Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 4, Chapters 39–40 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 39

Will picks Scarlett up at the train station; he tells her Gerald's death was Suellen's fault. Eager to get money from the Yankees, Suellen tried to force the befuddled Gerald into signing a paper saying he never supported the Confederacy. Gerald realizes what is happening just in time and rips up the paper. He storms out, grabs the nearest horse, and rides for home. Near Tara the horse throws him, and he breaks his neck.

Despite all this, Will tells Scarlett he hopes to marry Suellen. He loves Carreen, but she doesn't love him. Will thinks Suellen will be happier if she is married; as her husband, he can take responsibility for Tara. Scarlett respects his choice, even though she can't understand why he wants to marry Suellen.

Chapter 40

Will and Ashley try to prevent a scene at Gerald's funeral. Will asks to speak first and gives a simple but eloquent speech about how Gerald's "mainspring" stopped working when Ellen died. He also announces his engagement to Suellen—news that's not particularly popular among local residents. Everyone likes Will, and everyone blames Suellen for Gerald's death. Will also uses Scarlett's pregnancy as an excuse to make two of the most outspoken women—Grandma Fontaine and Beatrice Tarleton—take Scarlett into the house before the funeral ends. Grandma sends Beatrice off to find something to drink, and she has a long talk with Scarlett. She believes Melanie, not Ashley, will help the Wilkes family survive, and she compares Melanie to Ellen, Scarlett's mother. When Grandma Fontaine tries to give Scarlett advice, Scarlett ignores it as usual.

Analysis

Suellen undoubtedly is responsible for Gerald's death. But she was attempting to follow Scarlett's example: get money from the Yankees any way you can. Scarlett even appreciates Suellen's idea, to an extent. But Suellen's plan required manipulating Gerald, and even Scarlett wouldn't have crossed that line.

The O'Hara girls expected to marry planters' sons, not a lower-class fellow like Will. But his wisdom and willingness to work hard are much more valuable than a good name. His speech at Gerald's funeral puts forward the theory of a person's "mainspring," without which he or she cannot go and overcome difficulties. The mainspring theory applies to many of the book's characters.

Scarlett's conversation with Grandma Fontaine is enlightening. Like Rhett, Grandma Fontaine has far less respect for Ashley than Scarlett does. Both Grandma Fontaine and Rhett are outsiders—to different degrees—and they agree on Melanie's greatness and Ashley's limitations. Scarlett disagrees with both of them, but Grandma tells her she just isn't smart "about folks."

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