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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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FREE CHAPTER NOTES - GONE WITH THE WIND

CHAPTER 25

Summary

In the morning, Scarlett discovers that the loss of Ellen has affected her fatherís mind; at times he is barely lucid, speaking of Ellen as if she is merely "late." Over their objections at being ordered to do the work of field hands, Pork and Dilcey are sent into the swamp to find the last remaining sow and her litter of piglets that had been driven there to hide them from the Yankees. Scarlett walks to Twelve Oaks where she eventually finds a slave garden that had not been ransacked and trampled. She fills her basket with wilted cabbage, turnips and beans. She eats overgrown radishes that upset her stomach and set her to vomiting behind the slave cabin. In her hunger, she vows that once this is over-if she has to steal or kill to prevent it-she will never be hungry again.

Scarlett spends the next weeks nursing her sisters and Melanie and bullying the slaves into doing things they never had to do before. However, she works just as hard herself, and in her misery recalls her fatherís words that the land is the only thing worth fighting for. She now agrees with that sentiment and accepts the fight with characteristic resolution.

Notes

Scarlett's announcement that she will never be hungry again is probably the best known moment of the story and introduces the driving force of the rest of her life. To her, money and food are inseparably linked. That need and the fear of starvation will enable her to do the work that her slaves won't do. Pork and Mammy's refusal to pick cotton suggests a lack of reasoning ability on the part of the blacks as well as a deeply ingrained sense of class. The hierarchy of slave labor was as rigid as the class sensibility among the whites. The difference for them is that they are unable to understand that there might be a time or a place to cross that boundary and engage in work that would not usually be their responsibility. In spite of the obvious lack of food, the absence of crops, the barns empty of stock, the slaves expect Scarlett to come up with food for them. For Scarlett, it is worse than having a house full of hungry children.


CHAPTER 26


Summary

By the time Scarlett has been at Tara for two weeks, she realizes her father is no longer in his right mind and that he will always be waiting for Ellen. One day they are visited by a Yankee soldier who enters the house uninvited and attempts to carry off Ellenís sewing box. When he tries to approach Scarlett, she shoots him. Afterward, she looks up the stairs and sees Melanie standing there, a look of admiration in her face. In a moment of insight, she realizes Melanie would have done the same thing and that beneath the quiet, gentle temperament, her sister in law has a "thin, flashing blade" of courage and strong will. She and Melanie go through the manís pockets, finding both Union and Confederate money along with some diamond earrings and other jewels that he had stolen before reaching Tara.

After she buries the man under the arbor in her back yard, she uses the horse to go to Mimosa, the home of the Fontaines, in hopes of finding Dr. Fontaine for Melanie. Dr. Fontaine is not there, but, happily, the Yankees have not found the Fontaine house. Grandma Fontaine challenges her to pick her own cotton rather than bemoaning the lack of field hands to do it. Scarlett is shocked, associating field work with "white trash," but Grandma rebukes her, saying that honest work never made trash out of anyone.

Scarlett finds out that although the Yankees never reached Tarletons, they did get to the Calverts where they stole all the livestock and promised silk dresses and gold earrings to the black females if they would run off with them. The Calvert house was saved by the fact the Mrs. Calvert was a Yankee herself and because her overseer, Hilton, was also Yankee.

Before Scarlett leaves the Fontaines, Old Miss, as they call the grandmother, takes her outside and asks her what she is hiding. Scarlett realizes that Grandmaís demeanor is such that she is in no danger of crying in the old ladyís presence, so she tells her that her mother has died. Mrs. Fontaine then tells Scarlett of her own experience in the Creek massacre when she saw her own mother murdered and scalped. She cautions Scarlett to always hang onto something to fear and something to love. Scarlett doesnít understand what the old woman is trying to tell her and fidgets impatiently.

The visit to the Fontaines lifts Scarlettís spirits; in spite of her earlier objections, she works in the fields to pick the cotton. Dilcey works with her and Prissy dabbles in the fields here and there. Scarlettís sisters and the other slaves complain and pick so slowly that Scarlett gives up and sends them off to do other chores. At any rate, now that Scarlett has a horse, a little money hoarded from the Yankee soldier and access to better food, it seems as though the worst is over.

Notes

This chapter begins the development of a relationship between Scarlett and Melanie. Scarlett has no use for weakness or feigned lady-like submissiveness, ignorance or frailty. While she is capable and quite willing to lie to suit her own ends, she is brutally honest with herself. She knows that Melanie shouldn't even be out of bed, much less be trying to drag around a dead body or scrub a floor. But Melanie is doing what she herself would do, and she can't help admire her for it.

Grandma Fontaine is a minor character, but she has a shrewdness that sees beneath the cultural facade. In telling her own story, she is trying to show Scarlett that other people have also suffered terrible things and have survived without sacrificing their dignity or their ideals. She wants her to understand that there is no shame in hard work, that picking cotton to enable one's family to survive does not make one any less a lady. Scarlett, however, has never been able to make those kinds of connections, so it seems to her that the old lady is just rambling about days past and doesn't have any sympathy for her at all. Nevertheless, the words seem to have an impact; Scarlett will lead the way to restoring the crop land of Tara.


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