Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 1, Chapters 3–4 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 provides the backstory of Ellen Robillard and Gerald O'Hara. Ellen, who comes from a wealthy family, is the real ruling power of Tara, although she appears to defer to her husband, as society expects. They seem mismatched as a couple, although it appears to have worked out reasonably well.

Gerald, 28 years older than Ellen, is a loud, hard-drinking Irishman who fled to America after killing a man in Ireland. He won the family plantation and his valet, Pork—his two prized "possessions"—by playing cards. He built the plantation up from nothing and set his heart on Ellen when she was just 15.

Ellen was in love with her troublemaking cousin, who was sent away by the family and died scandalously. To escape from her family and her memories, Ellen married Gerald. She brought her personal slave, Mammy, as well as 20 "house" slaves to Tara. The couple had three girls: the oldest Katie Scarlett, followed by Susan Elinor (Suellen), and then Caroline Irene (Carreen). They also had three boys, all of whom died in infancy.

Ellen is a great lady and much admired in the region. She has tried to raise her daughters to be great ladies as well, but Scarlett is too willful and stubborn to be ladylike, though she is supremely successful at attracting men.

Chapter 4

Pork, Gerald's valet, interrupts dinner to thank Gerald for buying Pork's wife, Dilcey, and her child, Prissy, who lived on another plantation. Ellen comes home late: Emmie Slattery had a baby outside of marriage, and the baby died. Scarlett overhears Ellen say the baby was conceived with Tara's overseer, Jonas Wilkerson, and Ellen insists he be fired because of it.

Scarlett is still preoccupied by Ashley. She decides he simply doesn't know she loves him, and she decides to confess her love to him at the barbecue.

Analysis

Gone with the Wind features a form of racism that may be less familiar to modern readers: the paternalistic racism of the "good" slave owner. By all reports, Gerald and Ellen O'Hara are "good" owners. They rarely beat slaves, and Gerald is kind enough to buy his valet's wife from a neighboring planter. But they believe the slaves are incompetent to function on their own, so they treat them like overgrown children.

The slaves often learned their own biases from their masters. These early chapters introduce the idea of house slaves versus yard or field slaves. House slaves live closer to their masters and therefore have a better standard of living. Their work is also less strenuous. The house slaves are at the top of the slave hierarchy and take pride in their status compared to the yard and field slaves. And the slaves look down on poor whites, or "white trash," like the Slatterys, who depend on the rich whites' charity.

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