Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 5, Chapter 63 | Summary

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Summary

Rhett is at home, sober for once. He calls Melanie "a great lady," and then he points out it's very convenient for Scarlett to have Melanie's permission to marry Ashley now. Scarlett dismisses his comment and tries to tell Rhett how she feels, but he doesn't want to listen. He says his love for her has worn out.

Rhett tells Scarlett he loved her deeply, even though she yearned for Ashley. He mentions moments when he hoped to see a change in her: after their marriage, after he forced himself on her, after the miscarriage. But there was no change. Scarlett says this is because he was harsh to her, and he acknowledges they may have "been at cross purposes."

Now Scarlett wants to fix everything between them, but Rhett refuses. He doesn't want to try again. When she says she loves him, he replies, "That's your misfortune." Rhett is tired and at 45, old—by the standards of the time—and ready to find some peace and quiet. She tries to tell him she can change, but it's too late.

Rhett leaves. Scarlett is upset, but she decides she will go home to Tara and think about it all tomorrow. She is convinced as the novel ends she can win Rhett back, and time at Tara will help her figure out how.

Analysis

Scarlett finally figures out what the reader has known for some time: she loves Rhett, and he—not Ashley—has been the right man for her all along. In a final turn of events, however, Scarlett gets her comeuppance: Rhett no longer wants her. He is weary and looks old—he is almost 20 years older than Scarlett, after all, a fact Mitchell brings up only when it is pertinent. Rhett finally explains all his behaviors to Scarlett, providing evidence to support all the inferences the reader has drawn throughout.

A character like Scarlett—one even her creator disapproves of—rarely gets a happy ending. And it would be improbable at best for Rhett to welcome Scarlett's affections after she took him for granted for so long. It is entirely in character, however, for Scarlett to decide she'll win him back. She'll figure out how: "I'll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara." This leaves readers with an unanswered question at the novel's end. Will she win Rhett again? It seems like the perfect setup for a sequel, one which Mitchell never wrote.

But the novel's great power is the tension between Scarlett and Rhett, both of whom want something they can never have. Scarlett wants security; Rhett wants Scarlett's love. Without that driving force it is hard to imagine how a sequel could or would work. Others have tackled the task but failed.

In the end Tara is Scarlett's true love and the means for her survival. Even in her agony over losing both Melanie and Rhett, she is comforted by the thought of Tara. Her links to the old days are disappearing one by one, but Tara remains the most central to her.

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