Gone with the Wind: Novel Summary: Part IV- Chapter 31 – 33

 winnowed out.” Ashley says that he loves the Old South; he is “fitted for nothing in this world, for the world I belonged in has gone.” He says that he does not want to face reality and that he is a coward.
Scarlett begs him to run away with her. He admits that he loves her, and kisses her passionately, but says that honor prevents him leaving Melanie. Scarlett says that she has nothing left. But Ashley points out that she loves Tara more than she loves him. He scoops up a handful of red earth and presses it into her hand. Scarlett remembers how much she loves Tara and tells Ashley that she will never throw herself at him again. She walks back to the house.
Chapter 32
Jonas Wilkerson, Geralds old overseer who now runs the Freedmens Bureau, turns up at Tara in a splendid carriage. He is accompanied by Emmie Slattery, whom he has married. Both are expensively dressed. Wilkerson tells Scarlett that he knows she cannot pay her taxes, and he has come to offer to buy Tara. Scarlett realizes that it is he who is responsible for raising the taxes on Tara in the hope that it will force Scarlett to sell cheaply. Scarlett furiously tells them to get off her land.
After they have gone, Scarlett wonders who might lend her money. She can only think of one person: Rhett. Though she is repulsed by him, she thinks of the years of taxes ahead and plans to marry him, or, if that should fail, to become his mistress and borrow the money from him.
She looks in the mirror and is shocked by how unattractively thin she has become. She knows that she cannot win Rhett dressed in her ragged dress, but she has no money to buy a new one. She decides to make one out of Ellens green velvet curtains. Mammy agrees to help her make the dress, but insists on accompanying her to Atlanta as her chaperone. Scarlett tells no one at Tara that she is planning to approach Rhett; they only know that she is going to Atlanta to raise the money for the taxes.
Scarlett reflects that the rest of the household at Tara are simply continuing to think and live as they always have, and that they have not changed with the times. She is the only one who has changed. Ashley feels that there is something ominous in the air, but feels powerless to help Scarlett. He takes comfort in the idea that Mammy will protect her.
Chapter 33
Scarlett and Mammy arrive in Atlanta. The town is so burnt-out as to be almost unrecognizable, but already, new buildings are springing up in the vacant lots. The streets are full of Yankees and freed slaves.
Scarlett and Mammy go to Aunt Pittypats house. Pittypat tells Scarlett that her fortune has vanished and that Uncle Henry had not been able to pay the taxes on her estate. She reports the misfortunes of the towns prominent families. Mrs. Merriwether is making ends meet by baking pies, which her son-in-law, Ren? Picard, sells to Yankee soldiers. The Meades have lost their home and have gone to live with the Elsings. Pittypat is shocked that the freed slaves are to be given the vote. She asks Scarlett if the Ku Klux Klan is active near Tara. The Klan is calling on carpetbaggers who steal money and freed slaves who are “uppity.” Sometimes they only scare them away, but at other times, they kill them.
Pittypat also says that Rhett has been put in jail for killing a black man who allegedly insulted a white woman. She adds that the Yankees probably will not hang Rhett, as they believe that he has millions of dollars in gold belonging to the Confederate government. Rhett had taken a vast amount of cotton to England to sell for the Confederate government. He was supposed to buy guns with the money and run them through the blockade. But the blockade was tightened and he could not bring in the guns, and in any case, he could not have spent much of the cotton money on them. So Rhett and the other blockade-runners put the money in English banks in their own names. Now, the Yankees own all Confederate funds, and want Rhetts cotton money, but Rhett claims he knows nothing.
Scarlett cares little that Rhett is in jail or that he might be hanged, but reasons that if she marries him and he is executed, she will inherit his money.
Analysis of Chapters 31-33
Contrary to Scarletts expectations, her misfortunes – and the Souths – do not end when the war ends. Reconstruction, the period after the war when the South was re-ordered by the federal government, will prove much worse for her and the previously wealthy landowners of the South. In an attempt to crush the Southern power structure, anyone who had held any position of wealth or power before the war was denied the vote, and freed black slaves were granted the vote, as were the hated carpetbaggers and Scalawags.
In 1863, President Lincoln brought in a “10 Percent Plan,” which allowed the Confederate states readmission to the Union when ten percent of the number of a states citizens eligible to vote in 1860 swore an oath of allegiance to the Union, and the state had abolished slavery. This is the oath to which Will refers when he says (Chapter 31) that he would sooner never vote again than take the oath. Mitchell also introduces us in these chapters to the Freedmens Bureau, which was formed by the federal government after the war to protect the interests of former slaves. Mitchell portrays the local Bureau as being staffed by profiteers and as virtually running the states affairs; it is headed by two of the less savory characters of the novel, the Yankee former overseers Jonas Wilkerson and Mr. Hilton. Mitchell tells how in response to the perceived abuses of power in the new society, the Ku Klux Klan sprang up, punishing dishonest carpetbaggers and what Mitchells characters call “uppity” black people.
In Mitchells novel all these developments are seen from the point of view of the South. Many modern readers will see this point of view as racist and biased. For example, Lincolns oath of allegiance requirements are now widely seen as lenient, not the outrage that Mitchells characters judge them to be. Also, Mitchell ignores the achievements of the Freedmens Bureau in pioneering education for black people, and the murderous Ku Klux Klan is presented as a movement for natural justice. Her stance appears all the more alien since history is written by the victors, and thus we are used to reading the Norths version of events. However, Mitchells treatment provides a rare and valuable exposition of the Souths feelings of humiliation, fury and despair at the events of the difficult Reconstruction period.
The scene between Scarlett and Ashley in the orchard is important as it marks a turning point for Scarlett. She goes to Ashley in the hope that he will take some of the burden of the taxes on Tara from her shoulders – not by providing money, which he lacks, but by giving advice and support. But Ashley proves useless, persisting in dreaming about the Old Southern world of beauty and gracious living, and lamenting that it is gone forever. He is also indecisive about his relationships: he admits that he loves Scarlett, but cannot leave Melanie. Honor is more important to him than his love for Scarlett. We can also say that he would prefer to stay with his “dream” of the Old South, embodied by Melanie, than to embrace the harsher values of the New South, to which Scarlett adapts so successfully.
While Ashleys viewpoint is understandable and can be seen as honorable, it is difficult to escape the sense that he is not acting a manly part, in the issue of the taxes or in his feelings for Scarlett. In fact, he takes on the role traditionally reserved for women, and Scarlett takes on the role of male protector: she cannot bear to see him doing rough manual labor, and would prefer to split the rails herself; his talk is full of fears, dreams, memories and cultural references while Scarlett is concerned only with the practical business of survival; and, as he recognizes, Scarlett is providing for him and his family while he is “fitted for nothing in this world.” Perhaps most significantly, she is the sexually and emotionally aggressive one while he is passive, coy and reluctant.
This role reversal is powerfully reinforced in the next chapter (32), when Ashley fails to confront Scarlett over her plans to go to Atlanta to raise money for the taxes. Though he has terrible “suspicions which tore at him” about what she will have to do to get the money, he helplessly lets her go, only giving silent thanks that Mammy will look after her and reflecting on her “gallantry” – a quality generally attributed to men by admiring ladies. Rhett will later remark on Ashleys failure to act at this point as a weakness and betrayal of Scarlett. Overall, Ashley comes across as an unworthy match for Scarlett, though she is too stubborn, dense and insensitive to realize it.
Ashley does perform one useful service for Scarlett in this scene, when he presses the red earth into her hand and reminds her that she loves Tara more than she loves him. He is correct, and from this point, she will increasingly draw strength from Tara.
After Ashley refuses to run away with Scarlett, she takes control of her affairs once more and decides to get the money from Rhett, even if it means marrying him or becoming his mistress. The latter is an option that she has rejected in disgust in the past. That she should consider it now is a measure of the extent to which she is prepared to sacrifice the ladylike ideals that Ellen taught her in order to keep Tara. However, although Scarlett believes that she has changed with the times (unlike all those around her), she is really just giving free rein to those aspects of her character that were unacceptable under the old order. The incident where she makes a new dress out of her mothers green velvet curtains in order to win Rhett is a graphic representation of those character traits, such as resourcefulness and ruthless pursuit of her goal. It also shows her limitations: Scarlett thinks that as long as the superficial elements are in place, she will get her way – that show will triumph over lack of substance. She is soon to be proven wrong.