Sunday, 14 August 2011

Gone With The Wind - Chapters 8 to 15

Scarlett is now in Atlanta. The town has grown rapidly in just a few years, first due to the growth of the railways and then because of the war.

Almost the pulsing of the town's heart could be felt as the work went forward night and day, pumping the materials of war up the railway arteries to the two battle fronts. Trains roared in and out of the town at all hours. Soot from the newly erected factories fell in showers on the white houses. By night, the furnaces glowed and the hammers clanged long after the townsfolk were abed. Where vacant lots had been a year before, there were new factories turning out harness, saddles and shoes, ordnance-supply plants making rifles and cannon, rolling mills and foundries producing iron rails and freight cars to replace those destroyed by the Yankees, and a variety of industries manufacturing spurs, bridle-bits, buckles, tents, buttons, pistols and swords.

The social whirl is continuing in Atlanta despite the war. However if Scarlett thought that she might find more freedom in this new city she is mistaken. She is still expected to abide by the rules set down by her elders. She is tortured by the sight of young people her own age enjoying themselves while she is expected to stay home and mourn Charles. The only time she is in company is when she is volunteering at the hospital - a job which is expected of her, but which disgusts her.
Then Scarlett's luck changes.  A fundraiser is being held for the war effort and volunteers are needed to run the stalls. Scarlett can be there without being disapproved of because it is for 'the Cause'. It is here that she meets Rhett again and is drawn to him despite herself. Rhett only cares about other people's opinions as far as they further his own aims. Scarlett realises that she doesn't care about the war, and she doesn't care about the people in the hospital. It is the beginnning of her breaking free from convention.
It is also at the fundraiser that we see the first flash of spirit from Melly when she says that the militia shouldn't be in Atlanta, but should be fighting with the rest of the troops in Virginia. She is even braver later on when she insists that Rhett will always be welcome in her home, despite being shunned by the rest of Atlanta society. I think that Melly is shaping up to be the moral centre of the book.
Despite early optimism the war is turning against the South. The Battle of Gettysburg takes place and lots of people Scarlett and Melly knew are killed, including the Tarleton twins. Ashley survives and comes home on leave.  Scarlett is joyful that he is alive and consumed with jealousy because he is with Melly. When he goes back to the front it is implied that he loves Scarlett too. It seems that Ashley was too cowardly to marry Scarlett, so he settled for the safer option of Melly. Both Melly and her brother Charles married people who didn't love them. Perhaps their lives were so sheltered that they didn't recognise that there was anything missing from their relationships.
So, we wait to see what Miss Scarlett will do next. I wonder if we'll hear anything about poor little Wade Hampton, Scarlett seems to have forgotten that she has a child. I am also interested to see how Melly's character develops, whether she will become more forceful and stand up to the ladies of Atlanta. And will she see Scarlett as she really is? To see what others thought of this section of Gone With The Wind visit The Heroine's Bookshelf where Erin is hosting the readalong.

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