Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 4, Chapter 47 | Summary

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Summary

Scarlett is alone in her room. Everyone is trying to give her privacy in her grief, but she is more scared than sad. She blames herself for Frank's death and for stealing him from Suellen in the first place. She drinks heavily and cries, but when Rhett shows up, she agrees to see him.

She tells Rhett she fears she will go to Hell. Rhett talks her through her fears, helping her realize she regrets Frank's death but doesn't really regret the steps she took along the way. Rhett is patient and calm as she works through her feelings, but eventually he leads the conversation where he wants it to go: he asks Scarlett to marry him.

Rhett is about to go out of town on business, and he wants to get secretly engaged so Scarlett won't marry some other man with money while he is gone. Scarlett says she doesn't want to marry anyone, but in truth she wants to remain "faithful" to Ashley. Rhett figures out what she is thinking; he grabs her and kisses her. His intense kisses make Scarlett lose all thought of Ashley, and she kisses him back. Then she agrees to marry him. He asks if she's marrying him for his money. She says that is a part of it, which seems to make him hopeful; then she says she is "fond" of him, which seems to make him unhappy. But Rhett says he would never tell Scarlett if he loved her: "you would be the last person I'd ever tell. God help the man who ever really loves you. You'd break his heart."

Rhett returns from his business trip with a ring so large it embarrasses even Scarlett. Their engagement—coming so soon after Frank's death—outrages everyone. Scarlett gets into an argument with Mammy, who calls her "a mule in horse harness" and Rhett "trash." After their wedding she tells Rhett what Mammy said, and he laughs and acknowledges she is right. Rhett tells Scarlett people will disapprove because they are rich and they do what they like. He searches her face for something he doesn't seem to see: love.

Analysis

Every time Ashley and Scarlett are alone, it's clear—though not to Scarlett—how poorly they understand each other and what a terrible couple they are for each other. Here, by contrast, it's clear why Rhett and Scarlett would make a perfect couple. Rhett has no illusions about Scarlett, but he can be gentle and caring when she needs him. He soothes her fears the way a parent soothes a child after a nightmare (Rhett is considerably older than Scarlett), and he distracts her with a new toy: marriage to him.

Yet Rhett's feelings are not really parental. This chapter makes it clear Rhett cares deeply about Scarlett; he may even love her, though he won't say it. He admits he "wants" her more than any other woman he's known, and he has waited many years for her. When he realizes she is thinking of Ashley, he kisses her passionately to erase that thought. After she agrees to marry him and says it is partly because of his money, he doesn't mind. He wants to take care of her—but he also wants her to care for him. He is angry when she quotes his own words about how husbands and wives shouldn't love each other. He wants to love her, and he wants her love. But as he says, she will only break his heart if he ever tells her he loves her. He knows this and still wants to marry her. So they do.

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