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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Scarlett pays a visit to her mills and is alarmed to discover that Ashley has barely covered his expenses in contrast to Johnny Gallagher who has made a tidy sum of money. Ashley tells her that he could do better if she would let him hire free issue blacks instead of convicts, but she won’t hear of it. She tells Ashley that he just needs to be harder on the convicts.

Ashley accuses Scarlett of changing from her former "sweet" self and of becoming hard and cruel, poisoned by her husband. Scarlett acknowledges to herself that Rhett had nothing to do with the changes in her, but she doesn’t mind if Ashley thinks otherwise. He says enough to make her think that he is still in love with her. She fantasizes that it would be "sweet" if the two of them were faithful to each other even though they are married to someone else and can never actually fulfill their secret love.

Upon arriving home, Scarlett tells Rhett that she doesn’t want any more children-which is actually her way of telling him that she wants separate bedrooms. Surprisingly, he tells her that her bed no longer holds any charms for him. She can have her sanctity, as there are other beds full of women for him. Scarlett wishes she had said nothing, for there is no way to tell Ashley that she and Rhett are no longer living as man and wife. She realizes she will miss the long talks in bed in the middle of the night.


In trying to act on her fantasy, Scarlett hurts herself. She is assuming that Melanie and Ashley do not sleep together on the basis that Melanie has been told not to have any more children. Rhett's response is one of self-defense. He loves Scarlett and wants her very much, but he doesn't want her to think that she is in control. She could apologize and get him back, but she is too proud.

Ashley thinks Scarlett has changed. She has, but so has he. He has virtually given up on life and is just plodding through, taking whatever fate hands him. She has always been determined to live to the fullest regardless of what people thought, but she also ignores problems she can't handle. One example is the convicts she has leased. She could not influence or control Johnny Gallagher, so she pretends the problem doesn't exist. He makes money for her, so she is able to ignore the way he gets it. Ashley is unable to drive the convicts, so his mill is less successful. Her advice to make them work harder shows a change in her feelings regarding the way they are treated. The hard shell that she has built around herself is partly her own doing, but is also a defense mechanism against the superficial manners and haughty judgment dished out by the people of Atlanta.



Rhett undergoes a dramatic self-imposed personality change. It begins one day when they are all together and eight-year old Wade is irritating Scarlett by making noises. He is bored and frustrated because all the other little boys are at the Picard birthday party. Under Rhett’s questioning, he complains that he is never invited to the parties, and the parties he does attend are no fun because Mammy says the people are "trashy." Scarlet objects to the criticism, but Rhett realizes that Mammy and the boy are speaking the truth. He and Scarlett have conducted themselves in such a way that no decent people will associate with them or their children. He doesn’t want Bonnie to be ostracized or rejected because of her parents’ foolishness.

Rhett begins turning over a new leaf. He forbids Scarlett from having Governor Bullock in their home ever again. He begins taking the children to church and cuts his association with Yankees, cutthroats and scalawags. He makes donations to charitable institutions led by the Elsings, Merriwether and others. The men accept him easily as he had saved all their lives. The women are slower to come around, but once they find proof that he did serve in the Confederate army, they begin to reconsider their opinions of him. Scarlett considers it all a "tempest in a teapot," but Rhett and the children are gradually restored to the good graces of the old Atlanta society.


Rhett is a double-sided coin who knows which side to turn up at any given time. It is difficult to know whether he is a noble character behaving like a rogue or a rogue putting on a good act. He performs such chivalrous deeds that one wants to believe that beneath a facade of opportunism, he is as fine a character as we could want. In any case, he definitely adores the children, especially Bonnie and is not ashamed to let the entire town know about it. Scarlett, however, does not have the good sense even to put on an act when it would be to her benefit. If she were to follow Rhett's lead, they could both be restored to the good graces of the community, but that is not her way.

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