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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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FREE ONLINE NOTES FOR GONE WITH THE WIND

CHAPTER 23

Summary

The remnants of the confederacy set fire to the foundry and supply depots to keep the Yankees from getting them. Rhett arrives with a rickety wagon and a horse in even worse shape, ostensibly to find out where Scarlett intends to go. He tries to talk her out of going back to Tara, but gives up when her exhaustion and fear give way to hysteria.

Rhett guides the wagon through the back streets of Atlanta until they reach relative safety of the open countryside. There he kisses Scarlett passionately and tells her that he does love her, in spite of his earlier denials. Furthermore, he is leaving her to make the rest of the trip to Tara on her own as he is going to join the confederacy in its eleventh hour retreat. Scarlett is so filled with anger and hatred over the idea of him leaving them that she is unable to retaliate with her usual sharp words. She slaps him instead.


Notes

It is a surprise to find that Rhett is planning to join the military at this point; he either has more sympathy for the "cause" than he admits, or he can't resist trying to help the underdog-or perhaps he is looking for a way to get away from Scarlett. In any case, he is missing an opportunity. The emotional stress of the moment is a perfect opportunity for Scarlett to realize how much she cares about him.


CHAPTER 24

Summary

Scarlett and her little crew spend the night sleeping in the wagon. In the morning they come across the burned out Mallory place and manage to get water from the well and a few half spoiled apples from the orchard. They make their way toward Tara, passing one plantation after another-all of them burned out and ruined.

When they finally reach the main road and are only a mile from Tara, a cow breaks out of the bushes in front of them. Although Scarlett cannot milk the swollen cow herself, she realizes it will provide milk for Melanie and the baby. She takes off her petticoat and tears it into strips to tie the cow to the wagon.

They reach Tara to find that the house is still standing, unscathed by fire. Gerald and Pork meet them on the steps. Gerald informs her that the girls are at last getting over the typhoid, but her mother has just died on the previous day.

Under Scarlett’s direction, Pork, who has stayed at Tara with Gerald, Dilcey, Mammy and the girls, digs up a buried and forgotten barrel of whiskey along with some yams. She soon finds out from Gerald that Tara was spared because of the sick women and because Gerald faced the Yankees and said he would not leave even if they burned the house down over his head. A Yankee doctor had provided some medicine that saved the girls’ lives, but Ellen was too worn down to survive the typhoid herself. Also, Yankees had used Tara for a headquarters, sleeping in the house and on the lawn and using up nearly all the resources. What they couldn’t use up, they had carried off, but at least they had left the house.

Later, after Gerald, who seems old and feeble himself, is put to bed, Scarlett gets Mammy to tell her about her mother. According to Mammy, the typhoid had come from the Slatterys who came down with it first and called for Ellen to nurse them. Soon Carreen and Suellen also become sick and then Ellen herself. At first Scarlett ponders ways to send her sisters and Melanie to various family members, but rejects that out of a sense of O’Hara pride. She decides that somehow she will stay at Tara and keep it.

Notes

Several events that are foreshadowed earlier develop in this and following chapters. Ellen's insistence on helping people like the Slatterys causes her own death, and Mammy's opinions of them are born out. Gerald's early admonishment about the land also begins to be real for Scarlett as she recognizes the kinship between herself and the red earth. The narrator creates a bit of objectivity with the use of a Yankee doctor who provides medicine to save the girls' lives.


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