Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 4, Chapters 33–34 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 33

Scarlett and Mammy travel to Atlanta to stay with Aunt Pittypat. The town is greatly changed, and Aunt Pittypat tells Scarlett many people there have suffered as well; for example, once-wealthy ladies of Atlanta are now running boarding houses or baking pies to pay their bills. Scarlett has little sympathy, given what she has gone through at Tara. Then Aunt Pittypat tells Scarlett Rhett is in jail; the Yankees believe he killed an African American man who insulted a white woman, and according to Pittypat "they may hang him." Pittypat says the Yankees are angry about the Ku Klux Klan, who "ride around at night dressed up like ghosts" and target carpetbaggers and "negroes who are uppity." The Yankees want to make an example of someone, and that someone may be Rhett. However, they hope he will tell them where he hid his Confederate money from the war. Scarlett decides Rhett's predicament will make it that much easier for her to get money out of him. She lies to Aunt Pittypat so she can avoid making social calls the next morning; when Aunt Pittypat goes out, she can visit Rhett.

Chapter 34

Scarlett goes to see Rhett in jail. He seems genuinely touched by her visit, and the conversation goes smoothly. Rhett compliments her appearance, and she flirts with him and lies about how things are at Tara; she doesn't want him to know how desperate she is. Scarlett believes Rhett is about to propose to her. But then he sees her hands, roughened and blistered by work, and he knows she has been lying. He makes her tell him the truth and then refuses to give her the money; he can't get his hands on it while he is in prison anyway. Scarlett leaves, furious.

Analysis

This chapter introduces the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, which began as a social club for former Confederate soldiers but soon developed into a terrorist-style group that attacked African Americans and whites who helped them. Aunt Pittypat tells Scarlett about the group in a whisper.

There is no evidence that Rhett belongs to the KKK, but he seems to share some of their values, since he killed an African American man who "insulted" a white woman. During the postwar Civil War era, an African American man who looked directly at a white woman might be accused of insulting or even attacking her, so it's quite possible the man Rhett killed did nothing to earn his wrath, let alone death.

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