Literature Study GuidesGone With The WindPart 5 Chapters 48 49 Summary

Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 5, Chapters 48–49 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 48

Married life with Rhett can be a lot of fun. Rhett introduces Scarlett to exciting people, though they have questionable pasts. He buys her beautiful clothes and indulges her with opulent meals. He is like a fond adult spoiling a child. For her part, Scarlett never fully understands Rhett. Sometimes he is tender and loving toward her, but when he senses she is thinking of Ashley, he becomes furious and storms out. Then, when he hears her having her recurring bad dream, he comes to rescue her.

Scarlett buys lavish presents for everyone except Mammy; she is still angry about Mammy's criticism. Rhett is not at all troubled by it, and he arranges to have a red taffeta petticoat made for Mammy because his own Mammy always wanted one. Rhett tells Scarlett they will build a house when they return to Atlanta, and Scarlett describes an excessively opulent mansion designed to show off their wealth. Rhett warns her they will not be popular in Atlanta, but he agrees to let her spend money on the house, her clothes, the children, and even Tara. However, he insists none of his money will go to helping Ashley Wilkes.

Chapter 49

When Scarlett and Rhett return to Atlanta, the "Old Guard"—the Confederate families still living in Atlanta—must decide whether to acknowledge them. Most of the women don't want to, but Melanie insists. She reminds everyone of the good things Scarlett has done for Ashley and for her, and she says anyone who will not visit Scarlett should stop visiting her as well. Many of the men think they should call on Scarlett and Rhett because Rhett saved their lives. The women visit Scarlett and Rhett—once—but do not pursue a relationship with them.

Scarlett doesn't care at first; she is caught up in making friends with the "new" people in Atlanta, including the state's new and disliked Republican governor. Rhett points out her new friends are lower class and warns she will be in a difficult position when the Democrats regain power, but she ignores him. Scarlett and Rhett argue more now; Rhett says critical or rude things and makes Scarlett mad, and when she tries to fight with him he dismisses her. He can be rude to her friends as well; for example, he freely points out the unethical ways they made their money.

When Scarlett berates her for refusing to meet the scallawag governor, Melanie asks Scarlett if she has forgotten what the Yankees did to them: "I won't forget. I won't let my Beau forget and I'll teach my grandchildren to hate these people—and my grandchildren's grandchildren if God lets me live that long!"

Analysis

Scarlett spent a very long time imagining what she would do if she ever got enough money. Now there's a certain "Be careful what you wish for" tone to the story. Scarlett spends money unceasingly, makes questionable new friends and rejects old ones, and doesn't worry about tomorrow. To some extent this is understandable: Scarlett has had a rough time, and finally she doesn't have to worry about how to pay the bills, and she delights in sleeping in a comfortable bed after years on a mattress filled with uncomfortable straw. But this isn't enough for her: she builds an exaggerated monstrosity of a house and wants to dominate Atlanta society. Although she has money now, she shows no signs of being a "great lady" like her mother. Rhett warned her about jettisoning virtues, noting they don't always come back; this seems to be true in Scarlett's case.

Despite Rhett's image as a scoundrel and a big spender, he is far more levelheaded and realistic than Scarlett, and he makes any number of caustic remarks about her decisions. Scarlett's new friends are criminals, cheats, and liars, but she doesn't mind.

Melanie emerges as a surprising figure in these chapters. Her misguided loyalty to Scarlett forces the women of the "Old Guard" to call on Scarlett at least once. But Melanie's outburst to Scarlett may be one of the novel's most important passages. She flatly refused to meet the Republican governor and beseeches Scarlett to remember all the Confederates lost in the war. Mitchell seems to be expressing the feelings of an entire generation through Melanie; if a gentle, sweet person like Melanie felt such strong hatred, one can imagine how other Southerners felt.

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