Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 2, Chapters 14–16 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 14

The Battle of Gettysburg takes place in July 1863, and Confederate losses are heavy. Much of Atlanta waits to see the casualty lists, and Rhett hurries the lists along, apparently as a favor to Melanie. Ashley is not listed, which means he is alive. But many, many others Scarlett knew have died, including all four Tarleton boys. Melanie and Scarlett pay a call on a family whose oldest son was killed in the battle, and Melanie confesses she wishes with all her heart to have a baby.

Chapter 15

Ashley comes home on furlough, but Scarlett gets little time alone with him until right before he leaves. Ashley speaks honestly with her and tells her the Confederacy will lose the war; then he asks her to care for Melanie if anything happens to him. Scarlett asks him to kiss her goodbye, and she attempts to turn a gentle, brotherly kiss into a passionate embrace. He starts to respond but then pushes her away. Scarlett pours out her love for him; he does not respond, though Scarlett believes she sees passion and despair on his face.

Chapter 16

A few months later Melanie tells Scarlett she is pregnant, and Scarlett is devastated. The next day they learn Ashley is missing in battle. Melanie haunts the telegraph office, waiting for news, until she passes out from the strain and Rhett brings her home. Rhett uses his Union army contacts to find out Ashley has been imprisoned at a notoriously dangerous camp in Illinois. The Yankees will release him if he swears loyalty to the Union, but he won't do it. Scarlett can't understand why, but Melanie defends her husband's decision. When she is alone with Rhett, Scarlett asks if he would take the oath to get out, and he says of course he would. Ashley is too much of a "gentleman" to do something like that, Rhett says.

Analysis

Gettysburg was arguably the turning point of the Civil War. The Confederate army had invaded the North, and the Union army met them at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle raged for three days. Many men were lost on both sides, but the Confederate losses were worse: 28,000 men total.

When Ashley comes home on leave, Scarlett's infatuation with him only intensifies. But it's definitely an infatuation—not love. Scarlett notes Ashley seems tense and talks a lot but "seemed to say very little" about anything important; she sees his father watch him with a worried frown. Yet none of these things matter to her. Scarlett is still a child; her Ashley must be brave and clever and handsome, a cardboard cutout of a man she does not really know, not a real person who may have been frightened by war—who may even think the war is a mistake.

Rhett often uses the word gentleman as an insult, particularly when referring to Ashley. Yet Rhett can be a gentleman when he chooses. He helps Melanie when she passes out, and he is gentle with Scarlett as she realizes how many of her old boyfriends are dead. He consults with the Yankees to find out what happened to Ashley.

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