Gone with the Wind: Novel Summary: Part IV- Chapter 34 – 39

 Chapter 34
Scarlett puts on her new green dress and goes to visit Rhett in jail. He is impressed by how prosperous she looks when everyone else is dressed in rags. She tells him falsely that everything at Tara is fine, that she has made money by selling cotton, and that she has come to Atlanta to get some more dresses made so that she can attend balls. She pretends to be distressed about his plight, claiming that she would die if he were hanged. He is moved by her apparent care for him and kisses her hands, but as he does so, he notices that they are rough and calloused. He guesses that she has been lying about the true reason for her visit, and that she is simply trying to get money from him. He asks her why she did not openly tell him of her need for money, instead of trying to seduce him, as a prostitute would. He reminds her that he is not the marrying type.
Rhett asks her what she really wants. She admits that she wants to borrow three hundred dollars for the taxes; Gerald is incapable and that no one at Tara has enough to eat. Rhett asks what security she can offer him for the loan. She offers her earrings or a mortgage on Tara, but he is not interested in either. Then she offers herself as his mistress. He questions whether she is worth that much money. Then he says that even if he wanted to give her the money, he could not. If he wrote a draft, the Yankees would be able to trace it, revealing the whereabouts of the Confederate money he has banked. Scarlett tells Rhett that she hates him. He asks her if she plans to ask any more men for the money and advises her to be more subtle and seductive, pointing out that when she offered to be his mistress, her eyes looked “as hard as nails.” He tells her that she can cheer herself up by attending his hanging. Filled with anger and shame, she leaves.
Chapter 35
Scarlett walks home in the rain, full of hatred for Rhett. Frank Kennedy drives up in his buggy, looking prosperous. Scarlett accepts his offer of a ride. He tells Scarlett that he is running a store in Atlanta and is planning to buy a sawmill, which should be very profitable because the Yankees have burned so many houses in Atlanta that there is a high demand for timber to rebuild. He wants to make money quickly so that he can ask Suellen to marry him.
Scarlett knows that Frank will not lend her money when he is planning to marry Suellen, so she realizes that she will have to marry Frank herself in order to get him to pay her taxes. Recalling Rhetts advice, she puts on a demure act and tells Frank that she went to the jail to try to sell embroidery to the Yankees, in order to raise money to feed those at Tara. Then she falsely says that Suellen is going to marry Tony Fontaine next month, as she got tired of waiting for Frank to ask her.
That evening, Scarlett goes to Fanny Elsings wedding dance on Franks arm. In the discussion about the war, Hugh Elsing remarks that in spite of the fact that the Confederate soldiers surrendered at Appomattox, their women have never surrendered; they still hate the Yankees for bringing the Southern men so low.
As Scarlett looks around her at the faded grandeur of the ballroom and the familiar faces, she feels that the security and glamour of the Old South has gone. She feels like an alien in this environment, just as she does with Ashley. The men still pretend to shelter the women from all that is harsh. Scarlett, who is blind to the courage behind the fine manners, thinks this absurd in the light of the suffering and horror that these women have witnessed. Scarlett feels that she cannot ignore the harsh reality that the world has become hostile. Unlike those around her, Scarlett believes that you cannot be a lady without money. Though no depth of poverty would have made Ellen ashamed, Scarlett does not share her view. She is determined to be rich again, whether it entails working or just grabbing money, and recalls Rhetts words: “Theres just as much money to be made in the wreck of a civilization as in the upbuilding of one.”
Chapter 36
Two weeks later, Scarlett marries Frank. He gives her the three hundred dollars for the taxes, reluctantly, as it means he cannot now buy the sawmill. Scarlett receives a venomous letter from Suellen, who has heard about the marriage. Scarlett ignores it, as she ignores the hostile gossip of the townspeople, who knew of Suellens betrothal to Frank. Scarlett turns her attention to Franks business, which she thinks could be making more money. She wants Frank to buy the sawmill before someone else snaps it up. She learns that many townspeople owe Frank money but could not pay just now, and Frank is unwilling to press them because they are friends and neighbors.
Frank comes to realize, with discomfort, that Scarlett has a “good head for figures” and a smart business brain. He probably also realizes the deception about Suellen that Scarlett used to entrap him in marriage, but he is too much of a gentleman to mention it. In any case, he finds Scarlett charming – as long as she gets her own way.
Two weeks after the marriage, Frank falls ill and is confined to bed. He frets about his store and Scarlett seizes the opportunity to go there and look at the account books. She finds the stock poorly displayed and dirty. She orders the counter boy to hand over the account books and learns that Frank is owed over five hundred dollars by the townspeople. Among them are the Elsings, who recently gave their daughter an expensive wedding. Scarlett reflects that if Frank was tougher about collecting debts, he could have paid Taras taxes and bought the mill. She realizes that she, a woman, could handle the business better than her husband. The thought is startling because she has been brought up to believe that a woman alone could accomplish nothing.
She is making a list of debtors to present to Frank when Rhett walks in. He congratulates her on her marriage and comments wryly that she could not even wait two weeks for him to get out of jail. He has blackmailed a man in the federal government to arrange his release. He admits that he has around half a million dollars in Confederate gold in foreign banks. Scarlett feels a pang of bitterness that he has so much while she only has a sick husband and a dirty little store. She accuses Rhett of stealing Confederate money, but he replies that the Confederacy no longer exists and he does not intend to give it to the Yankee government.
Scarlett tells Rhett that she needs money now. He agrees to loan her the money on condition that she does not use it to support Ashley. He criticizes Ashley for living off Scarletts charity and asks why he cannot go out and find work. He believes that Ashley is not in the least interested in Scarletts mind but only covets her body. He challenges her to explain how, if Ashley loved her, he could have allowed her to come to Atlanta to get the tax money. Rhett would never have allowed a woman he loved to do that. Scarlett says that Ashley did not know about her plan, but Rhett replies savagely that if he knew anything about her mind, he would have guessed.
Scarlett asks Rhett to come with her to buy the sawmill now, which he does. Later, she tells Frank that she got the money by selling Rhett her earrings. She adds that she will run the mill herself. Frank is horrified and ashamed that she should engage in such an unwomanly activity when he can provide for her, but he is too frightened of her to prevent her.
Scarlett works hard at her business and ignores the disapproving gossip. She soon makes a profit and sends money to Tara, telling Will how it should be spent. She now wants to build a saloon on the property where her warehouse had stood before Sherman burned it. Frank is appalled at her plan. He is amazed at the change that has come over Scarlett since their marriage: she is no longer sweet and feminine, but a ruthless and decisive businesswoman who talks and acts like a man. While Scarlett is fond of Frank, she is exasperated by the fact that he “was neither a good business man nor did he want her to be a good business man.” He has only half-heartedly collected the debts owing to him, and she knows that he will never be wealthy.
Frank hopes that Scarlett will have a baby, so that she will be content to stay at home and will have to sell the mill.
Analysis of Chapters 34-36
There is pathos in the scene between Rhett and Scarlett in the jail. He is eager to seize upon any sign that Scarlett has real feelings for him, especially when she claims, “Id die if they hanged you!” He is about to become convinced that she is sincere when he suddenly notices the calluses on her hands and realizes that she has lied to him about her financial situation and has only come to get money from him. He points out to her that she would have done better to tell him openly what she needed, since he values frankness in women; as it is, by trying to seduce him into submission, she has lowered herself to the status of a prostitute.
Scarlett learns two important lessons in these chapters. First, she learns that Rhett is the only man who prefers her to tell the truth about what she wants; other men, including Frank, prefer feminine wiles and roundabout methods.
Second, when Scarlett marries Frank so that he will pay the taxes on Tara, she learns that she has an excellent business brain: “A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well or better than a man, a revolutionary thought to Scarlett who had been reared in the tradition that men were omniscient and women none too bright” (Chapter 36).
Frank is horrified by Scarletts business activities, considering them unwomanly and an insult to him as the provider of his household. Too timid to oppose her directly, he silently hopes that she will soon be pregnant and will have to give up her work. The townspeople of Atlanta, representing the Old South, side with Frank and are scandalized by Scarletts going into trade. Rhett, in contrast, is the only person who encourages Scarlett and talks to her about her business as an equal. Most importantly, he lends her the money to buy the mill. After a long history of uncomfortable sparring, Scarlett and Rhett are forming an alliance based on their common interest in, and talent for, making money.
Those readers who feel frustrated by Scarletts inability to see how unsuitable Ashley is for her and how suitable Rhett is will delight in Rhetts incisive criticism of Ashley (Chapter 36). While Scarlett sees Ashley as too fine and gentlemanly to make a success of his life after the war, Rhett sees him as a freeloader living off Scarletts charity – and it is hard to counter this charge. Rhett also cannot understand how any man who pretends to love a woman could allow her to sell herself as Scarlett has done in order to pay the taxes on Tara. Here, we recall Ashleys helplessness and inaction on seeing Scarlett depart for Atlanta, and his unmanly giving over of the role of Scarletts protector to the female former slave, Mammy.
Scarletts ruthlessness and amorality is shown in her attempted manipulation of Rhett. However, this incident seems trivial compared with her subsequent snatching of Frank from under her sisters nose through an outright lie (that Suellen intends to marry another man) without a single qualm of conscience, in order to get the taxes on Tara paid.
Chapter 37
One night, Tony Fontaine rides in from Jonesboro, arriving at Frank and Scarletts house on a horse half-dead from exhaustion. He is fleeing to Texas after having killed Jonas Wilkerson and a black man. Tony had taken offense when Jonas had said that freed black slaves had a right to have sex with white women, and a freed slave had apparently propositioned Sally Fontaine. On the advice of Ashley, Tony has come to ask Frank for food, money and a new horse. Frank supplies what Tony needs, and Tony leaves.
Scarlett thinks that Reconstruction is going to be a dangerous period because “the negroes were on top and behind them were the Yankee bayonets.” Southern men have been holding secretive conversations and she has been warned against driving to the mill with only Uncle Peter to protect her. Scarlett cannot understand the mens obsession with getting their vote back, as the only thing that will keep anyone safe is money.
Scarlett tells Frank that she is pregnant.
For weeks after Tonys visit, which Frank and Scarlett mention to no one, Aunt Pittypats house is repeatedly searched by Yankee soldiers. Scarlett fears if the Yankees find out that they helped Tony, their property will be confiscated. She resents Tony for having implicated them.
White Southern men see free black men as a sexual threat to the large number of white Southern women who have been living without male protection since the war. The Southern men set up the Ku Klux Klan to counter this perceived threat. The North is determined to eradicate the Klan. Scarlett lives in fear of how far the Yankees will go.
Meanwhile, new settlers are pouring into Atlanta, including carpetbaggers, Southerners who can no longer survive in rural areas, and former Yankee soldiers. Saloons spring up overnight, and Belle Watling opens a grand new brothel. Gossip spreads that Rhett is her backer. Most of Atlantas “best families,” however, are living in poverty, and even suffering from starvation diseases.
Chapter 38
It is the spring of 1866. Scarlett thinks only of making the mill pay and staying out of trouble with the Yankees. Though she hates the Yankees, she never says a bad word about them, even within her family. She feels glad that Frank is not in the Ku Klux Klan, as it would draw the Yankees attention to them.
Scarlett continues to drive about the town and trade even though she is pregnant. This embarrasses Pittypat and Frank, who are conscious of the convention that no lady ever showed herself when pregnant. Scarlett uses every sharp practice she can think of to out-compete the other lumber dealers, including playing the helpless female and lying. She takes advantage of the convention that no man could call a lady a liar. She dismisses all consideration of how Ellen would judge her with her usual excuse that she will think of it later.
Scarlett undersells a rival mill owner so that he goes bankrupt; then she buys his mill at a cheap price. She runs into a problem when she looks for a man to put in charge of it, since all the capable men are taken up with their own businesses. Tommy Wellburn suggests his brother-in-law, Hugh Elsing, who is not doing well selling kindling wood. Despite her misgivings that Hugh cannot have “gumption” if he is not making a success of his business, Scarlett hires him.
Because she fears the Yankees might confiscate any money she puts in the bank, Scarlett keeps the money she makes hidden in her clothes or about the house. She grows more short-tempered, as the more she saves, the more she stands to lose if the Yankees target her. She aims to be financially secure by the time she has to stop work to have her baby.
Though Scarlett hates the Yankees, she is happy to do business with them and even socialize with them – a fact that outrages the patriotic Old Southern society of Atlanta. One day, she is driving home with Uncle Peter when the wives of some of her Yankee customers engage her in conversation and say that they would not trust a black person to be a childrens nurse. Scarlett, who is conscious that her family has been brought up and looked after by slaves and trusts them better than she trusts most white people, sarcastically asks why the Yankees freed them if they feel that way. One of the women then insults Uncle Peter. Scarlett, not wanting to upset the Yankees at this precarious time in her fortunes, tells her coldly that Uncle Peter is “one of our family,” and asks him to drive on.
Uncle Peter is overwhelmed with anger and grief. He says he is not interested in the Yankee idea of freedom and wants to be buried with Aunt Pittypat, to whom he feels he belongs. He accuses Scarlett of not defending him against the Yankee woman. He says she should have nothing to do with the Yankees. Thereafter, Uncle Peter refuses to drive Scarlett.?
Scarlett feels Uncle Peters criticism keenly. The Yankees approve of her, yet her friends and neighbors do not. Some day, she thinks, when there is security in the world again, she will be kind, like Ellen, and everyone will love her.
Meanwhile, the only person who shows understanding and sympathy is Rhett. Scarlett runs into him almost every day. When she asks him why she is hated, he tells her that it is because she dares to be different and because her success has shown up every man who has not succeeded. Other businesswomen, like Mrs. Merriwether, have the grace not to enjoy having to work and not to be too successful.
Although gentlemen are by convention not supposed to notice or remark upon a womans pregnancy, Rhett tells Scarlett that he knows she is pregnant. He is disappointed by her shocked response to his mentioning this taboo subject. He believes pregnancy is a normal state and that women should be proud of it. He adds that he likes babies and is fond of Wade.
Rhett warns Scarlett that she should not drive alone as she may be raped by a black man and then the Ku Klux Klan would take revenge, leading to a severe Yankee punishments, perhaps even hangings. The danger to which she exposes the Southern men explains why the Southern women do not like her. He advises her to carry her pistol and offers to swap her horse, which is hard-mouthed and dangerously unstoppable, for a better one. Scarlett feels a momentary rush of gratitude towards him for his care, which quickly turns to anger as he teases her about her feminine helplessness.
Scarlett receives a message saying that Gerald is dead.
Chapter 39
Scarlett goes home to Tara for Geralds funeral. At the station, she runs into Alex Fontaine, who thanks her for helping Tony and tells her that everyone is angry with Suellen, though Scarlett does not let him explain why. Will Benteen arrives to collect her. He asks for her consent to marry Suellen. Scarlett asks why he does not ask Carreen, as he always seemed to favor her. Will says that Carreen has never got over Brent Tarleton and intends to join a convent in Charleston. Will does not want to leave Tara, which he has grown to love as if it were his own. If he remained at Tara with only Suellen, and did not marry her, people would gossip.
Will also says that Ashley does not feel that Tara is his home and as he is not good at farming, he does not feel that he is earning his keep, so he is likely to leave soon and get work. Ashley has been offered a job in a bank by a Yankee friend in New York. Scarlett is horrified by the prospect of Ashleys leaving. She decides to offer him the job of running the first mill she bought, in order to keep him near her in Atlanta.
Will tells Scarlett how Gerald died. Suellen had resented not having money and had found out that the federal government was giving one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in compensation to any Union sympathizer who had had their property destroyed. Hilton had advised Suellen that Gerald had neither fought in the war nor had sons who fought, nor he had never held office under the Confederacy, so they could claim that he was a Union sympathizer. All he would have to do is to swear an oath of allegiance to the Union. Suellen had got Gerald drunk and nagged him until he was prepared to sign the oath. But at the last minute, Suellen had made the mistake of mentioning that the Slatterys had signed the oath, and Gerald had suddenly realized what was happening. He had furiously torn the paper up, stormed out and ridden off on his horse. Later, he had returned and tried to jump the fence, but the horse had refused. Gerald had fallen off and broken his neck.
As soon as Will mentions the one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in compensation, Scarlett understands why Suellen acted as she did.
Analysis of Chapters 37-39
Scarletts New Southern (Northern-influenced) attitude to money is contrasted with the Old Southern attitude. While the Old Southern families, including Melanie and Carreen, are happy to live in genteel poverty and patriotically proud of their old dresses, Scarlett only cares about making money, which she believes is the only protection against any terrible Yankee retribution that may descend. Scarlett unexpectedly feels some sympathy with Suellen over the issue of making Gerald take the oath of allegiance to the Union, because Suellen was motivated by money, and this Scarlett understands. But everyone else hates and resents Suellen for betraying Gerald and the Confederate cause, and Scarlett too is furious with her for her part in Geralds death. There are, however, wider reasons why Gerald died as he did: he wanted to join Ellen; and the reckless spirit we saw when he jumped the fence in Chapter 2 has gained full possession of him, prompted by drink and patriotic fury.
Will, like Scarlett, shows a New Southern ability to compromise in order to get what he wants. Though he has more feelings for Carreen than for Suellen, he pragmatically accepts that Carreen is unavailable and is prepared to marry Suellen so that he can stay at Tara. Though Will shares this opportunistic flexibility with Scarlett (who married Frank so that she could keep Tara), he does not share her hardness of heart, and genuinely seems to appreciate Suellens good points.
The match between Will and Suellen is a sign of how much the old social structures have broken down because of the war. Before the war, someone from a poor family like Will would never have thought of marrying a landed aristocrat like Suellen. But the shortage of men of marriageable age due to the losses in the war means that no girl can afford to insist on marrying within her class. In addition, Tara badly needs someone with good farming skills to put it back in order after it was laid waste by the Yankees. Will has those skills, prompting Scarlett to think of him not as a poor white but as “something the Lord had provided.”
Mitchell takes up the theme of the strained race relations after the war. Mitchell describes the freed slaves lives as “a never-ending picnic, a barbecue every day of the week, a carnival of idleness and theft and insolence,” and the freed slaves themselves as “lazy and dangerous as a result of the new doctrines being taught them.” The term she uses to describe freed slaves is the derogatory “free issue niggers.” They are seen by Mitchell and by Atlanta society as a sexual threat to white women, as expressed by Rhett in his warnings to Scarlett not to drive out alone. In this context, the Ku Klux Klan is represented as a natural response by white Southern men to counter this threat and reassert their masculine dominance. Mitchells only reservations about the Klan seem to be that it is dangerous to be involved in and politically counterproductive, since it provides the perfect excuse for the Yankees to crush the South utterly. Characters such as Ashley do not approve of the violence of the Klan, but he still supports it, and it can be argued that the Klan can afford a few non-violent supporters like Ashley because it has many who are willing to kill.
Mitchells only positive black characters are the loyal family slaves like Uncle Peter and Mammy, who see no future for themselves among the “free issue niggers” they despise, and whose only wish is to stay with their white former owners.
As far as all the above is concerned, Mitchells portrayal of race relations is both reliant on stereotypes and racist, reflecting not only the racism of Scarletts time but also the racism of Mitchells time. Mitchell entirely ignores the appalling conditions into which freed slaves were catapulted after the wars end. Far from enjoying a “never-ending picnic,” most freed slaves had to live in shantytowns. They had no property, money, education, or training beyond their slave status. Idleness and theft, where they existed, were not so much choices as forced upon them.
Despite Mitchells prejudices, however, there are qualifications and unexpected subtleties to be found in the picture she draws. Though Scarlett and other Southerners of her class see nothing wrong with slavery, they have been brought up from an early age with black people as their nurses, playmates and helpers. This breeds a mutual affection, dependence and respect, as is revealed in the conversation between Scarlett and the Yankee women. Scarlett, remembering the caring hands of Mammy, has no hesitation in recommending a black nurse for the baby of one of the women. But the Yankee women, even though their government fought the war to end slavery, have had little contact with black people and neither like nor trust them. They reject Scarletts idea out of hand, assaulting the feelings of Uncle Peter and betraying a fundamental racism. Most significant is Scarletts reaction to Uncle Peters mortified anger that she did not defend him more determinedly and that she should do business with the hated Yankees. Scarlett, who cares for nobodys opinion, feels hurt and humiliated by Peters criticism. It is as if she recognizes that it comes from a place of truth and that therefore she must take note of it.
Of course, it would be easy to conclude that Mitchell is merely giving another biased picture, this time of Yankee hypocrisy and racism and white Southern goodwill towards slaves. But it is hard to counter Mitchells picture of an Old South in which strong bonds must have been formed between many whites and blacks due to the close family structure in which they lived together.
Similarly, there is no doubt that there is truth in Mitchells portrayal of white Yankees like Jonas Wilkerson manipulating freed slaves for political gain. Mitchell says, “The South had been tilted as by a giant malicious hand, and those who had once ruled were now more helpless than their former slaves had ever been.” The white former ruling class of the South now was denied the vote, and the former slave class was given the vote. This led to anger and frustration among the whites. It is in such climates that vigilante and terrorist groups spring up, and the post-war South was no exception, giving birth to the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan in turn gave the Yankees an excuse to crack down even harder on the South, hence perpetuating a vicious cycle. Thus the former slaves were in some ways used as political pawns by the Yankees.