Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 2, Chapters 12–13 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 12

Supplies are beginning to run low. The war is not ending as quickly as the Southerners hoped, but Scarlett is too busy flirting to worry. The war has sped up the pace of courtship for many, including Scarlett's two sisters. Suellen has "an understanding" with wealthy old Frank Kennedy, and Carreen is in love with Brent Tarleton. Visiting Tara is no longer as much fun, since her sisters are focused on their boyfriends, and Gerald and Ellen are busy trying to manage the plantation. Scarlett is always eager to get back to the fun of Atlanta, including frequent visits from Rhett.

People appreciate Rhett's efforts to run the blockade and bring in needed supplies and treats for the ladies. But when he says the war was a mistake and the South will lose, he becomes an outcast. The leading ladies of Atlanta society tell Scarlett and Melanie to quit seeing him, but Melanie refuses. She says Ashley feels the same way about the war, so she will not reject Rhett. Scarlett is surprised Melanie stands up for herself and Rhett and Ashley agree on something. Thinking it over, Scarlett decides Rhett made the better decision by not fighting at all, but she is horrified she ever questioned Ashley's judgement.

Chapter 13

Most people in Atlanta reject Rhett, but he still visits Aunt Pittypat's house. Scarlett tells him to conceal his opinion to get along with people, but Rhett decries hypocrisy and tells her to stop worrying about what other people think. He tries unsuccessfully to get her to stop wearing mourning; she finally caves in when he brings her a beautiful hat from France. She expects Rhett to ask for payment, and she says she won't marry him. He tells her he isn't a marrying man, but he will get his "payment" at some point. He warns Scarlett he is ruining her reputation, but she doesn't care.

The next day Melanie comes home from the hospital upset after an encounter with a "bad woman," Belle Watling, who runs a house of prostitution. Belle approached Melanie because she wants to help the Cause. The other ladies won't allow Belle to nurse soldiers because she is "bad," so she asks Melanie to take her money instead. Scarlett is fascinated by Melanie's encounter—that is, until she realizes Belle's money is tied in a handkerchief belonging to Rhett Butler.

Analysis

For the first time Scarlett questions Ashley's choices; then she is horrified about doing so. In some ways Rhett influences her more than she realizes. But Scarlett has always demonstrated a certain pragmatic toughness. That is part of what makes her so different from Ashley and Melanie. From a pragmatic viewpoint, why would anyone choose to fight in a war they expect to lose? Better to protect oneself and save the fighting for a battle you can win. That's Rhett's creed; it isn't noble, but it is the creed of a survivor. Rhett has certainly proved himself to be that.

Rhett and Scarlett's relationship is becoming more complicated. Rhett brings her pretty gifts and never asks for a kiss, though Scarlett expects him to. He also assures her he is not the marrying kind, which confuses her; she can't figure out what he wants. They have both said—multiple times—they are not interested in each other. But Scarlett is angry when she sees Belle Watling had Rhett's handkerchief. And Rhett, despite his supposed lack of interest, keeps visiting Scarlett.

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