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Melanie is, as Rhett says, the one truly kind person in the book. She is unable to say anything cruel about a person even if she knows it to be true, and she defends those she loves with the fury of a tigress. She seems a flat character at first, too willing to believe in Scarlett, too much a part of the old world to be quite real. Yet she shows depth by standing up to the other women in the issue of flowers on the graves and in her defense of both Rhett and Scarlett. She is gentle and tender toward children, but would have killed the Yankee soldier herself if she could have. She is able to think quickly, thus helping Rhett protect the men who return from the KKK rendezvous. Because her graciousness is a characteristic from within and not merely part of formalized manners, she inspires and encourages those around her. While she hates those who caused the misery for Atlanta, she is also able to suspend judgment on an individual basis. Except for the fact that she is frail and considered rather plain in appearance, she would be too perfect to be realistic.
Ashley Wilkes is the symbol of a dying culture. Although he is an unchanging character himself, he is a pivotal figure about which Scarlett moves and who does a great deal to motivate the changes in her. He is also dishonest with himself and thus unfair to Scarlett. On at least three separate occasions, he admits to Scarlett that he loves her, but backs away under the guise of honor and dignity. Finally, he acknowledges that he adores his wife; if Scarlett had ever for a moment thought that he was in love with Melanie and not her, she would have given up her fantasy.
The one thing Ashley is honest about is his own weakness and fear. He sees his own world fading away and knows that he is pitifully ill equipped to function in the world that is being born before his eyes. He continuously looks backward to days that, to him, held a grace and a charm along with a slow paced life style. He admits to Melanie that he fights in the war because it is his duty to do so along with the rest of the able-bodied men, but he never believes they have a chance of winning from the very start. Ashley is a man who ultimately lacks the courage to take on the unknown, and so he is in limbo, always looking backward to what he has lost.
Mammy is at least one other truly decent person in the novel. She judges according to what she sees and hears, but is quick to forgive when her first impression is proven wrong. Her one fault is that she is so fiercely devoted to Scarlett that she actually helps her steal Frank Kennedy. Rhett says that she is the true head of the household, for she manages all the physical details of running a house but also speaks her mind regarding manners and appropriate behavior. She and Melanie are the two people whose good opinion Scarlett cares about.