Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 5, Chapter 52 | Summary

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Summary

One afternoon Wade mopes around the house because he wasn't invited to a birthday party every other child is attending. Scarlett doesn't think it's important, but Rhett understands how much it matters to Wade. He knows he and Scarlett are responsible for how people react to Wade, and the same will be true for Bonnie. He won't allow anything to spoil Bonnie's chances of success. Wade asks Rhett if he fought in the war; other children have said he didn't. Rhett tells Wade he did, and Wade is reassured, but Scarlett ridicules their exchange.

For the sake of Bonnie's future, Rhett decides to make friends with all the Confederates who despise him. He donates to the right causes, votes for Democrats rather than his Republican cronies, and asks for parenting advice from the oldest ladies of the Old Guard. He owns a lot of stock in a bank, and he begins to show up there regularly, as if he works there. Rhett readily allows people to blame Scarlett for bad decisions and bad manners. He lets people know he won't let the children stay in the house with some of her scallawag and carpetbagger friends. Slowly people's opinions of Rhett begin to change.

Rhett indulges Bonnie's every whim. When she develops a fear of the dark, he allows her to sleep in his dressing room every night with a lamp blazing. When he discovers the rest of the household doesn't take Bonnie's fears seriously, he begins to stay home at night so he can get her to sleep. When Bonnie says he smells of alcohol, he changes his drinking habits.

Analysis

Rhett takes steps for Bonnie he would never take for anyone else. He cuts down on his drinking, doesn't stay out late, and begins to behave respectably. It is hard to know how much of this is done for show, to help Bonnie fit in with society. But Scarlett won't change her behavior—for show or otherwise—no matter how it affects her children. Rhett cares more than Scarlett does, period. He even acknowledges his time in the Confederate army when he realizes how his reputation affects the children.

To a reader in 1936, when the book was published, some of Rhett's behavior probably seemed excessively indulgent. For example, many people believed children needed to face their fears; allowing them to sleep with a light on would make them weak. Scarlett is not really a heartless parent; she wants to toughen up her children. However, people then expected mothers to be the gentle, indulgent ones and fathers to advocate for toughening up.

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