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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Following the funeral, Scarlett shows a rare glimpse of tenderness by giving Gerald’s watch to Pork, his faithful man-servant. Then she calls for Ashley and offers him a management position and half interest in one of her mills. He declines, saying that he is going to New York to take a job offered him by a friend; he hopes to be able to stand on his own feet. Scarlett pleads and wails to no avail, but then Melanie enters the scene.

Melanie sees Scarlett’s request as an opportunity to pay her back for all she has done for them. Also, Melanie is excited about the chance to go home. Ashley gives in, saying he can’t fight them both, but his look of defeat frightens Scarlett.

Once in Atlanta, Melanie, Ashley and little Beau settle into a small house directly behind Aunt Pittypat’s house. They use what little money they have to purchase the simplest furniture, insisting on only the barest necessities because they don’t want charity. Soon India Wilkes-who has never married-comes to live with them, thus creating a houseful.

Melanie’s home is soon the center of a new society in Atlanta. Her quiet graciousness and refusal to give up the old ways draws the remnants of the antebellum south to her home. The little house is full nearly every evening with people who draw strength from Melanie’s quiet but unbreakable courage. Scarlett is unable to understand how Melanie can bear to have people in her home when she lacks the finery that pre-war hostesses considered necessary.

Melanie is soon put in charge of several social groups such as the Orphan’s Home and the Saturday Night Musicale. She shows her mettle at one point by suggesting that weeds be pulled and flowers planted on Yankee graves. The people react with horror until she explains that she would hope some nice Yankee ladies were keeping up the graves of the Confederate soldiers, and if the rest won’t help her, she will pull every weed and plant the flowers herself.

Meanwhile Scarlett frets impatiently at her pregnancy and inability to run her mills, which are both losing money and customers under the management of Hugh and Ashley. She realizes neither of the men has any business sense and contemplates hiring convicts as some other businesses have done. Frank vehemently forbids any such "trafficking in human flesh." Her only other option is to let Hugh go and replace him with Tommy Gallagher who looks like a thug himself but at least knows how to run a mill.


Scarlett's moneymaking ventures are no different in principle from what other women of Atlanta are doing. The difference, as Rhett so aptly explains to her on one occasion, is that the other women engage in business apologetically, acting ashamed of such unladylike activities as trying to sell something, while Scarlett goes about it without shame or care of what others think about her. The difference in attitudes between her and Melanie is sharply contrasted, however. Melanie is part of the dream world that Ashley describes, and is a lady in mind and action regardless of a lack of finery to testify of her status. People do not notice the lack of lace and chandeliers in her home because they do not have those things either. Scarlett understands but will not allow herself to admit that money does not make a lady nor does the lack of money deprive one of the grace and charm associated with a great lady.



Scarlett’s child is born during a period of unusual tension in Atlanta. A black had been arrested and held in jail for raping a white woman, but members of the KKK broke into the jail and killed him to keep the woman from having to testify. Consequently, the Yankee soldiers have been making multiple arrests in an attempt to wipe out the Klan. Scarlett is thankful that none of her men are involved with the Klan. When she is finally able to return to work, she discovers that Frank has locked up her horse and buggy in a livery stable and has taken her store of money and put it in a bank account under his own name. Furious, Scarlett goes to Melanie and threatens to walk to the mills if she has to.

Melanie is in the habit of letting homeless soldiers and various beggars sleep in her basement. One day she takes in an old man with a wooden leg who gives his name only as "Archie." Melanie sends Archie to Scarlett to serve as a driver and bodyguard. Archie hates blacks, (who fear and avoid him) Yankees and women, but he needs money. Soon he is not only driving Scarlett but also the other women of Atlanta who have been virtually imprisoned in their own houses by the unsafe conditions around Atlanta.

While driving with Archie to her outer mill, Scarlett again brings up the notion of hiring convicts. Archie warns her that he will quit driving for her on the day she leases convicts. Then he tells her his own story. He was a convict himself for 40 years, serving a life sentence for killing his wife when he caught her sleeping with his brother. He was released with other Milledgeville convicts when Sherman came through and the Confederacy was desperate for soldiers. He lost a leg and an eye to the Confederate cause.

Antagonism among all factions in Atlanta is exacerbated when the legislature votes against allowing blacks to vote. Later, Scarlett follows through on her intentions to hire convicts in spite of all the objections. As he promised, Archie refuses to drive her buggy. In fact he won’t even drive the other women if Scarlett is present.


Scarlett does not understand the significance of a black vote. The legislature of Georgia at this time is still held by southerners. They refuse to pass some of the bills that the Yankee occupation wants, one of them being the right for blacks to vote. If blacks could vote, then they would vote Republicans (Yankees) into office, who could pass other measures to further disenfranchise the southerners. After this legislation was voted down, Washington set out to punish Georgia by taking away her statehood and declaring the state a military province and forcing martial law onto the people. Thus the blacks are at least temporarily given the vote in spite of the legislature. They listen to the Yankees who tell them they have the right to take anything they want. The result is a reign of terror for the people of the old South.

In Scarlett's defense, she doesn't see the difference between using black slaves and using convicts. She does not know that the convicts are often starved and abused; if they die, it's easy enough to get more, so the employers have no motivation beyond their own sense of human decency to treat them humanely.

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