Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 3, Chapter 24 | Summary

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Summary

Everyone spends the night in the wagon, exhausted and thirsty. They make their way to Tara, passing once-familiar plantations now burned to the ground. Prissy is useless and Scarlett is very severe with her, calling her "nigger" and even striking her with a whip. Scarlett is stunned and grateful to see Tara still standing, but she learns her mother has died, and her two sisters are very ill. The only slaves left at Tara are Mammy, Pork, and Pork's wife, Dilcey.

Gerald is shattered by Ellen's death, so Scarlett takes charge. She puts Gerald to bed, sends Pork to find food, and gets Dilcey to help with Melanie and the baby. With Mammy's help Scarlett tends to Suellen and Carreen. She learns her family got typhoid after her mother nursed the Slatterys through it. The Yankees didn't burn Tara because of the sick women upstairs, but they used the house as their headquarters. They burned the plantation's cotton and took all the food.

Scarlett feels overwhelmed by her new responsibilities. She drinks some of her father's whisky on an empty stomach and gets drunk. As Mammy and Dilcey put her to bed, Scarlett decides an O'Hara cannot depend on anyone else. Family pride and love of the land are deep in Scarlett, as her father once predicted. She is determined they will all survive.

Analysis

Like a child Scarlett trusted everything would be all right if she could just get home to Tara. But now she's home, and things are not all right at all; they can never be all right again. Her mother's death and her father's mental deterioration mean Scarlett—with all her strengths and all her weaknesses—is now in charge at Tara. Pork, Mammy, and Gerald speak to her as if she is a child, but she is the only family member left who can manage the plantation.

Already some of Scarlett's less appealing qualities have come to the surface. She is brutal to Prissy, even calling her a nigger—a word Scarlett knows her mother would never use. She is short-tempered and wants her own way, as she always has. Scarlett also breaks another rule about "what ladies do" when she gets drunk, though it seems eminently forgivable considering what she has been through.

Racist attitudes come through loud and clear in this chapter. The Tara slaves—even Pork and Mammy, who can remember when Scarlett was born—are incapable of making a decision without a white person to boss them around. Mitchell refers to the slaves as "child-like," but she also makes references to them as monkeys.

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