GWTW Chapters 21-30: Scarlett the Heroine

I didn't have a picture to go along with this post, so out of respect for Mrs. Tarleton's lost horses & the hardship of finding a horse -- here are horseys!

I didn’t have a picture to go along with this post, so out of respect for Mrs. Tarleton’s lost horses & the hardship of finding a horse — here are horseys!

I think this is a day late, I thought the check-in was on Sunday…

No matter how hard I try, I cannot bring all of my thoughts into a cohesive narrative. I always aim for essay form, but it’s more fun to throw out observation. So here are some of my notes:

The first few chapters of this section were startling. Mitchell’s storytelling was at its best, and I felt surrounded by the atmosphere she created — cannons thundering in the distance, china clinking in its glass stand, the flies buzzing around and getting more daring with each rotation (almost perching in hair, on the shoulder), the smothering heat, sticky clothes and sweat everywhere. And Scarlet! I felt so proud of her and so SO happy about the way Mitchell presented that scenario! I think it’s so real that Scarlett thinks so selfishly in those moments of anxiety and danger, that is what any human would do. She wishes that Melanie would die or the baby would come later, & cetera. But at the same time she cares so much (at least that is how I perceived it). Being afraid and still staying with Melanie is gritty and honorable and somehow very real. Yes, she is stressed and preoccupied with her own fears but all the while staying incredibly brave and managing the situation incredibly well. I would probably break down. I think these chapters made me finally love Scarlett.

Rhett is still such a curious character. When he shows up amidst the dust and the echoes of battle dressed in white and silk and ruffle, I could not understand why! Why does Mitchell continue portraying him like that? When the whole world goes to hell, Rhett is still there, still caustic, always well-dressed. I’d like to put this out for discussion. Part of me thinks it’s because Rhett is like Scarlett’s bulwark (both emotionally and physically – muscular arms, mhm? 😉 ), so he always appears sturdy and like nothing’s changed. But I also think here he might be representing the last bulwark of the Southern tradition? I’m not sure and would love to hear other thoughts.

The moment when the young soldier falls down, and the bearded man just returns for him and carries him forward seemed to impress Rhett very much. I think this is the moment that made him decide to go to war at such an inopportune moment. Of course, see above, I am still very confused by Rhett. Why does he decide to go after Scarlett tells him she is glad he isn’t in the army? Does he feel less of a man/a patriot? Ashamed? What is it about the scene with the boy and the older soldier?!

Purely hedonistic observation: the romance that Mitchell injects into these crazy scenes is quite appealing. That kiss, anyone?

On page 380 (of the purple+gold edition) we get the title of the book. It refers to the war and the desolation that it brings, change, losing home, & cetera.

“Was Tara still standing? Or was Tara also gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia?”

And all of the Melanie-Scarlett bonding moments! I promised I’d save all those observations for a separate post about the female friendship in the novel (and why I think it stands above the romance), but let’s just say a lot of exclamation marks were written in the margins of this section… Especially when Scarlett shoots the Yankee, and Melly is there with Charles’ sword — I loved that passage so much!

I’ll wrap it up here. For other readalongers out there: I’m going to continue with the check-ins and discussion because I am really enjoying it, but also out of respect for what Corinne has started. My best wishes go out to her.♥

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9 responses to “GWTW Chapters 21-30: Scarlett the Heroine

  1. I like that you pointed out that Scarlett’s thoughts were very human. That’s true. I think everyone, at one time or another, when under stress, has had a horrible thought or two run through their minds, that they would’ve had to check.

    Rhett always being so debonair in appearance just reminds me of a Southern prince charming. 🙂 (Yet, Scarlett doesn’t recognize him as that at all.) But it could be more than that, I just don’t know.

    I think Rhett has a soft heart and when the Confederacy was on it’s last leg he couldn’t stand by and watch. He had to help.

    And that kiss was something else!

    • I agree that Rhett has a soft heart and uses his cynicism to cover that up (ex: how he treats Melanie – I mentioned that in my last check-in). So maybe, yes, he had to help. I am very interested in finding out how he returns & what story he has to tell.
      Thank you for dropping by!

  2. First up, I love your horses!
    Believe it or not, Rhett joining up at the end of the war made perfect sense to me. I spent this afternoon trying to work out why I got that scene and Rhett’s motivation so quickly…when I realised it’s an Aussie thing.
    The scene of the young boy stumbling in the ranks and being helped by the older soldiers is an iconic Aussie digger/mateship motif. Obviously the Confederates experienced a similar phenomenon – perhaps it has something to do with being the underdog?
    As soon as Rhett saw that instinctive, dignified support of a mate, he realised what he was missing out on. He didn’t believe in the terms of the war or the politicians or their rhetoric, but he believed in these men. Even though he shuns many of the South’s social mores, he is still a Southerner through and through. He knew he wouldn’t be able to live with himself, if he didn’t walk in the shoes of these men.

    As coincidence would have it, I also came across a new book at work this afternoon that pretty much explains that this was a real thing for the Rebels. The book is called Reluctant Rebels by Kenneth Noe. He talks about the late enlisters feeling compelled to join up because of “kinship and neighbourhood…they were determined to protect their families and property.”

    Mitchell was way ahead of her time in depicting Rhett’s reluctance and the subsequent reasons for his enlisting. She also depicted a far more nuanced, complex set of feelings in Rhett’s case than simply defending family and property. Despite everything Rhett has said prior to enlisting, he still has a need to belong.

    • Oh, that’s very interesting! I had to google what you were talking about :), but it makes sense! After witnessing a soldier support his mates, Rhett felt like he had to be part of that, as you said. Clever! I certainly agree that Mitchell portrays a very nuanced character in Rhett and Rhett’s attitude to the war. I can’t wait for him to come back!

  3. Yes! I am left wondering about Rhett’s decision to go to war too! And so much happens after he goes to war and the end of the section but nothing that mentions him! This section made me like Scarlett more too. And I am impressed with Melanie for sure.

  4. My explanation for Rhett joining the war was much less altruistic… I thought he’d do it for personal advantage later on. So much of his actions are for selfish reasons and he knew the war was lost. I thought he figured that he could play both sides again after the war. To Southerners, he could say that he did join and fight, and to Northerners, he could point out that he only fought at the very end, when he knew the Cause was lost. But I like Brona’s explanation much better! The book and I didn’t get on too well at the beginning, but now, I really enjoy reading it. (I hope to “see” you for next week’s check-in; I’d love to read your thoughts, since Scarlett only grows stronger.)

    • Hmm, I don’t know. I thought the way the scene was set up suggested an emotional reason as well. So yes, I like Brona’s explanation :). For now, at least. 😛 Your reasoning sounds more characteristic of Rhett.

      Thanks for dropping by, and I hope to “see” you, as well. 😀 (P.S. I love the logic behind your blog title and your dedication to women authors!)

      • I’ve read quite a bit further by now and realize that my explanation of Rhett’s behavior cannot stand. I don’t want to give anything away, but he is more honorable than I gave him credit for when I read that scene.
        (And thank you for your compliments.)

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