Saturday 13 June 2015

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (chapter check-in)

Corinne is unable to host the Gone With the Wind discussion for chapters 21-30, so I have put up my hand to help out.

I've been loving my reread of GWTW & enjoying the group discussions immensely, so I was keen to ensure the group had somewhere to touch base until Corinne could regroup on her own blog.

There will be spoiler references in this post, so if you haven't read up to chapter 30, stop right here until you catch up!


At the start of Chapters 21-30 we see the war proper arrive in Atlanta. Soldiers marching by, the sound of cannon and untold numbers of injured overflowing from the hospitals. Half of Atlanta flees ahead of the advancing Yankee troops, but Scarlett and Melanie stay as they wait for the birth of Melanie's baby.

Thanks to the timely reappearance of Rhett, Scarlett and Melanie are helped out of Atlanta as it burns. It is right here that we witness the famous first kiss between Rhett and Scarlett...just before he runs off to join the retreating Confederate army.

Scarlett, Melanie, Prissy and kids undergo a harrowing trip to Tara only to learn the even more distressing news on their arrival that Mrs O'Hara has just died of typhoid fever the day before. Mr O'Hara has lost his mind with grief and the other girls are still recovering from their illnesses. All but three of the slaves have run off, the cotton has been burned by the Yankees and there is very little food for anyone.

Scarlett pulls herself together to save her family from starvation and illness. Everyone now has jobs to do to help out. Scarlett kills a Yankee soldier and Melanie helps her cover up the deed.

The war ends and the Confederate troops slowly walk home. The folk of Tara help feed and shelter many of them in the hope that some other families are caring for Ashley as he walks home to them. One of the returning soldiers is Will Benteen who stops at Tara to help out in thanks for the care given. Scarlett finds herself relying on his gentle strength and sensible advice.

Chapter 30 is also the end of Part Three. Tara is struggling to get back on its feet, Scarlett is a changed woman and Melanie is slowly recovering from her difficult child bearing experience. The last triumphant, stirring paragraph brings Ashley back into the loving arms of his patient wife.


For me the challenge in rereading GWTW is separating out my memories of the movie from the book. It's not always easy as the movie was very faithful to the original. And some of the movie images are so powerful that they will stay with me for the rest of my life, no matter how many times I reread the book.

Atlanta burning is one of those images.
Rereading Scarlett's mad dash with Rhett, Melanie, Prissy and kids through the burning warehouses was actually made more dramatic thanks to the movie.
Ahead of them was a tunnel of fire where buildings were blazing on either side of the short, narrow street that led down to the railroad tracks. They plunged into it. A glare brighter than a dozen suns dazzled their eyes, scorching heat seared their skins and the roaring, cackling and crashing beat upon their ears in painful waves.
It was impossible to read those words without the movie images accompanying every sentence.

But one of the big differences between the movie and the book is Will Benteen. As I was reading this section, I actually stopped to exclaim, "who the hell is Will Benteen?" I had forgotten all about him from my first read through of GWTW back in my twenties. And like young Wade, Scarlett's baby to Charles Hamilton, he's cut from the movie completely! It is in fact, Will (& not Mammy) who holds Scarlett back when Melanie rushes down the avenue into Ashley's arms at the end of chapter 30.
Eventually all the family found their way into Will's room to air their troubles - even Mammy, who had at first been distant with him because he was not quality and had owned only two slaves....gradually, unobtrusively, a large part of the burden of Tara shifted from Scarlett's shoulders to the bony shoulders of Will Benteen.
I'm now very, very curious to see what happens with the Benteen storyline in future chapters. Why did Mitchell include him in the story? And why was he ditched in the movie?

During this section, Scarlett undergoes a huge period of personal upheaval and growth. She starts off needing her mother's love and strength to get her through, but Ellen's death rocks Scarlett to her very core. She is on her own, and she feels there is no-one for her to lean on or to ask for help. She pushes her grief to one side and gets stuck into the hard work of repairing Tara and finding food to feed everyone. She comes to challenge Ellen's views:
Nothing her mother had taught her was of any value whatsoever now and Scarlett's heart was sore and puzzled....'Nothing, no, nothing, she taught me is of any help to me! What good will kindness do me now? What value is gentleness?
And even when Grandma Fontaine pulls her aside to tell her thats it's,
'very bad for a woman not to be afraid of something....there's something unnatural about a woman who isn't afraid...Scarlett, always save something to fear - even as you save something to love...'
Scarlett ignores the advice and fails to see how Grandma Fontaine's story might help her. So even though Scarlett has learnt a lot about being strong and independent, she still fails to see any perspective but her own. She belittles Carreen's heartbreak, finds Frank's love for Suellen incomprehensible and feels annoyed at Melly because of her ability to "grasp more of situations than she herself did."

At the same time, several events allow Scarlett to somewhat grudgingly see how strong Melly really is underneath her quiet, gentle nature.

What do you think of Scarlett's choices during this section?

As an aside, did you know that Mitchell got the name for her book from a line in one of her favourite poems? And did you spot Mitchell's use of 'gone with the wind' in this section of the book as well?

Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae

    (I am not as I was under the reign of the good Cynara - Horace)

    LAST night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
    There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
    Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
    And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. 

    All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
    Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
    Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
    But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    When I awoke and found the dawn was gray:
    I have been faithful to you, Cynara! in my fashion. 

    I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
    Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
    Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
    But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, all the time, because the dance was long;
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. 

    I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
    But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
    Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
    And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.
    Ernest Dowson

Just in case Corinne is unable to host the next chapter check-in, TJ from My Book Strings has indicated that she can lead us through chapters 31-40. Until then, please feel free to leave your GWTW related posts in the linky below.
I'm using #gwtwreadalong on Instagram if anyone wants to post pics of where they're reading GWTW.



Friday May 1: first post – just to enthuse about how excited we are to begin. 
Saturday May 16: first check-in on Chapters One through Ten
Saturday May 30:  check-in on Chapters Eleven through Twenty
Saturday June 13:  check-in on Chapters Twenty-One through Thirty
Saturday June 27:  check-in on Chapters Thirty-One through Forty
Saturday July 11:  check-in on Chapters Forty-One through Fifty
Saturday July 25:  check-in on Chapters Fifty-One through Sixty
Saturday August 1:  check-in on Chapters Sixty-One through Sixty-Three (final discussion)


  1. Brona, I did not know where Mitchell got the title of her book. Thanks for sharing that!

    I think Scarlett is making a horrible mistake in thinking that good will, kindness and gentleness have no value and will not do her any good, because it's quite the opposite.

    I went back and read what Grandma Fontaine said to Scarlett about fear and found that this line seems to foreshadow what will happen if Scarlett doesn't heed her warning: "And that lack of fear has gotten me into a lot of trouble and cost me a lot of happiness."

    Thank you for your thought provoking post and for hosting this week's discussion!

    1. I think Scarlett is making a terrible mistake too, and I think Mitchell is showing us she agrees but giving us Melanie's kind behaviour as a counter balance.

    2. That's a good point and thank goodness for Melanie as a counter balance. :)

    3. Deborah, I didn't think of Scarlett's bitterness as a hindrance until you pointed it out. That's a really good point and I agree that Grandma Fontaine's advice is a foreshadow.

  2. Anonymous14/6/15

    Scarlett continues to drive me crazy. I wish she would realize how strong she is and be a little less selfish. It's been a long time since I saw the movie, but you are right, there are some very memorable scenes in the movie that keep popping into my head too as I am reading. Thanks for organizing this check-in, and unless we hear differently from Corinne, I'll do the check-in in 2 weeks.

    1. Scarlett is infuriating. She has so much potential, but she never seems to learn from her mistakes. She seems to do all the right things for the wrong reasons and the wrong things for the right reasons!

    2. Haha, Yes Brona, that sentence is perfect! "She seems to do all the right things for the wrong reasons and the wrong things for the right reasons." I love that!

  3. Anonymous15/6/15

    I didn't know the title was taken from a poem, but I certainly noticed it in the text! :) Actually, in this section I really did begin to like Scarlett. Even though she is very selfish still (at least her thought process suggests so), I think her actions show that she actually does care, and even if she regards Melly and her sisters as "burdens" -- we can still see that she cares about their well-being.

    I was also surprised when Will Benteen was introduced. For now, I cannot predict what purpose he shall serve. (I have never seen the film and am saving that for after I am done with the book.)

  4. I laughed out loud when I read your comment about Will Benteen. Hahaha! I had sort of the same reaction. Who is THIS!? Where's Rhett!? I have no idea where Will will play out in the story. I thought maybe he would end up marrying Careen but nothing was said about marriage to Will anywhere before ch. 31.

    Thank you for sharing the poem. I think it's neat that she got the title from a poem. And, also, thank you for hosting the linky! I'm very glad that the Read-A-Long can continue. It's really helped me to keep reading such a long book.

  5. Thanks so much to you and others for helping to keep this read-along going! I am sorry Corinne is unable to participate right now, but hopefully she realizes she started a really good thing! I'll not read your post just yet since I am WAY WAY WAY behind! However, at least I have finally posted by thoughts on the first 10 chapters! I have some other reading/reviewing/interviewing commitments this next week, but I hope to catch up within the next two weeks! Thanks again for providing a place to post and commune with others over GWTW! :)

    1. So glad you can join us. Just jump in when you're ready with comments. Most of the others created posts for each chapter, whereas I added my thoughts for each section on other people's posts.
      Feel free to add any catch up posts to the link above as well :-)

  6. So unbelievably far behind... :( Just posted my check-in #2 for chapters 11-20: Now I'll read everyone else's #2! :)


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