Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 3, Chapters 26–27 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 26

Scarlett, Melanie, the children, and Scarlett's two ailing sisters are home alone one day when a Yankee deserter tries to rob the house. Scarlett kills him. Melanie sees what happens and praises Scarlett; although they conceal the killing, Scarlett takes a certain pride in her act. She then uses the Yankee's horse to visit other plantations. At the Fontaine plantation matriarch Grandma Fontaine seems to understand what Scarlett is going through. She says women are supposed to be "timid frightened creatures" and warns Scarlett not to become hardened, but Scarlett doesn't understand.

Neighbors share food with Tara, and Scarlett sets her mind to harvesting the little remaining cotton. She coerces the remaining slaves and her sisters into picking the cotton, but it doesn't work. Mammy, Pork, and Suellen complain so much they are useless. Melanie and Carreen are too weak for such difficult work. Only Dilcey and Scarlett are successful, but Scarlett is ashamed of having to do such work.

Chapter 27

The Yankees come back to Tara. Most of the family and the slaves hide in the swamp with the farm animals. Scarlett stays in the house with Wade and Melanie's baby. She confronts the Yankees but helplessly watches them steal family heirlooms. One soldier sets the house on fire as he leaves, and Scarlett and Melanie barely save it from burning to the ground. Scarlett has come to depend on Melanie and feels a begrudging affection for her.

Analysis

Rhett has repeatedly said God help the Yankee who confronts Scarlett; she proves his point by shooting the Yankee deserter. Scarlett is surprised by her own courage, but Melanie's reaction may surprise readers more. Given Scarlett's temper and will, it's not surprising she would shoot a man who tries to rob Tara. But Melanie's fierce joy in the killing and her willingness to conceal it by lying are unexpected, to say the least.

The second time Yankees appear, Scarlett and Tara get the worst of it. In this book the Yankees are bad news. A good one might show up here or there, but in general they are the enemy, as they demonstrate at Tara. This isn't solely Southern bias on Mitchell's part. The Yankees, led by General William Sherman, tried to make the South miserable. Sherman wanted the war over, and he decided to make the state of Georgia suffer to damage Confederate morale. His "March to the Sea," as it was called, involved massive destruction across the state, from Atlanta to Savannah. The Union soldiers wanted to punish Georgia for seceding, and they did. They especially went after the property of wealthy slave owners like the O'Haras because the Northerners blamed them for starting the war. Georgia's devastation was a major reason the war ended less than a year after the fall of Atlanta.

Scarlett's visit to the Fontaines brings her a potential source of emotional support in Grandma Fontaine, but Scarlett is too caught up in herself to realize it. Grandma Fontaine can see what Scarlett has been through, and she tries to offer Scarlett some words of warning. Her idea that women should be "timid frightened creatures" sounds preposterous today, but her warning about what happens when a woman has nothing to fear couldn't be more pertinent to Scarlett, who is hardening under the stress of what she has faced. A difficult character from the start, now, with nothing to lose, she may let anger and coldness swallow her whole.

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