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Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 2, Chapters 8–9 | Summary



Chapter 8

Life in Atlanta is much busier, which Scarlett enjoys. She volunteers to care for soldiers at the war hospitals because it is the socially approved thing to do. Scarlett is delighted to discover the family is only too happy to watch over Wade for her, giving her the time to be away from home at the war hospitals. Melanie volunteers too. Scarlett is happy to learn she inherited her husband's property, but she resents not being allowed to dance and have fun as other young ladies do. Melanie's "good" behavior and presence is also a constant irritant.

Chapter 9

Scarlett and Melanie are asked to volunteer at a charity ball. Normally a family in mourning would not participate, but Scarlett says yes because she is so eager to get out of the house. Melanie agrees to go to help the Cause—that is, the Confederacy. But when they get to the ball, Scarlett is again frustrated at how widows are expected to behave, and she admits to herself she doesn't believe in the Cause like the others do.

Rhett Butler approaches them. He is famous now as a blockader, someone who runs boats through the Yankee blockade to bring in supplies, including materials for women's dresses. Rhett says all the right things, but Scarlett can tell he doesn't believe them.

To raise money for the hospital, women are asked to donate their jewelry. Scarlett donates her wedding ring—which she doesn't care about anyway. This inspires Melanie to donate her ring—which she cares about very much. The doctor who runs the hospital also arranges an auction in which men bid on women to dance with them. Rhett offers $150 for Scarlett, the highest bid of the night, and Scarlett accepts, even though it scandalizes everyone; as a recent widow she should not be dancing with anyone, much less a man like Rhett, with his "lusty and unashamed appetites." Rhett encourages her to do what she likes and not worry about what other people think.


Scarlett may disdain Melanie, but Melanie is a good person, one with unexpected reservoirs of strength, as demonstrated by her gentle persistence in doing hospital work even when it makes her nauseated. Melanie is determined to see the best in everyone—a quality she will need in her dealings with Scarlett.

Melanie is a perfect foil for Scarlett. Scarlett is attractive and vivacious; Melanie is plain and quiet. Scarlett is willful and spoiled and cares little for others' feelings; Melanie works hard for others and wants nothing more than to make everyone happy. It's easy to understand Scarlett's frustration with Melanie but also to see Melanie is not the wishy-washy fool Scarlett imagines her to be.

When Rhett Butler reappears, he is presented as the devil, tempting Scarlett to do wrong. Rhett is clearly attracted to Scarlett. He already understands her in a way no one else does, and he gives her what she wants at that moment: the opportunity to dance. He encourages her to dismiss the customs and traditions she has always followed and find freedom again. In a way this foreshadows the disintegration of Southern society after the war. What Scarlett does is not really so horrible, but it is her first step in breaking with the society that raised her. It won't be her last.

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