GWTW Read-Along: Chp. 38-50 Notes

gone-with-the-windI really struggled with this week’s reading of Gone with the Wind {Margaret Mitchell}, and therefore just now finished it. I wasn’t as interested in the novel this time around for some unknown reason, and, in addition to spending all of yesterday afternoon buying a new car with my parents, we were kicked out the house today for an open house.

Yes, in this section, Scarlett marries Rhett, but it came out in a manner I wasn’t expecting. I was expecting it to take a while longer, not to happen only days after Frank’s death, and to come about in a more grandiose manner.

“My news is this,” he answered, grinning down at her. “I still want you more than any woman I’ve ever seen and now that Frank is gone, I thought you’d be interested to know it…I always intended having you, Scarlett, since the first day I saw you at Twelve Oaks when you threw that vase and swore and proved that you weren’t a lady. I always intended having you, one way or another. But as you and Frank have made a little money, I know you’ll never be driven to me again with any interesting propositions of loans and collaterals. So I see I have to marry you.” {pg. 831}

Of course, I should have known that Rhett waits for no man to get what he wants, and he clearly wants Scarlett.

“And why? Because of my deep love for you, Mrs. Kennedy. Yes, I have silently hungered and thirsted for you and worshiped you from affair; but being an honorable man, like Mr. Ashley Wilkes, I have concealed it from you. You are, alas, Frank’s wife and honor has forbidden my telling this to you. But even as Mr. Wilkes’ honor cracks occasionally, so mine is cracking now and I reveal my secret passion and my –” {pg. 684}

On the one hand, I found this to be the most boring section of Gone with the Wind. There was quite a bit of explaining and less and less about Scarlet’s plight. In fact, I find it some what humorous that Scarlett agreed with me.

“They don’t talk of anything else,” thought Scarlett. “Nothing but the war. Always the war. And they’ll never talk of anything but the war. No, not until they die.” {pg. 739}

I’ve lived in the Old Confederacy for my entire life — including the location of Gone with the Wind — and spent an entire year learning about the South during Reconstruction in school. Mitchell paints a vivid picture of Atlanta during Reconstruction, and provides a wealth of information about the abuse of “reconstruction” of the South by the Yankees.

“Georgia was heavily garrisoned with troops and Atlanta had more than its share. The commandants of the Yankee troops in the various cities had complete power, even the power of life and death, over the civilian population, and they used that power. They could and did imprison citizens for any cause, or no cause, seize their property, hang them. They could and did harass and hamstring them with confliction regulations about the operation of their business, the wages they must pay their servants, what they should say in public and private utterances and what they should write in their newspapers. They regulated how, when and where they must dump their garbage and they decided what songs the daughters and wives of ex-Confederates could sing, so that the singing of “Dixie” or “Bonnie Blue Flag” became an offense only a little less serious than treason. They ruled that no one could get a letter out of the post office without taking the Iron Clad oath and, in some instances, they even prohibited the issuances of marriage licenses unless the couples had taken the hated oath.” {pg. 653}

Combined with the plethora of information Mitchell presented and my own basis frustrated me because, well, sometimes there’s something as a little too much information. Do I blame Mitchell for my frustration? No, but I do think that this large section was dominated by facts rather than Scarlett’s antics.

It’s clearly obvious that Rhett hates Ashley, but I always thought it was because Scarlett loves Ashley and Rhett was jealous, not because he thinks Ashley is lazy.

“Ashley is a very fine man,” began Scarlett hotly.

“I never said he wasn’t but he’s as helpless as a turtle on his back. If the Wilkes family pulls through these hard times, it’ll be Melly who pulls them through. Not Ashley!…Oh, foot! Ashley was bred to read books and nothing else. That doesn’t help a man pull himself out of a tough fix, like we’re all in now.” {pg. 718}

But I think it’s a mixture of these two reasons as to why he refuses to loan Scarlett money unless, of course, she does not use it to help Ashley.

“Don’t put yourself in his class. You aren’t down. Nothing will down you. But he is down and he’ll stay there unless there’s some energetic person behind him, guiding and protecting him as long as he lives. I’m of no mind to have my money used for the benefit of such a person.” {pg. 771}

And it’s also clearly obvious that Rhett is devoted to and loves Scarlett. But Scarlett, on the other hand, doesn’t, and she’s not willing to lie to him, to give him false hope, which I find to be an admirable but frustrating — at least, within the bounds of Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship — trait.

“Sometimes I think you carry your truth telling too far, my pet. Don’t you think, even if it was a lie, that it would be appropriate for you to say ‘I love you, Rhett,’ even if you didn’t mean it?”

“If it costs me a husband, I’ll tell the truth,” she thought grimly, her blood up as always when he baited her. “Rhett, it would be a lie, and why should we go through all that foolishness? I’m fond of you, like I said. You know how it is. You told me once that you didn’t love me but we had a lot in common. Both rascals, was the way you –” {pg. 837}

But it’s frustrating because “frequently when she lay drowsily in Rhett’s arms with the moonlight streaming over the bed, she thought how perfect life would be if it were only Ashley’s arms where held her so closely, if it were only Ashley who drew her black hair across his face and wrapped it about his throat,” {pg. 855} and because poor Rhett calls out “May God damn your cheating little soul to hell for all eternity!” {pg. 855}

The end is in sight, and I’m plodding my way towards it as I follow Matt’s reading plans:

  • Week 1 {March 1-7}: end of Chp. 9 or pg. 196
  • Week 2 {March 8-14}: end of Chp. 25 or pg. 436
  • Week 3 {March 15-21}: end of Chp. 37 or pg. 644
  • Week 4 {March 22-28}: end of Chp. 50 or pg. 892
  • Week 5 {March 29-April 4}: end of Chp. 63 or pg. 1037

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