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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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The war finally comes to an end. Pork makes a trip to Macon and brings back a wagonload of household goods, livestock and planting supplies. The Fontaine boys bring news of the surrender. Scarlett feels no remorse over the lost cause but instead begins making plans for growing more cotton and corn. She and her sisters visit the Tarletons when Mr. Tarleton gets home from the war. On the way, she stops by the Calverts to find Hilton, the Yankee overseer, practically in charge of the Calvert place. The Tarleton place is silent and the fields have begun to revert to weeds and brush. When Scarlett sees it, she determines that Tara will never be permitted to grow wild even if she has to plow and plant it herself.

The following day Cathleen comes to Tara to inform the girls that she is getting married to Hilton. It’s obvious that she doesn’t want to marry him, but her father is dying and her stepmother and the children are going north to live. Melanie suggests having Cathleen come to live with them, but Scarlett reminds her that Cathleen is very proud and wouldn’t accept charity. Privately she bitterly ponders the fact that Melanie herself is living on charity and doesn’t seem to realize it. Scarlett tells herself that while she may have Melanie on her hands for the rest of her life, she isn’t going to be saddled with Cathleen too.


Scarlett is correct in this instance, tragic though it is. Cathleen's family has spent years trying to take advantage of the best of both the southern and the northern traditions and opportunities. They have allowed Hilton to use his connections to protect them during the war, but the other southern families consider that the behavior of a traitor. Cathleen's stepmother has never belonged, so it is natural that she would return to her own people. Scarlett owes nothing to Cathleen, and she can't restore Tara to any state of livability if she takes in everyone in the area who needs a home. The Calverts symbolize those who tried to live on the fence; in the end, they would have no one to stand by them.

Scarlett's practical attitude toward the end of the war shows that she neither believed in the southern cause nor truly understood it in the first place. She thinks that she can grow more cotton, plant other crops and restore her home to what it was.



Peter arrives from Pittypat’s house in Atlanta. He begins by berating Melanie and Scarlett for not returning home to Miss Pittypat, but the real purpose of his visit is to bring a letter from Ashley. Melanie faints, which gives Scarlett an opportunity to snatch the letter and open it herself. The letter begins with "Beloved, I am coming home to you," which Scarlett immediately interprets as directed toward herself.

As weeks pass and Ashley does not arrive, Scarlett realizes the letter was directed to Melanie. She wishes Melanie had died in childbirth so she could have married Ashley herself. During one meal she speaks sharply to Melanie for taking small portions of food so that the never ending stream of returning soldiers can have something to eat. Melanie tells Scarlett that she gives up her own food in hopes that maybe some Yankee housewife is giving up a little to help Ashley get home.

One of the strangers that enters the home is Will Benteen, a young man who once had a farm in Georgia. The girls gradually nurse him back to health, and he stays on at Tara, gradually taking on many of the plantation burdens in an attempt to pay them back for saving his life. Scarlett soon discovers that Will is a shrewd trader and an efficient worker although he never seems to show any evidence of exertion or excitement. He also is interested in Carreen, Scarlett’s youngest sister. Scarlett wishes Carreen would return the interest rather than spending all her days mooning over the dead Brent Tarleton.

At the end of the chapter, yet another soldier appears; this time, it is Ashley. Will grabs Scarlett’s skirt, preventing her from running after Melanie to greet him.


Peter brings a sense of humor to the story and also shows a side to the slavery issue that people don't often think about. He is intensely loyal to Pittypat and acts with more authority than one might expect. Although he is the old lady's servant, he is also her guardian. Pittypat's message was not that he was to bring the girls home although she certainly would have liked to have them back in Atlanta. However, in Peter's opinion, the girls' home is in Atlanta and Pittypat needs them there. They don't take him seriously, but he makes sure that he delivers his own lecture before giving them the real reason for his visit.

Of course, the real reason is Ashley's letter, which would have been sent to Atlanta, as he has no way of knowing that his wife is at Tara. In the meantime, Will Benteen, formerly a small acreage farmer, has made himself a necessary part of Tara. He is supposedly not in the O'Hara's class, a fact which is in his favor, as his own experience has equipped him with the knowledge and skills to perform the work required on a plantation. He is quiet and unassuming, but very intuitive. He knows that Scarlett is in love with Ashley; although he prevents her from interrupting the reunion between Melanie and Ashley, he understands her and does not attempt to criticize her.

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