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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

Chapter 19

Summary

The siege of Atlanta rages with Melanie and Scarlett clutching each other in fear in Melanie’s upstairs bedroom as Prissy and little Wade hide in the basement. Remembering her promise to Ashley to take care of Melanie, Scarlett refuses her mother's pleas that they return home to Tara. At first she agrees to send Wade and Prissy back to Tara, but news that the Yankees are skirmishing along the railroad between Atlanta and Jonesboro puts a hold on that plan.

Gradually Scarlett and the other remaining citizens of Atlanta grow accustomed to the noise of cannons and the clouds of smoke that hang in the air. At night, Scarlett ministers to the dozens of soldiers who knock on her door asking for food, water, or permission to sleep on the lawn. One of the soldiers is Uncle Henry who has stopped to give them the news that John Wilkes, Ashley’s father is dead.


As predicted, the Yankees swing around toward Jonesboro, but a letter from her father assures Scarlett that they did not get as far as Tara as it was the railroad they wanted. Gerald also informs her that Carreen is sick with typhoid, and Scarlett must not go home even if the railroad becomes available. One evening Rhett visits Scarlett while she is sitting alone in the evening on her front porch. He teases and insults her, but then becomes more gentle, kissing her hand and wrist. She thinks he is going to proclaim his love for her and imagines ways to torment him in return for all the insults he has given her. However, he leads her on instead, telling her that he likes her for all of her faults because he has the same faults, but that he doesn’t love her. She thinks he is about to ask her to marry him, but instead he asks her to be his mistress. Outraged, Scarlett tells him to leave and never come back.

Notes

Rhett is actually in love with Scarlett, but will not tell her because he wants her to be in love with him first. Otherwise she will try to torment him, make him jealous and lead him on instead of giving an answer. However, he is a scoundrel for asking her to be his mistress. Even if she has turned her back on most of her own upbringing, she wouldn't go that far, yet. The very fact that he asks her is a foreshadowing of some point where she will be willing.

Chapter 20

Summary

At the end of August the siege of Atlanta abruptly falls silent. The people soon hear that the Yankees have amassed a large body of troops against Jonesboro and the southern soldiers have been withdrawn from the lines around Atlanta to fight for the Macon railroad. Further word from home reveals that Mrs. O'Hara and both girls are dangerously sick with typhoid.

On the morning of the first of September, the sounds of shelling can be heard again-south of Atlanta this time. On the same morning, Melanie calls for her and asks her to take care of her baby if she should die. Scarlett hurriedly agrees as Melanie tells her that she is in labor.

Notes

None are needed for this chapter.

Chapter 21

Summary

Scarlett sends Prissy from place to place in search of a doctor or midwife to help with Melanie. The little slave manages to find out that there is fighting at Jonesboro and the confederates are losing, but she is unable to find a midwife. Finally Scarlett goes out herself. From Peachtree Street to Five points, the streets are crowded with wounded soldiers and with wagons full of household goods. She stops a soldier who tells her they have lost at Jonesboro; the army is in full retreat and will soon be evacuating Atlanta. When she does find Dr. Meade, it is in the middle of a street lined with bodies of dead and dying men. Dr. Meade refuses to leave the soldiers, telling her there is nothing much to delivering a baby. Scarlett returns home to find out that Prissy lied to her and knows nothing about midwifery, yet the two of them will have to deliver Melanie’s baby.

Notes

It is ironic that the same doctor who warned Scarlett that Melanie would probably have a hard time with her delivery, and that he didn't want some midwife doing it, is now sending Scarlett for those very midwives. It should be a symbolic gesture to have new life coming into the world at the very moment when many others are dying, but the world into which that baby is coming is one with little promise and little hope for a happy future. One thing is assured; the new baby will be a part of a new world that will be a series of uncertainties.

Scarlett also gets a taste of her own medicine in finding out that Prissy has lied to her. Earlier Prissy had told her that she knew all about birthing babies because she had helped her mother do it many times. The truth is, she was always sent out of the room when it came time for a birth, so she actually knows nothing at all about it. This leaves Scarlett as completely alone as she has ever been up to this time of her life.

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