Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 5, Chapters 50–51 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 50

Scarlett often wonders why Rhett married her; she can't figure out how he feels about her. She is quite clear about how she feels. When she learns she is pregnant, she threatens to do something about it; the book's language is veiled, but she is referring to an illegal abortion. Rhett reacts with genuine fear, telling her to not do anything dangerous because she could die. Scarlett wonders if she really means so much to him; he jokingly replies he has invested a lot of money in her.

Rhett and Scarlett have a baby girl, Bonnie. Everyone is shocked by Rhett's reaction to fatherhood. He is delighted to have a daughter and becomes a doting parent immediately. His excitement even wins over Mammy, who finally wears her red taffeta petticoat.

Chapter 51

Scarlett goes to the mill and has a private meeting with Ashley. He is not making money from the mill because he is gentle with the workers, and he begs her to stop using convicts. Ashley believes Scarlett's greed comes from Rhett's influence, and he rants about how Rhett has "hardened" and "brutalized" her gentle spirit. Scarlett, touched by his concern, decides she should keep herself chaste to honor him. As a bonus this will allow her to stop getting pregnant.

She goes home and announces her intention to Rhett, who immediately knows she is thinking of Ashley again. He tells her she is breaking their agreement, but he demonstrates no concern about her desire to remain chaste. He says if he really wanted her he would insist, but he pointedly tells her she cannot expect him to be faithful to her under the circumstances.

Analysis

These two chapters offer a dramatic contrast between Rhett's true self and others' perceptions of him. His enthusiasm for Bonnie is lovable and surprising to those who do not know him well. Mitchell laid the groundwork for this, however, by showing his moments of tenderness toward Scarlett. Mammy's approval is the final proof of Rhett's goodness. As Mitchell noted earlier in the book, Southerners always wanted to be admired by their slaves or servants. Scarlett is particularly stung when Uncle Peter—Aunt Pittypat's servant—or Mammy criticizes her behavior. Mammy's acceptance of Rhett signals he might be a better person than Scarlett at this point.

Ashley believes Rhett has ruined Scarlett's fine nature, which demonstrates how out of touch Ashley is. Rhett has often disapproved of Scarlett's choices, but she has always done as she pleases nevertheless. Still, she is happy to have Ashley blame her bad qualities on Rhett's influence. Inspired by Ashley's words, she decides to stop sleeping with Rhett so she can keep herself pure for Ashley.

Upon hearing of her plan, Rhett is frustrated; he tells her they made a bargain, and she is breaking it. He immediately knows this is about Ashley, though he doesn't realize Ashley never asked her to be chaste for him. Rhett tells Scarlett to do as she pleases; he can find satisfaction elsewhere. Only later will Scarlett realize what she is giving up. Like a child she grabs for things without considering the consequences. She broke a bargain with Rhett once before, and he warned her there would be consequences. At some point Scarlett will find out what those consequences are.

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