Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 4, Chapter 44 | Summary

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Summary

Scarlett is driving herself to the mill when a large African American man appears on the side of the road. She is frightened until she realizes it is Big Sam, who used to work Tara's fields. Big Sam went north after the war and became a "body servant" for a Yankee colonel, but he never felt at home; he says he is too old to learn their ways. He also makes it clear the Yankees, while trying to be respectful and treat him like family, never really succeeded. Now he wants to get back to Tara. He has killed a man and he is scared; Scarlett promises to help him get home.

At the mill she notices Johnnie Gallegher is not treating the convict workers well. When she intervenes, he threatens to quit. She can't run the mill without Johnnie, so she allows him to handle the convicts his way.

When Scarlett heads back to meet Big Sam, two men—one white, one African American—approach and attack her, trying to rob her. Big Sam shows up and saves her, but not before her dress is ripped open and the African American man touches her breasts. Scarlett sobs, horrified, as Big Sam drives her home.

Analysis

Once again the novel paints a frightening picture of African Americans running wild and committing "outrages" while the United States Army is in control of Georgia. The story stays close to Scarlett's viewpoint, but Scarlett, with her childlike mind and selfish nature, is hardly an accurate source of information about Reconstruction. When Scarlett sees Big Sam—a member of the Tara "family"—the passage is filled with racist implications. Big Sam's rolling eyes, his white teeth, and his "watermelon-pink tongue" are all stereotypes of African Americans. Mitchell compares his joy at seeing her to a large dog wagging its tail at its owner.

Big Sam's story about the North demonstrates one of more insidious problems with slavery: its lasting effects, even on slaves who were treated well. Sam wants someone to take care of him, and he is uncomfortable when Yankees address him politely and invite him to sit with them at meals. He may never have been beaten, but he has been emotionally scarred; now, even though he doesn't have to stay at Tara, he wants to go back because it is safe. Many freed slaves were unsure how to support themselves in this new world; often they ended up working the same plantations as sharecroppers; in some ways this new life was not a great improvement over the slave system.

As for Scarlett's attack and near rape, it is both horrifying and, in some ways, predictable. Scarlett knows she is in a dangerous area; everyone has warned her. This does not lessen the horror of what happens to her, but it makes it easy to predict other people's reactions.

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