Scarletts life has turned into her recurring nightmare. Overcome with fear, she feels that she is lost in a mist and that “something black and hooded stood just at her shoulder, as though the ground beneath her feet might turn to quicksand as she trod upon it.” She is trying to run towards some safe haven, but it eludes her.
She longs to apologize to Rhett for accusing him of being responsible for Bonnies death, but he is distant and does not encourage any but the most superficial communication. Often, he is drunk or not at home. With Mammy gone home to Tara, Scarlett feels desperately lonely. Though she now leaves her bedroom door invitingly open, Rhett never comes to her. Rhett alienates all the Atlanta ladies whom he had charmed when he had Bonnie with him, rudely cutting off their condolences. Scarlett offends them by seeming to recover from Bonnies death with indecent haste, though in fact, she expends huge effort to appear normal. Among her old friends, only Aunt Pittypat, Melanie and Ashley call on her. She finds that she can no longer pretend to take an interest in her new friends, who know nothing of her past sufferings. Only the Old Southern friends would understand, but they stay away. Scarlett recognizes that this is her own fault.
Scarlett is in Marietta when she receives a telegram from Rhett saying that Melanie is ill. Scarlett returns to Atlanta and Rhett meets her at the station. He tells her that Melanie has had a miscarriage and is dying. She is asking for Scarlett. Scarlett is amazed to hear that Melanie was pregnant, as she has long believed that she and Ashley did not have a sexual relationship.
Dr Meade shows Scarlett into Melanies room, warning her sternly not to make any confessions about Ashley. Melanie asks Scarlett to take care of Beau and Ashley, which Scarlett promises to do. Melanie tells Scarlett that Rhett loves her, and asks her to be kind to him. Though Scarlett agrees automatically, she is bewildered by Melanies words.
As Scarlett leaves the room, she reflects that Melanie, for all her timid manner and physical frailty, has always stood by her and protected her. Melanie has an inner strength that Scarlett has relied upon to sustain her. Scarlett knows that Melanie and Ellen are the only women who ever loved her, and that the two women were alike in that everyone who knew them relied on their love and protection.
Scarlett seeks out Ashley, hoping to draw comfort from his strength. She finds him a broken man, in a state of stunned fear and despair. He tells Scarlett that the only strength he had was drawn from Melanie. Scarlett realizes that Ashley has always loved Melanie and that he has only wanted Scarletts body, in the same way that Rhett wants Belle. She rebukes Ashley for only recognizing his love for Melanie now that it is too late. Scarlett now sees Ashley not as a strong man, but as a weak child. Remembering her promise to Melanie to look after him, she comforts Ashley.
Scarlett realizes that she has not loved Ashley all this time, but only her imagined picture of Ashley. So often she has wished that Melanie would die so that she could have Ashley, but now that this has happened, she does not want him. She thinks with dismay that he has become her burden now: “Ive lost my lover and Ive got another child.”
Scarlett finds the grieving household all looking to her to tell them what to do. With the two mainstays of her life – Melanie and her love for Ashley – collapsed, she cannot face dealing with any more trouble and walks home in the misty night. She has a strange sense of danger, and recognizes the feeling from her nightmares. Just as she had stood alone among the ruins of Tara, so again, her life is in ruins. She begins to run home to Rhett, and suddenly realizes that Rhett is the safe refuge and the strength that she has sought for so long. She remembers all the help and support he had given her over the years and understands that no man would do these things if he had not loved her. She knows that it is Rhett, not Ashley, whom she has loved.
Scarlett tells Rhett that she loves him; what she thought was her love for Ashley was simply a continuation of a childhood habit. Rhett replies that it is too late, as his love for her has worn out, destroyed by her obstinate passion for Ashley. He explains that he has loved her for years and that it was obvious to him that they were meant for each other, as he was the only man who could see her as she was and still love her. He could not tell her his true feelings, as “Youre so brutal to those who love you, Scarlett. You take their love and hold it over their heads like a whip.” Eventually, he found it impossible to be with her in the knowledge that she was wishing he was Ashley, and he had taken refuge with Belle.
He says that the morning after the passionate night with Scarlett, he had been so afraid to discover that she did not love him that he had gone off and got drunk. When he returned, he was waiting for a sign that she could meet him half way, but it never came. Scarlett replies that she did know at that time that she cared for Rhett, but Rhett was so nasty to her that she felt unable to tell him.
Rhett continues, saying that when Scarlett was sick, he longed for her to call for him, but she never did. It was then that he knew it was over between them. He took all the love that Scarlett seemed not to want and poured it into Bonnie. Bonnie was just like Scarlett except in one thing – she loved Rhett. When she went, she took everything with her.
Scarlett feels sorry for Rhett and finally understands his caginess, so like her own. She tells Rhett that she will make it up to him. But he says that he no longer loves her and all he feels for her now is pity and kindness. He is going away. He may go to Charleston to try to make peace with his family. He wants to recapture the Old Southern values that he previously threw away, “the genial grace of days that are gone.” Scarlett quotes Ashleys similar words at Tara, when he was looking nostalgically back to his life as an Old South gentleman and remarked that life then had “A glamour to it – a perfection, a symmetry like Grecian art.” Rhett bitterly notes that she is still thinking of Ashley.
Scarlett asks him what she will do if he goes away. He replies, “My dear, I dont give a damn.” Scarlett realizes that she has never understood either Ashley or Rhett. Now, she knows that “had she ever understood Ashley, she would never have loved him; had she ever understood Rhett, she would never have lost him.”
Scarlett, unable to bear the thought of losing Rhett, tells herself that she will think of all this tomorrow. She will go home to Tara and think of some way to get Rhett back.
Analysis of Chapters 60-63
With Melanies death, Scarlett finally realizes the truth about all those who are close to her. She becomes aware that Melanie, whose frailness and timidity Scarlett has always scorned, has been her mainstay of strength. Feeling the strength drain from her now that Melanie is gone, Scarlett turns to Ashley, thinking that she can draw on his strength. She finds a broken man who looks set to become another child, another burden, to her. At last, she has learned that the difference between Ashley and Rhett is not that Ashley is the fine gentleman that Rhett will never be, but that Ashley is weak where Rhett is strong. When she confesses her love to Rhett, Rhett tells her his story, enabling her to understand for the first time that she and he are alike and that he, alone of all men, has always understood her and loved her as she is.
Tragically, however, Scarletts outpouring of love meets only a wall of apathy. Rhett reveals that he no longer loves her. Once again, to our intense frustration, Rhett and Scarlett have missed one another.
Throughout the novel, Rhett and Ashley have stood in contrast to each other, representing the New South and the Old South respectively. From time to time, however, Scarlett has noticed with surprise some similarities between the two, such as their attitudes to the war and the Ku Klux Klan. Now, Rhett reveals that underneath his cynical, anti-patriotic veneer, he has more of the Old South in him than he has ever admitted. He intends to return home to Charleston, to make peace with his family and recapture the grace and calm of the old days. This is the second time that Rhett reveals that a part of him remains in the Old South, the first time being when he leaves Scarlett on the road to Tara in order to join the Confederate army.?
What has inspired this latest turn of Rhetts mind? Possibly it is his sad reflection that Melanie was both “a very great lady” and “the only completely kind person I ever knew.” These are Old Southern values, far from what Rhett contemptuously calls the “imitation gentry and shoddy manners and cheap emotions” of the Yankees, Scalawags and carpetbaggers whom Rhett and Scarlett previously cultivated. Marking Rhetts re-connection with the Old South is Scarletts remark that Rhett is speaking like Ashley when he talks of “the genial grace of days that are gone.”
Rhett feels that Scarlett cannot understand the pull he feels from the Old Southern lifestyle. But Scarlett too in the end returns to her home ground, Tara, with its memories of a more graceful and dignified age, to gather strength for her campaign to win Rhett back. The significant difference between them at this point is that while Rhett hankers for the past, Scarletts focus is, as ever, firmly on the future: “Tomorrow is another day.”
Scarletts words, and the novels ending, can be read in two ways. Scarletts mantras, “Ill think of it tomorrow” and “Tomorrow is another day,” carry an ambiguous message. On one hand, Scarlett is an optimist; one of her great strengths is her ability not to get bogged down in past failures and disappointments, but to fix her mind on a goal and single-mindedly pursue it by sheer force of will. Seen in this light, these phrases encapsulate her strength. But on the other hand, we have seen her use such clich?d phrases many times to avoid facing the consequences of her actions or listening to her conscience. Though she has attained some increased awareness – for example, she has at last understood those close to her and realized that she herself has caused her social isolation – it is open to question whether she has reflected on her actions enough to change fundamentally. It seems as if, even before she has got home to Tara, she has already replaced reflection with defining a new goal (winning Rhett back) and setting her course to attain it, rather than examining how she lost him in the first place. Thus we can read her words either as suggesting a positive outcome, or as yet more of the hardheaded willfulness that may result in disaster (as it did with Gerald and Bonnie).
Insofar as Scarlett represents the South, however, the novels end shows the indomitable spirit of both. Like her ancestors, “who would not know defeat, even when it stared them in the face,” Scarlett herself and the South as a whole are determined to triumph over defeat. All those characters who represent the Old South, including Ashley and Melanie, are dead or fatally weakened. The implication is that those who are allied to Old Southern values will not survive. Scarletts choice of Rhett over Ashley is symbolic of the Souths resolution to survive by embracing change, as Rhett is so often identified with the New South. This is qualified to some extent by Rhetts last-minute return to his Old Southern roots. Rhetts return to Charleston in search of his past at the same time that Scarlett is looking to her future symbolizes the tension felt in the post-war South, simultaneously nostalgic for its past and ambitious for its future. There is no doubt, however, that the times have moved on: it is the New Southern values that Rhett formerly embraced, and that Scarlett continues to embrace, that dominate now.