mrs. Meade, Mrs. Merriwether and Mrs. Elsing refuse to leave, as they are needed at the hospital. Pittypat wants to leave, and Scarlett wants to return to Tara herself. Melanie begs her not to leave her with Aunt Pittypat. Dr. Meade arrives and insists the Melanie is too delicate to be moved, and he orders Scarlett to stay with her. Pittypat goes off to Macon with Uncle Peter and Cookie, leaving Scarlet and Melanie alone with Wade and Prissy.


This sets the plot for Melanie and Scarlett to go back to Tara together. Also, it creates a situation where the only one who can help them is Rhett. Scarlett discovers that she can accomplish things beyond even what she thought she could. Where once she was the spoiled belle of the family, now she has to be the strength for all of them.



The siege of Atlanta rages with Melanie and Scarlett clutching each other in fear in Melanie’s upstairs bedroom as Prissy and little Wade hide in the basement. Remembering her promise to Ashley to take care of Melanie, Scarlett refuses her mother's pleas that they return home to Tara. At first she agrees to send Wade and Prissy back to Tara, but news that the Yankees are skirmishing along the railroad between Atlanta and Jonesboro puts a hold on that plan.

Gradually Scarlett and the other remaining citizens of Atlanta grow accustomed to the noise of cannons and the clouds of smoke that hang in the air. At night, Scarlett ministers to the dozens of soldiers who knock on her door asking for food, water, or permission to sleep on the lawn. One of the soldiers is Uncle Henry who has stopped to give them the news that John Wilkes, Ashley’s father is dead.

As predicted, the Yankees swing around toward Jonesboro, but a letter from her father assures Scarlett that they did not get as far as Tara as it was the railroad they wanted. Gerald also informs her that Carreen is sick with typhoid, and Scarlett must not go home even if the railroad becomes available. One evening Rhett visits Scarlett while she is sitting alone in the evening on her front porch. He teases and insults her, but then becomes more gentle, kissing her hand and wrist. She thinks he is going to proclaim his love for her and imagines ways to torment him in return for all the insults he has given her. However, he leads her on instead, telling her that he likes her for all of her faults because he has the same faults, but that he doesn’t love her. She thinks he is about to ask her to marry him, but instead he asks her to be his mistress. Outraged, Scarlett tells him to leave and never come back.


Rhett is actually in love with Scarlett, but will not tell her because he wants her to be in love with him first. Otherwise she will try to torment him, make him jealous and lead him on instead of giving an answer. However, he is a scoundrel for asking her to be his mistress. Even if she has turned her back on most of her own upbringing, she wouldn't go that far, yet. The very fact that he asks her is a foreshadowing of some point where she will be willing.


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