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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Tony Fontaine arrives on a rainy night in April and asks for a horse, some food and a little money. He is fleeing to Texas because he has killed Jonas Wilkerson. He explains to Scarlett that Jonas had been putting strange ideas in the minds of the "darkies," even to the point of telling them they had rights to white women. Tony has killed his former overseer who had apparently threatened his sister Sally. Then he went into town to seek out Wilkerson whom he blames for the problems with the blacks. He kills Wilkerson while Ashley holds the crowd back; before he knew what had happened, Ashley had him on a horse and bound for Atlanta. He plans to lay low in Texas for whatever time is necessary, as the Yankees will hang him if he stays in the Georgia.

As Tony leaves, Scarlett has a sudden awakening about the meaning of reconstruction. She realizes that the blacks are on top and are supported by the Yankees. She suddenly understands the concerned objections the men had voiced about her solitary travels back and forth to her mill, realizing that she could be raped or even killed by one of the freedmen (former slaves now free) and, most likely, no one would even be arrested or questioned for it. She sees for the first time that her own interests are not the only things that matter, but that thousands of women like her are frightened and helpless and are being protected by the men who are willing to die for them.

On this night, Scarlett also sees something in her husband that she had not seen before. In the presence of Tony, he exhibits a casual fierceness, a bitterness and determination that she can’t analyze, nor does he explain it to her. His only explanation is that the trouble will end when the southern men can vote again. Scarlett does not understand what voting has to do with it all. She is concerned about her son Wade, and, now, about another child she will soon be having.

In the weeks after Tony’s escape, Yankee soldiers who think he is hiding there somewhere visit the house frequently. Scarlett hates the blue coats but at the same time is able to see Atlanta in a different light. The former field hand slaves, the lowest caste among even the blacks, have been elevated to positions of authority and enticed with promises of wealth and power.

Atlanta on the surface is a boomtown. People from all over the south are coming to Atlanta to take advantage of the new opportunities; many fine houses have been built, and ornate carriages crowd the streets. However, beneath the surface, poverty and misery abound. The old families have been forced into the dingiest of dwellings and many are dying of starvation that is camouflaged with more euphemistic names.


This chapter provides some additional foreshadowing about Frank. He is involved in something that Scarlett does not understand and is much more of a man than she gives him credit for. However, she is suddenly forced to see that the reconstruction of the south is a process that threatens all of her friends; it isn't just about her and her attempts to save Tara, but about an entire culture's desperate attempt to survive. The problem with elevating the least intelligent of the blacks is that they understand promises of fine things and lives without work, but they are incapable of filling the roles into which they are thrust. Their only means of using their authority is as a threat to the people they once served. She doesn't take seriously the threat to herself, a decision that starts another pattern of foreshadowing and fulfillment.



By the spring of 1866, Scarlett is working feverishly to make her mill pay. Her pregnancy is already beginning to show, so Pittypat and Frank have been begging her to seclude herself until after the child is born. She has promised them that she will retire in June. Since she has nagged Frank, he has been collecting some of the debts owed him and the store is doing better, but her hopes are pinned on her sawmill. She becomes a familiar figure in Atlanta as she rides through town, bargaining for new customers and resorting to lies and underhanded tricks if it will get someone to buy her lumber. Soon she buys a second mill, but then has a problem finding someone to run it for her. All the men she knows turn down her offer of a management position even if their own employment is something that would at one time have been beneath them. Eventually she hires Hugh Elsing who has been trying to earn a living by peddling kindling wood. She doesn’t believe he is capable of running a business, but at least he is honest.

Atlanta gets an opportunity for a new round of gossip about Scarlett when she begins hobnobbing with Yankee officers and their wives. Scarlett herself does not care what they say. She hates the Yankees as fiercely as ever, but her goal is to amass as much money as possible, and she knows that the best source of money is from the Yankees. Because of her facade of warmth and gentility, in spite of having to engage in the unladylike business of making money, she is able to sell her lumber to the officers more easily than the other lumber mill owners. One day, however, she gets a rude awakening regarding the tremendous gap between herself and the Yankee women. Three of them approach her in the street to ask advice on where to find a nurse for a child. Scarlett recommends that they look for a black woman to which the women react with horror. They claim they wouldn’t have such untrustworthy cannibalistic persons in their houses. Scarlett reminds them that they are the ones who freed the blacks. They reject that idea and then make fun of Peter who is driving her carriage. They call him a "nigger" and say the whites spoil them to death and make pets of them. Scarlett is tongue-tied; fearful of saying something that will antagonize them against her and yet hating them. She tells them that Peter is one of the family, a comment that they take literally.

As they drive away, Peter complains about the verbal abuse and accuses Scarlett of neglecting to defend him. He doesn’t understand why she wants anything to do with such people. Later he complains of back problems and refuses to drive her on any further exploits. After Peter stops driving Scarlett around town, Rhett begins staying in Atlanta for longer intervals. He meets her frequently-ostensibly by accident and sometimes ties his horse to her carriage, then climbs in and takes the reins. He surprises her with kindness, but she is too grateful for his companionship to ask questions.

Scarlett asks Rhett why everyone dislikes her for simply trying to make the money necessary to keep her home. He tries to explain that she not only makes money but does so successfully and obviously enjoys doing it. Such behavior makes her different from the genteel females she was brought up with and also creates an affront to every man who has not been successful. They engage in a discussion of renegade grandparents, and Scarlett accidentally makes a remark about "our" grandchildren, and then takes offense when Rhett takes advantage of the slip. She tries to get him to leave the carriage but suddenly becomes nauseous. Once she recovers, Rhett chides her for being embarrassed about her pregnancy. He sees it as a natural state that women should be proud of rather than trying to hide behind closed doors as if no one knew where babies came from.

Rhett lets Scarlett know that his awareness of her condition is the reason he has been meeting her and driving her around. He warns her that it is not safe for her to drive alone. If she were to be accosted by the free issue blacks who camp along the way, the Ku Klux Klan would spring to avenge her. The offending blacks would be killed and the Yankee government might follow through on some of the rumors and arrest anyone they believe to be even remotely connected with the Klan.


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