Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gone With the Wind, Parts 1 and 2: A Summary

Scarlett O'Hara was sixteen years old when we meet her in the days immediately leading up to the American Civil War. She has all the attention from all of the boys and men around, but she only desires Ashley Wilkes, a childhood friend and neighbor. Upon learning that he is to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, and go to the war, Scarlett agrees to marry Melanie's brother, Charles Hamilton, even though she does not love him. Charles dies of measles shortly after he leaves for the war, and Scarlett bears him a child, Wade, who she basically ignores and leaves to a slave, Prissy, to raise.

Scarlett, Wade, and Prissy all go to Atlanta to stay with Aunt Pittypat and Melanie Wilkes, Ashley's wife. The women are all in mourning, but do take turns nursing the wounded at the hospital. During a fundraiser for the hospital, Scarlett and Melanie are called upon to work a booth, even though it is deemed inappropriate because of their mourning status. Scarlett is thrilled because she is tired of being cooped up in the house, and pretending to mourn a dead husband she never cared about, while everyone else her age (now seventeen) is off at balls. At the fundraiser, Dr. Meade declares a bidding auction for the privilege of dancing with the ladies, and a blockade runner named Rhett Butler bids a large amount of gold for Scarlett. This is a true scandal because she is a new widow, but Scarlett agrees to do it. Rhett excites and infuriates her, as he was present in the room when Scarlett declared her love for Ashley before he left for the war, and Rhett teases Scarlett about that and her resulting temper.

As then next 2 years pass, the Confederacy takes a hard beating both on the fronts and at home. Supplies are hard to come by and food prices skyrocket. Rhett makes a fortune running the blockades, and by selling and buying from both the North and the South. His outspokenness about the eventual demise of the Confederacy gets him ostracized from polite Atlanta society, though Melanie insists he is a good man, and allows him to continue to visit them. He brings gifts and treats to Aunt Pitty, Melanie, and, of course, to Scarlett. Rhett and Scarlett are seen together and it is quite scandalous.

After two years, Ashley comes home on a furlough for Christmas. Scarlett connives to see him alone. He asks her to take care of Melanie for him, and she tells him again how much she loves him. With a sad look on his face, he tells her good-bye, without giving her the kiss she had asked him for. Scarlett is determined that he loves her. Three months later, she is shocked to find out that Melanie is expecting Ashley's child. She determines to leave Atlanta and return to Tara, but then Ashley is reported as missing. Rhett uses his connections in the North to find out that Ashley has been taken prisoner and is being held at the most horrible prison camp in the North, Rock Springs in Illinois.

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