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Free Study Guide - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Rhett returns after three months; Scarlett has been longing for his return and plans to make him happy with the news that she is pregnant again. However, he greets her casually, not even bothering to kiss her. He asks why she is so pale; she hurls the news of her pregnancy at him, saying it is his fault. He taunts her that she shouldn’t worry-maybe she will have a miscarriage. She lunges at him from the top of the stairs, but he steps aside and fall all the way to the bottom. The fall does indeed cause a miscarriage as well as an extended illness during which Scarlett has periods of delirious half-conscious dreams. Rhett blames himself, hoping that she will call for him. However, she only calls for Melanie. He does not know that whenever she thinks of him, she remembers that he doesn’t want her and restrains herself from calling his name.

Rhett turns to Melanie for comfort in his own desperation, confessing things no ‘cultured" woman should hear. She comforts him, refusing to believe anything bad and assures him that Scarlett will get well. Rhett almost tells her that Scarlett has always loved Ashley but realizes that Melanie would not believe it and that she is too good a person for him to hurt in such a way. As far as he is concerned, Melanie is the only truly good person he has ever known.


Scarlett's pregnancy is a result of the one whirlwind night of passionate love making after the incident with Ashley. Even though he left after delivering sharp words, she recalls that night with pleasure. It is ironic that she looks forward to telling him she is pregnant and imagines it as happy news when she had so adamantly stated her feelings against having more children. However, Rhett left in anger and returned like an iceberg. If he had greeted her with a kiss and some indication of forgiveness, she would have responded positively to him. His coldness brings a like response from her and turns her anticipation to fury. In addition to bringing the story to a climax, the incident gives Rhett an opportunity to let someone else know how he truly felt about Scarlett.



Scarlett returns to Tara to recuperate. Meanwhile Rhett creates a plot to loan Ashley the money to buy Scarlett’s mills. Melanie can’t bring herself to tell an outright lie to her husband, so Rhett arranges to mail the money from an "unidentified" source. When Scarlett returns to Atlanta, Rhett plays a bit of reverse psychology in telling Scarlett that Ashley came over to buy the mills, but he told him that she wouldn’t sell because she could never be happy unless she had her fingers in everyone else’s business. Scarlett responds angrily and blurts out that of course she will sell the mills to Ashley. She immediately regrets her words, but cannot back out.

That night she completes the sale of the mills. She overhears Ashley telling Rhett that the convicts will all go back. She and Ashley argue about it, but Ashley does not believe happiness can come from the misery of others. She reminds them of how poor they were during the war and of all that money has done for them, but when challenged by Rhett, she cannot bring herself to say that her money has actually made her happy.


For the duration of the story, Rhett has criticized Scarlett for any attempt to help Ashley or to give him any of the money he loans her. Now he helps Ashley himself. One reason is that Scarlett no longer needs the money she gets from the mills, and he wants to get her out of the environment that should be for men only. Another is that he has gotten better acquainted with Ashley as the two of them worked together to dissolve the Klan. They share similar views on many issues although the background of those views may be different. It will give Ashley a chance to be independent and will also give them a means of sending back the convicts.

Finally, it will eliminate any chance Scarlett might have to see Ashley alone, although Rhett knows by this time that there is nothing physical between Ashley and Scarlett. Finally, it rewards Melanie for her years of loyalty and sacrifice.



By 1871, the corruption of Bullock’s regime has become so rampant that his administration collapses on itself. Scarlett is a bit disarmed during the days of political upheaval but not by the politics. Rhett has been coming home sober every night and treats her with unusual, if impersonal, courtesy. She asks him if he is involved with the Klan, but he explains that he and Ashley convinced the members of the Klan to dissolve the organization as it was causing more harm than good. The exchange has been a watch and wait strategy. Meanwhile, Rhett has switched obviously to the Democratic Party and has given large sums of money in support of legitimate activities such as the campaign of a new Democratic governor.

In October, Governor Bullock resigns and flees Georgia, followed by many of his supporters who have also been friends of Scarlett's and frequent guests in her house. With the election, Georgia is again in the hands of her own people.


Rhett's timing in switching to the Democratic Party is perfect and more true to his real feelings than his previous associations had been. Scarlett is gradually being pushed back toward Tara as she has few friends among the old Atlanta people and has lost many that she had counted among the Yankees.

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