Literature Study GuidesGone With The WindPart 5 Chapters 55 56 Summary

Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 5, Chapters 55–56 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 55

Scarlett tries to talk to Melanie about her embrace with Ashley, but Melanie won't listen. She trusts Scarlett and Ashley and doesn't need any explanations. For once Scarlett thinks of someone else's feelings and realizes it's kinder not to say anything further. Melanie is furious at all the people who implied something was going on between Scarlett and Ashley. She blames India most of all; a feud starts, with half the people siding with India and the other half siding with Melanie. Melanie takes Scarlett with her everywhere in town, and Scarlett knows Melanie is the only reason any of her old acquaintances speak to her.

Chapter 56

Scarlett is lonely now. She avoids being alone with Ashley, and she misses Rhett and Bonnie, who are traveling together. Scarlett tries to spend time with Ella and Wade, but she realizes they are frightened of her. Then Scarlett finds out she is pregnant again. When Bonnie and Rhett come home, Rhett is cold and distant to Scarlett. After she shares the news about her pregnancy, he suggests Ashley might be the father. Scarlett is furious and claims she doesn't want a baby at all, to which Rhett replies she might have a miscarriage. She swings to hit him, loses her balance, and falls down the stairs.

Scarlett almost dies from her injuries, and she loses the baby. She wants Rhett to visit her, but she won't ask for him because she thinks he won't come. Instead she calls for Melanie. Melanie ends up comforting Rhett as well; he is drinking alone in his room, horrified by what he has done. When he learns Scarlett will survive, he breaks down crying and tells Melanie a bit about what he and Scarlett have put each other through. He stops before saying Scarlett loves Ashley, but Melanie is traumatized—and baffled—by what she hears. She is sure Rhett and Scarlett love one another, so she wonders how they have become so estranged.

Analysis

Scarlett has long dismissed Melanie as silly, naïve, or weak. She may be naïve, but these chapters show she is neither silly nor weak. She is determinedly good and chooses to believe the best of others. To shield Scarlett, Melanie is willing to risk her relationships with others; she also lets Rhett pour out his darkest secrets, no matter how uncomfortable this makes her.

By contrast, Scarlett and Rhett's interactions demonstrate how cruel people can be, even when—or maybe especially when—they care deeply about each other. As Rhett has noted before, Scarlett has always been capable of injuring anyone who loves her. As for Rhett, he displayed his best qualities when Bonnie was born; now his worst come to the fore.

As cruel as Rhett can be, his behavior is always a reaction to Scarlett's. When Scarlett tells him she is pregnant again, his first instinct is to reach for her, but she turns away. Then he insults her, and she retorts in kind. Finally she throws herself at him to attack him and he blocks her; she falls down the stairs after hitting off his arm and losing her balance. Rhett's harshness is in fact primarily defensive.

Though both Rhett and Scarlett have behaved atrociously, it's hard not to feel for them as Scarlett lies suffering in bed. Scarlett wants Rhett, but she won't call for him because she is afraid of being rejected. Outside her door Rhett waits for her to call and is heartbroken that she doesn't. Both have been hurt so many times they will no longer risk their hearts for each other, yet clearly they still care.

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