Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 4, Chapters 37–38 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 37

Late one night Tony Fontaine, one of the boys from the region around Tara, shows up at Scarlett and Frank's door. He has killed the overseer Jonas Wilkerson and is on the run. Frank and Scarlett help him, but his visit forces Scarlett to realize how Reconstruction has changed the South. Scarlett concludes Yankees, scallawags, and carpetbaggers are encouraging freed slaves to take whatever they want, and if white Southerners try to stop it, the government will support the slave, even if the slave has stolen or raped. While overcome with emotion, Scarlett confesses to Frank she is pregnant.

Chapter 38

Scarlett is frantic to make more money before her pregnancy is further along, and she is forbidden to leave the house. She uses unscrupulous business practices and engages in trade with the Yankees and carpetbaggers. She still hates the Yankees: she just wants their money. But one day a group of Yankee wives stop her as she is in the carriage with Uncle Peter, Aunt Pittypat's former slave turned servant. The Yankee women say insulting things about African Americans and talk about Uncle Peter as if he were unable to understand them. Scarlett keeps it in and controls her hatred of them. She can only reprimand them and try to show that Peter has a place in her family and her world, but Peter blames Scarlett, saying she still didn't do enough to stick up for him. He refuses to drive Scarlett anywhere after that, so she has to drive herself.

It's dangerous for Scarlett to drive alone, particularly as the two mills she now owns are in areas where impoverished men, both African American and white, live in makeshift camps. But Scarlett continues to drive. Rhett begins to turn up on her drives, keeping her company and—though she doesn't realize it—keeping her safe. When she complains to him that no one likes her, he tells her she has made the unforgivable sin of being different and successful. She tells him to go away, but he explains he is protecting her because an attack would give the Ku Klux Klan a reason to ride again and the Yankees a reason to crack down on Atlanta.

Scarlett worries a lot and has a hard time sleeping. She has taken to drinking brandy when people aren't around, and she finds it helps her relax. She plans to travel home to Tara, but when she learns her father has died, she must go sooner than she expected.

Analysis

It is difficult for modern readers to grapple with these chapters, which encourage rooting for the success of the Ku Klux Klan. But as mentioned earlier (see Context) Mitchell grew up hearing stories about the Confederacy, and her descriptions are likely consistent with what she was told by her grandfather—who served in the Confederate army—and other pro-Confederate sources.

Some people argued Reconstruction caused all the South's problems. Tony Fontaine seems to voice this attitude, saying he never hated "darkies" until they were granted the right to become "nigger judges." Scarlett's apocalyptic vision of men running wild, able to do what they like without fear of punishment, would be terrifying to most people. But this is about race: these are African Americans, freed slaves, set loose upon society.

Scarlett's interaction with the Yankee women shows they are just as racist as any Southerner. Ignorant of Southern customs, they call Uncle Peter a "nigger," which is a term no white Southerner had ever used toward him. Scarlett, in a rare show of sympathy, is angry on his behalf. However, even Scarlett's protectiveness has a racist tinge to it. There is a paternalistic quality to the "good" Southerners' interactions with African Americans in this book. The Southerners see themselves as gentle and caring, shepherding their poor, clueless African American employees through a difficult world now that the Northerners have supposedly freed them.

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