Gone with the Wind | Study Guide

Margaret Mitchell

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Gone with the Wind | Part 5, Chapters 57–58 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 57

Rhett sends Scarlett, Wade, and Ella to Tara so Scarlett can heal. Then Rhett goes to visit Melanie. He tells her he wants Scarlett to stop managing the mills, which can happen only if Ashley buys them from her. When Melanie admits she and Ashley don't have the money to buy the mills, Rhett offers to give them the money if Melanie promises not to tell Ashley where it came from. Melanie agrees.

Scarlett returns from Tara looking better. Will and Suellen are doing well at Tara, but it's a farm now, not a plantation. The war put an end to plantations. Still, thanks to Scarlett and Will's efforts, Tara is one of the most successful farms in the region.

Rhett manipulates Scarlett into selling the mills to Ashley. Ashley says when the mills belong to him he will no longer use convicts as laborers—a strategy that helped Scarlett make bigger profits. Scarlett feels criticized and begins to defend her decision, saying her family needed the money. Rhett asks her if the money has made her happy; Scarlett can't answer.

Chapter 58

Rhett is home more often these days, but he no longer seems interested in anything Scarlett does. He has made friends with many members of Atlanta's Old Guard—the same people who used to resent him—and Scarlett finally asks if he is in the Klan. Rhett tells her he and Ashley broke up the Klan ages ago, but he is making great efforts to get Democrats back in power in Georgia. He assures Scarlett his efforts will make a big difference to Bonnie's future prospects. Scarlett realizes she is the odd one out in Atlanta: Bonnie and Rhett are hugely popular with the Old Guard; she is not.

Analysis

Scarlett's argument with Ashley about convict labor reveals something important: she is not happy. For a long time Scarlett believed if she just had enough money she would be happy; she would be a great lady; her children would love her; everything would be wonderful. It hasn't worked out that way. No one seems to love her, including her children, and she is no more content than she ever was.

The message "money can't buy happiness" may reflect the time in which Margaret Mitchell was writing: 1936, in the middle of the Great Depression. Many books and movies of that era explored the idea for the large proportion of the population struggling economically that money didn't really solve every problem. Popular 1930s movies often showed rich people as evil, greedy, or simply clueless about how the world worked. While Gone with the Wind is set in the previous century, Mitchell touches on some of those Depression-era themes.

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