In reading Ashley's letters sent to Melanie, Scarlett rationalizes...
She knew Ellen would rather see her dead than know her guilty of such dishonor. This had worried Scarlett at first, for she still wanted to be like her mother in every respect. But the temptation to read the letters was too great and she put the thought of Ellen out of her mind. She had become adept at putting unpleasant thoughts out of her mind these days. She had learned to say, "I won't think of this or that bothersome thought now, I'll think about it tomorrow." Generally when tomorrow came, the thought either did not occur at all or it was so attenuated by the delay it was not very troublesome. So the matter of Ashley's letters did not lie very heavily on her conscience. (146)
But honestly, what did 'lie heavily' on Scarlett's conscience? Not much, from what I can tell! She pretty much sets her own rules and guidelines whenever possible...
I am not afraid of danger or capture or wounds or even death, if death must come, but I do fear that once this war is over, we will never get back to the old times. And I belong in those old times. I do not belong in this mad present of killing and I fear I will not fit into any future, try though I may. Nor will you, my dear, for you and I are of the same blood. I do not know what the future will bring, but it cannot be as beautiful or as satisfying as the past. (148)
Mitchell describes how these 'old ways' have already changed: marriages are happening within days, the old decorum of courting and all the rules and delays that go with it are out the window as men who fear being killed within days or months are anxious to marry now!
...you had asked me what was in my heart, and the fear of defeat is there. Do you remember at the barbecue, the day our engagement was announced, that a man named Butler, a Charlestonian by his accent, nearly caused a fight by his remarks about the ignorance of Southerners? ...We should have paid heed to cynics like Butler who knew, instead of statesmen who felt--and talked. He said, in effect, that the South had nothing with which to wage war but cotton and arrogance. Our cotton is worthless and what he called arrogance is all that is left. But I call that arrogance matchless courage. (148)
|Sorry, just LOVE Clark Ga...Rhett! Yum!|
..."He thinks the war is all wrong but he's willing to fight and die anyway, and that takes lots more courage than fighting for something you think is right." (164)
Scarlett is shocked to
...realize that anyone as absolutely perfect as Ashley could have any thought in common with such a reprobate as Rhett Butler. She thought: "They both see the truth of this war, but Ashley is willing to die about it and Rhett isn't. I think that shows Rhett's good sense." She paused a moment, horror struck that she could have such a thought about Ashley. "They both see the same unpleasant truth, but Rhett likes to look it in the face and enrage people by talking about it--and Ashley can hardly bear to face it."
It was very bewildering. (164)
Her only curiosity about the letters was to know if Ashley wrote impassioned letters to his wife, and he did not. To her mind, that meant he truly didn't love Melanie and did love her. She surmised,
He lives inside his head instead of outside in the world and he hates to come out into the world and--Oh, I don't know what it is! If I'd just understood this one thing about him years ago, I know he'd have married me. (149)
Actually, Scarlett...he is 'cerebral'--you however, are NOT! Oh, Scarlett, your emotions haven't changed since you were 14 years old regarding Ashley. Granted, that was only 4-5 years ago, but...really! I find myself angrier about her Ashley obsession earlier on than I have been in past readings! Guess I'm older and a bit more impatient with her. And it's just wrong! He is married to another woman--your own sister-in-law and housemate, for goodness sake! :) (Perhaps this is now much more important to me than it was in the past, having been betrayed by a spouse...)
...her dream asked no more than acknowledgement of his love, went no further than hopes of a kiss. (150)
She was done with marriage, but not with love, for her love for Ashley was something different,...sacred and breath-takingly beautiful, an emotion that grew slealthily through the long days of her enforced silence, feeding on oft-thumbed memories and hopes. (150)
Can we say 'Drama Queen'? ;)
Rhett had effectively 'released' Scarlett from the bonds of mourning and social isolation at the bazaar and continued to take her out whenever in Atlanta; this was yet another 'convention' that was undone by the war, especially as long as Scarlett willingly worked as a nurse caring for the wounded, who were literally lying in the streets, due to overcrowding/lack of hospital beds and/or lack of any shelter. Though nursing was enlivening to her in the beginning (and got her out among people), as she could convince so many of these soldiers she really cared for them and win their adoration and attention, it eventually became no more or less than an unpleasant and grisly chore to her. And though Rhett's attentions were a welcome distraction,
...there always lurked in the back of her mind the disquieting memory that he had seen her at her worst and knew the truth about Ashley. It was this knowledge that checked her tongue when he annoyed her. And he annoyed her frequently. (153)
For all his exasperating qualities, she grew to look forward to his calls. There was something exciting about him that she could not analyze, something different from any man she had ever known. There was something breath-taking in the grace of his big body which made his very entrance into a room like an abrupt physical impact, something in the impertinence and bland mockery of his dark eyes that challenged her spirit to subdue him.
"It's almost like I was in love with him!" she thought, bewildered. "But I'm not and I just can't understand it." (154)
Oh, Scarlett, if only you would listen to yourself!! :) You might have saved yourself and those around you so much sorrow! And who was Rhett's sole and most stalwart advocate in Atlanta society? Not Scarlett...no, it was Melanie! She would never forget his generosity in returning her wedding band AND his unfailing courtesy toward her. Though outside of the many military heroes, he was the most talked about man in Atlanta at the time, "...she felt that what he needed was the love of a good woman." (155) Rhett would have been quite amused had he known...
There were few ladies who could resist his charms when he chose to exert them, and finally even Mrs. Merriwether unbent and invited him to Sunday dinner. (157)
|The Merriwether's learn of their oldest son's death...|
Rhett keeps trying to get Scarlett to quit wearing black clothing, especially since she is attending all social activities anyway. (This is one of my favorite scenes!) So he brings her a green bonnet! When she asks whose it is, Rhett replies,
"It's your bonnet, who else could wear that shade of green? Don't you think I carried the color of your eyes well in my mind?" (169)
Aw...how romantic! :) As Scarlett asks the price and offers to pay for it over time, Rhett replies,
"I don't want any money for it,...it's a gift."
Scarlett's mouth dropped open. The line was so closely, so carefully drawn where gifts from men were concerned.
...I simply can't tell him I won't accept it. It's too darling. I'd--I'd almost rather he took a liberty, if it was a very small one." Then she
was horrified at herself for having such a thought and she turned pink. (170)
Eventually, Rhett does no more than graze her cheek with a 'kiss,' though she was all puckered up waiting for a real kiss, as he points out to her! Scarlett muses,
If he didn't want to marry her and didn't even want to kiss her, what did he want? If he wasn't in love with her, why did he call so often and bring her presents?
"That's better," he said. "Scarlett, I'm a bad influence on you and if you have any sense you will send me packing--if you can. I'm very hard to get rid of. But I'm bad for you."
"...I shall bring you presents as long as it pleases me and so long as I see things that will enhance your charms....And I warn you that I am not kind. I am tempting you with bonnets and bangles and leading you into a pit. Always remember I never do anything without reason and I never give anything without expecting something in return. I always get paid." (172)
At least he did warn her! :)
The very next day Melanie is appalled because she allowed Belle Watling, an infamous local "madame" to talk to her and give her money for the hospital...which was wrapped up in a monogrammed handkerchief which Scarlett immediately recognizes as one of Rhett's since she has one just like it, and thinks, "Oh,...if I just wasn't a lady, what wouldn't I tell that varmint!" Hah! Poor Scarlett. Was that perhaps the jealous bug biting?
|Scarlett makes a sash for Ashley's gift...|
"I think the Yankees have us....[They] are buying soldiers from Europe by the thousands! Most of the prisoners we've taken recently can't even speak English. They're Germans and Poles and wild Irishmen who talk Gaelic. But when we lose a man, he can't be replaced. When our shoes wear out, there are no more shoes. We're bottled up, Scarlett. And we can't fight the whole world."
Ashley explains that this is why he is asking Scarlett to
"...look after Melanie. She's so frail and weak and you're so strong, Scarlett. It will be a comfort to me to know that you two are together if anything happens to me. You will promise, won't you?"
"Oh, yes!" she cried, for at that moment, seeing death at his elbow she would have promised anything. (192)
Scarlett had no idea what the implications of this rash promise would mean for her future. Just as he is leaving Ashley is weak enough to allow Scarlett to see his true feelings of love for her. This just gives her more hope overall. And I'm still irritated with her for all this trying to hang on to what I feel is nothing more than a 'school-girl crush'!! ;)
Rhett pulls strings to learn that Ashley has been taken prisoner and refused to take an oath and join the Yankees to save himself from imprisonment. Scarlett was angry that he'd not taken the oath and then deserted. When she asked Rhett if that isn't what he would have done,
"Of course," said Rhett, his teeth showing beneath his mustache.
"Then why didn't Ashley do it?"
"He's a gentleman," said Rhett, and Scarlett wondered how it was possible to convey such cynicism and contempt in that one honorable word. (200)
In this case, honorable does not necessarily denote smart in a self-preserving way, does it?
Though I'm no big fan of war or fighting strategies, Mitchell's description of the Yankee approach toward Atlanta through charges, retreats, and encirclement was rather fascinating...
And finally, Rhett's profession to Scarlett:
"...while I like you immensely, I do not love you and it would be tragic indeed for you to suffer twice from unrequited love, wouldn't it?"..."I should love you, for you are charming and talented at many useless accomplishments. But many ladies have charm and accomplishments and are just as useless as you are. No, I don't love you. But I do like you tremendously--for the elasticity of your conscience, for the selfishness which you seldom trouble to hide, and for the shrewd practicality in you which, I fear, you get from some not too remote Irish-peasant ancestor."..."I want you more than I have ever wanted any woman--and I've waited longer for you than I've ever waited for any woman."
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
"Good Lord, no! Didn't I tell you I wasn't a marrying man?"
He rose to his feet and, hand on heart, made her a burlesque bow.
"Dear," he said quietly, "I am complimenting your intelligence by asking you to be my mistress without having first seduced you."
"Mistress! What would I get out of that except a passel of brats?"
And then her jaw dropped in horror as she realized what she had said.
He laughed until he choked...
"That's why I like you! You are the only frank woman I know, the only woman who looks on the practical side of matters without beclouding the issue with mouthings about sin and morality. Any other woman would have swooned first and then shown me the door." (237-238)
Oh, Scarlett, and this is why I love you so!!
I love reliving this book 10 chapters at a time! Cannot wait until I've read it completely and then I will watch the movie for about the 9th time or somewhere in that range! If you've never read GWtW you really should give it a try!