Literature Study GuidesGone With The WindPart 4 Chapters 31 32 Summary

Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 4, Chapters 31–32 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 31

Will warns Scarlett about carpetbaggers and scallawags who are conspiring to take Tara away from her. These groups now run the local government and have raised Tara's taxes sky high so Scarlett will be forced to sell. She goes to Ashley for advice, but he has none to give. Instead he talks about how ill-suited he is for this new postwar world and calls himself a coward, which Scarlett disputes. When he talks about escaping, she takes him at his word and offers to run away with him. They kiss passionately, but Ashley breaks if off. He will never leave Melanie, and he thinks he and Melanie should get away from Tara. Scarlett promises Ashley she will never tempt him again. She is desolate, but Ashley reminds her she still has Tara.

Chapter 32

Scarlett returns to the house as a fancy carriage pulls up. Inside are Jonas Wilkerson, their former overseer, and his wife, Emmie Slattery Wilkerson; both are elaborately overdressed. They want to buy Tara after Scarlett fails to pay her skyrocketing taxes. Scarlett throws them out of the house, determined to burn Tara to the ground before she lets them live there. Among other things, she is horrified by the idea of the Wilkersons bringing freed slaves to dine at Tara.

Scarlett decides to go back to Atlanta and find Rhett. He is quite wealthy, people say; she decides she will marry him, or be his mistress if he won't marry her. She thinks she isn't pretty or well-dressed enough to win Rhett these days, so she decides to make a new dress out of her mother's best curtains. Mammy catches her and immediately grows suspicious; she then announces she will accompany Scarlett to Atlanta. Scarlett tells everyone she is going to Atlanta to borrow money to pay Tara's taxes, and they all pitch in to get her ready. Only Ashley, Will, and Mammy recognize she may be planning something they won't approve of, just to save Tara.

Analysis

Scarlett has been so focused on life at Tara she has missed the greater changes happening in her world. Reconstruction has had a tremendous impact on the South. For all its benefits, it has also given unethical people an opportunity to enrich themselves, and this looms large in Scarlett's mind.

Scarlett's racism makes another appearance in this chapter, as she is horrified by the thought Wilkerson might entertain freed slaves at Tara. There's quite a disconnect in her thoughts: she's fine with Mammy and the other house slaves, now servants, living and eating in the house but the freed slaves Wilkerson knows are another story; these frightening creatures will defile Tara's purity.

The scene between Ashley and Scarlett makes two things clear: Ashley is very attracted to Scarlett, and Ashley and Scarlett are a terribly ill-matched couple. Their minds operate in different spheres: Ashley makes references to classical literature while Scarlett considers how to get food on the table and pay the taxes. Ashley's honor is all that stops him from abandoning Melanie for Scarlett, but Scarlett's love of Tara trumps all else. If she has no hope of keeping Tara, nothing else matters, even Ashley.

Scarlett has crossed the line Grandma Fontaine warned her about, and she will do anything to survive. Her survival instinct is admirable, to a point, but she cold-bloodedly prepares herself to be Rhett's mistress so she can save Tara.

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