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Chapter XXXIX

Summary

In June Scarlett returns home to Tara, having received word that her father has died. Will meets her at Jonesboro and on the way home tells her that he wants to marry Suellen and that Carreen-who never got over the death of her beau-intends to join a convent. He also startles her with the news that Ashley is considering moving north to get work for himself, thereby getting away from the charity of living at Tara.

Will tells Scarlett the story of her fatherís death. Suellen had discovered, via Hilton, that the Yankees were paying union sympathizers for claims on destroyed property. A person had only to take the "iron clad oath" that he did not serve in the confederate army or support them in any way and he would receive as much as 150,000 dollars in cash. Suellen, who longs for fine dresses and a carriage of her own, spends weeks trying to talk her father into signing the oath. Eventually he agrees and she takes him to Jonesboro. There, after she primes him with brandy, he almost signs the paper. However, Suellen makes the mistake of revealing that Hilton and the Slatterys have also signed. Gerald seems for a few moments like his old self as he tears up the paper and throws it in Suellenís face. He mounts the first horse he sees at the rail and rides home at a dead run, but at the fence, the horse balks rather than jumping. Gerald is thrown and killed instantly.


Notes

The behavior of Scarlett and that of Suellen are seen in sharp contrast. Both girls are willing to do anything for money, but Scarlett's desperation is to save her home and to keep her family from being hungry. Suellen imagines that Scarlett has a fine carriage and new clothes, and that she got them through stealing a husband. Suellen is in competition, wanting a carriage for herself. She does not intend to kill her father; rather, she is attempting to take advantage of his weak state of mind. She thinks that her father will not remember signing the oath, and that it won't make any difference to him anyway as he is an immigrant himself and did not actually aid the Confederate army. It doesn't turn out the way she planned, however. Her father is more firmly attached to the plantation he built than she realizes. Through his own work, he has become a proud southern plantation owner, and even in his feeble state, he has not lost that pride. He will not do anything that would have his name listed with the Slatterys and MacIntoshes.

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