Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
Chapter LII (52)
Rhett undergoes a dramatic self-imposed personality change. It begins one day when they are all together and eight-year old Wade is irritating Scarlett by making noises. He is bored and frustrated because all the other little boys are at the Picard birthday party. Under Rhett’s questioning, he complains that he is never invited to the parties, and the parties he does attend are no fun because Mammy says the people are "trashy." Scarlet objects to the criticism, but Rhett realizes that Mammy and the boy are speaking the truth. He and Scarlett have conducted themselves in such a way that no decent people will associate with them or their children. He doesn’t want Bonnie to be ostracized or rejected because of her parents’ foolishness.
Rhett begins turning over a new leaf. He forbids Scarlett from having Governor Bullock in their home ever again. He begins taking the children to church and cuts his association with Yankees, cutthroats and scalawags. He makes donations to charitable institutions led by the Elsings, Merriwether and others. The men accept him easily as he had saved all their lives. The women are slower to come around, but once they find proof that he did serve in the Confederate army, they begin to reconsider their opinions of him. Scarlett considers it all a "tempest in a teapot," but Rhett and the children are gradually restored to the good graces of the old Atlanta society.
Rhett is a double-sided coin who knows which side to turn up at any given time. It is difficult to know whether he is a noble character behaving like a rogue or a rogue putting on a good act. He performs such chivalrous deeds that one wants to believe that beneath a facade of opportunism, he is as fine a character as we could want. In any case, he definitely adores the children, especially Bonnie and is not ashamed to let the entire town know about it. Scarlett, however, does not have the good sense even to put on an act when it would be to her benefit. If she were to follow Rhett's lead, they could both be restored to the good graces of the community, but that is not her way.