Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 1, Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Scarlett's plan is to make sure every man at the barbecue fusses over her, and she succeeds. She even has her sister Suellen's beau Frank Kennedy and Melanie's shy and naive brother Charles Hamilton attend to her. She also draws the attention of Rhett Butler, an unexpected guest with a bad reputation. Charles proposes marriage to her, but she gives him a formulaic response.

The men begin discussing the potential war, and most are eager to go. When asked for his opinion, Ashley says of course he will fight if war comes, but he hopes for peace. Rhett Butler volunteers his opinion: if there is war, the South will be easily beaten. This infuriates the men, but his argument makes sense to Scarlett.

When the ladies retire for an afternoon rest, Scarlett seeks out Ashley and reveals her love. He says he cares for her, but he nevertheless plans to marry Melanie. She doesn't understand; they argue and she slaps him. Ashley leaves, and then Scarlett discovers Rhett Butler has been in the room the entire time. He was resting there when they entered and heard everything. Scarlett is furious, but Rhett admires her "unladylike" behavior and says she should be grateful not to be married to someone like Ashley.

Scarlett retreats from Rhett but overhears other girls talking about her; clearly they suspect she loves Ashley. Scarlett decides she must do something to conceal her true feelings. Charles Hamilton tells her the Civil War has begun, and then he proposes again, since he will soon go away to fight. Scarlett says yes just to escape from her embarrassing situation.

Analysis

This chapter provides a lot of information about Scarlett and her relationships with men, introducing those who will play important roles in Scarlett's life: Ashley Wilkes, Charles Hamilton, Frank Kennedy, and Rhett Butler. Scarlett's reputation with men has not been exaggerated. She gets almost every man in the place buzzing around her—even those she would rather ignore, like Charles Hamilton.

Rhett doesn't buzz around Scarlett. He is clearly different from the rest. He is good-looking, yes, and comes from "good blood," but his primary characteristic is an aura of danger. When he looks at Scarlett, she immediately feels she is revealing too much of herself. He is also approximately 20 years older than Scarlett, which must influence his attitude toward her.

When he talks about the war, Rhett reveals himself to be no fool. His assessment of the South's challenges is accurate, and he seems to enjoy puncturing the younger men's enthusiasm. He also very much enjoys embarrassing Scarlett after he accidentally overhears her private conversation with Ashley.

Both Ashley and Rhett tell Scarlett the same thing she heard from her father: she and Ashley are too different to be together. Scarlett won't listen. Like a spoiled child, she has set her heart on Ashley, and she will go on wanting him for years to come.

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