Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Margaret Mitchell, Her Biographers, and the Conclusion to Gone with the Wind

Editors' Note: Today we are pleased to feature our first post by a guest blogger here at How We Do Run On.  The following post was written by GWTW fan Shaninalux, who noticed something quite strange in several biographies about Margaret Mitchell: the authors were all over the board in describing MM's opinion about the conclusion of GWTW and her actual intentions.  So Shaninalux tracked down the information directly from the source--in the form of a July 1935 letter from MM. Here's her account of the situation and what she discovered.  Many thanks for Shaninalux for sharing this with us! --iso and Bugsie

After Margaret Mitchell submitted the GWTW manuscript to Harold Latham of Macmillan in April of 1935, he sent it off to Professor Charles W. Everett of Columbia University in order to get Everett's review, thoughts and opinions. Everett submitted his report to Latham in early July, and Margaret Mitchell responded to Everett's report in a letter back to Latham on July 27th. However, the content of the Everett report and Mitchell's response to it have, I believe, been misinterpreted in several ways in the various literatures available on Margaret Mitchell.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Everett report, in its entirety, is no longer available. In Southern Daughter, published in 1991, Darden Asbury Pyron indicated in his footnotes that the report could not be found in either the Macmillan Archives (located at the New York Public Library) or the Mitchell Archives (located at the University of Georgia). The report did seem to still exist at the time Anne Edwards was writing Road to Tara, which was published in 1983, as she cited its exact date (July 2, 1935) and page length, and even gave its location as the Mitchell Papers held within the Macmillan Archives at the New York Public Library. I recently attempted to get a copy of the report from the NYPL, but was informed that it was not part of the Macmillan Company Records, the Margaret Mitchell Author File or the Macmillan General Correspondence File. But I was successful in getting a copy of Mitchell's July 27, 1935 response to the report.

The best that can be cobbled together of the Everett report is a large portion of it contained in Mitchell's first biography, Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta, written by Finis Farr and published in 1965. That portion of the report, coupled with other smaller quotes from it cited by Mitchell in her response to Latham is quite possibly all that can be gleaned today as to its original scope and content.

The report contains sections roughly corresponding to an introduction, summation/synopsis, review and recommendations. Everett was wildly enthusiastic about the manuscript, to say the least, but he expressed some suggestions for improvement. In her July 27th letter, Mitchell responded to these suggestions in a very simple and logical format; namely, she placed all of Everett's suggestions in quotations, and then responded to them individually. Accordingly, it is quite simple to determine which lines are the suggestions expressed by Everett, and which are Mitchell’s responses to those suggestions. And Everett’s suggestions addressed by Mitchell were as follows:
"the author should keep out her own feelings in one or two places where she talks about negro rule"

"And to refer to Mammy's 'ape face" and her 'black paws' seems unnecessary"

"As it is there may be a bit too much finality in Rhett's refusal to go on.......I think she gets him in the end.....And it might not hurt to hint as much a little more strongly than the last lines."


"I prefer the version where Kennedy dies of illness to the Ku Klux one, exciting though that is, because the K.K.K. material has been worked pretty hard by others." 
--Charles Everett's comments from Margaret Mitchell's letter of July 27, 1935
Both the third and the fourth suggestions are indented off in their own paragraphs, and like the others, are contained in quotations. However, it is Mitchell's response to the third suggestion, which has, I believe, been misinterpreted. This was her response to that suggestion, typos included:
"As to this criticism---I havent reread that part of the book in over two years. Due to my unfortunate habit of writing things backwards, last chapter first and first last, it's been a long time since I even looked and it and hardly recall what's in it. But he's probably right. My own intention when I wrote it was to leave the ending open to the reader (yes, I know that's not a satisfactory way to do!) My idea was that, through of several million chapters, the reader will have learned that both Pansy and Rhett are tough characters, both accustomed to having their own way. And at the last, both are determined to have their own ways and those ways are very far apart. And the reader can either decide that she got him or she didnt. Could I ask you to with hold final criticism on this part until I have rewritten that and sent you the whole book to look over again? My vague memory tells me that I had done no more on that chapter than synopsize it. Perhaps a rewriting would bring it more closely to what the adviser wanted."
--Margaret Mitchell's comments from her letter of July 27, 1935
And then, about half a page later, in the section where Mitchell responded to the concern about which version of Frank Kennedy's death to use, she suggested that she complete the book with the KKK version, and if that did not meet with approval, change it back to the first version. She then added:
"The same applies to remarks written above about the ending. If you dont like the way it looks when you get the final copy, tell me so and I'll change it. I'll change it any way you want, except to make a happy ending."
--Margaret Mitchell's comments from her letter of July 27, 1935
In Road to Tara, however, Anne Edwards misattributed Everett's words to Margaret Mitchell herself. This misattribution has the effect of indicating that Mitchell foresaw a reconciliation between Scarlett and Rhett. With regard to the July 27, 1935 letter, Edwards wrote:
"She agreed with Everett at this time that there might be a bit too much finality in Rhett’s departure, but added, “I think she gets him in the end.” This seems to be the only time she ever made such a statement in a letter or interview. She conceded that it “might not hurt to hint as much a little more strongly,” adding, “My own intention when I wrote it was to leave the ending open to the reader. (Yes, I know that’s not a satisfactory way to do!)” She had not read that section of the manuscript for two years and did not even have a copy. Her “vague memory” was that she had done no more than synopsize that chapter and she suggested to Latham that perhaps a rewrite would bring it closer to the more definite ending that Everett wanted."
--excerpted from The Road to Tara, by Anne Edwards
Considering that Anne Edwards is the last of Mitchell’s biographers to have actually seen the Everett report, I find her attribution of Everett's words to Mitchell herself to be quite irresponsible.  And for what it may be worth, it should be noted that at the time Road to Tara was published, Anne Edwards’ GWTW sequel was not yet officially moribund.

Darden Asbury Pyron in Southern Daughter and Molly Haskell in Frankly, My Dear also misinterpret Mitchell’s July 27th response, but in their cases, do so in a manner which suggests that Mitchell opposed the idea of an eventual Scarlett and Rhett reconciliation. With regard to this subject, Pyron wrote that Everett’s suggestion about the ending “was the only place where he recommended specific and discreet changes in the novel.” However, this is incorrect, as the other suggestions for changes indicate. Pyron then quoted most of Mitchell’s response, but also included the portion made half a page later, which has the effect of making it appear as though it were all one organic thought. His analysis was then as follows:
"No happy ending: that confirmed the basic object of the story. Her response, however, reveals two levels of ambiguity about the conclusion. In the first place, her own language and motives here are ambiguous. She takes with one hand what she gives with the other. While declaring that she really intended all along an “open ending”, she undercuts that assertation with her own suggestion that the weight of the narrative was completely against reconciliation. In the second place, while she rejects a happy ending, she offers to make any changes short of that. She declares the willingness, in effect, to make the clearly unhappy ending not happier, but at least less clear."
--excerpted from Southern Daughter by Darden Asbury Pyron
It is here that Pyron then devised an interesting concept as to how Mitchell altered the manuscript to appease Everett’s concerns:
"While she refused to write a hopeful, much less happy, resolution, stylistic and internal evidence, coupled with Everett’s recommendation, suggest that she did indeed alter the text here along the lines that the reader suggested. In its published form, the novel ends naturally on page 1035, when Rhett leaves. “He drew a sharp breath and said lightly but softly: “My dear, I don’t give a damn’”….It marks the perfect end. In its published form, however, the novel does not end here. It runs on an additional page and half. This coda (marked off in the the text by asterisks), undermines the power of this natural ending even as it opens up the possibility that Scarlett might indeed redeem her marriage. It fits ill….If this ending still has credibility within the whole sweep of the novel and within the definitions of the heroine’s character, it smacks rather of Charles W. Everett’s concerns than Peggy Mitchell Marsh’s."
--excerpted from Southern Daughter by Darden Asbury Pyron
The “coda” as so named by Pyron, would then consist of everything after Rhett’s declaration of disinterest, and conclude of course with “tomorrow is another day.”  However, though this theory may be interesting, it is entirely inaccurate. The portion of the Everett report contained in Farr’s Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta appears to contain his complete synopsis of the original manuscript. And Everett’s synopsis concludes as follows, “She decides to go back to Tara. Tomorrow she can think what to do, how to win Rhett back. Tomorrow will be another day.”

Unless he was more than unusually prescient, I find it difficult to see how Professor Everett could have commented on something that wasn't already in the original manuscript in the first place. I'm also a little perplexed as to how Pyron, who cited Farr in his footnotes as his authority on the Everett recommendations, could have missed the synopsis. But to use Pyron’s own words, it is clear that, the “possibility that Scarlett might indeed redeem her marriage” was already in the manuscript when it was first submitted to Macmillan.

In Frankly, My Dear, published in 2009, Molly Haskell took this a step further. At the start of her book, Haskell questioned how “inveterate hopefuls among Mitchell’s fans and the best-selling sequel to the contrary, can anyone over the mental age of fifteen believe that the star-crossed lovers will ‘get together’ one day?" And indeed, in her analysis of the Everett report and Mitchell’s response to it, she echoed Pyron’s mistaken theory about the “coda,” but also added that “My dear, I don’t give a damn” is how the manuscript “originally ended.” And Haskell found Mitchell’s July 27th response to be “a little gem of pseudo-accommodating evasion.” As Haskell saw it:
She begins by saying that her intention (if she remembers correctly, since “it’s been a long time since I even looked at it”) was to leave the ending open.  But “my idea was that, through several million chapters, the reader will have learned that both Pansy and Rhett are tough characters, both accustomed to having their own ways. And at the last, both are determined to have their own ways and those ways are very far apart. And the reader can either decide that she got him or she didn’t.” The reader can have whatever fantasies her or she wants, but her view of the matter is pretty clear: two obstinate antagonists whose separation is inevitable.
--excerpted from Frankly, My Dear by Molly Haskell
However, as the actual response indicates, Mitchell had no trouble remembering her intention to leave the ending open, and was instead referencing the exact content in that portion of the book as what she had not looked at in a long time. In addition, Haskell curiously omitted the “But he’s probably right” portion of Mitchell’s response from her discussion.  That clause, which indicates a measure of agreement on Mitchell’s part with Everett’s position, contradicts Haskell’s suggestion that Mitchell herself opposed the concept of a Scarlett and Rhett reconciliation.

Personally, I find the ending of GWTW to be a masterstroke. I believe Margaret Mitchell when she wrote that her intention was to leave the ending open to her readers, and that there really isn’t a hidden meaning beyond that. Moreover, I’m also convinced that there isn’t really a correct answer to the question of whether or not Scarlett and Rhett eventually reconciled. And it is quite disappointing that Mitchell’s biographers, either by design or slipshod research, have recast this clear intention to serve their own purposes.  


27 comments:

  1. Very interesting stuff. What I can get from MM's pure response is a sense of not knowing herself whether Rhett and Scarlett getting back together--of the question being beyond the scope of her story, and therefore beyond her. Certainly the implication was that both of them would survive, whatever happened--that WAS the point of the book.

    I just love how Haskell totally misreads the response. Doesn't it seem like, in a weird way, that MM is giving GWTW fanfic the okay--"And the reader can either decide that she got him or she didnt"--okay, MM, we will! For better or worse sometimes...

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  2. Excellent! (I just love this blog, every day a new treat) My thought as to the ending is it was a master stroke by MM. If she had Rhett say OMG I love you too Scarlett and hearts and flowers flow, most would have thrown the book down in disgust, thinking it too contrived. It wouldn't have been the least bit believable. From the very start of the book, Scarlett is fighting for what she wants, Ashley, freedom from widowhood, survival, Tara, security. For her to get Rhett back without a fight would put the whole book in doubt. It wouldn't follow.
    Of course, I believe Scarlett and Rhett do reunite. (I started to write Scarlett gets Rhett back, but that would dismiss Rhett as the force he is, making him of no more consequence than Charles or Frank) but Scarlett will have to fight for him. And hopefully, when they do reunite she will find true happiness. Because, in my so very humble opinion, Scarlett is never truly happy in the whole book, she is always wanting something. Sorry for the rant.

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  3. I don't think they end up together. If they did, Scarlett would be miserable. She is in her element wanting more.

    Rhett is the sad figure in this, because he'd give her everything if he could - and that's the very thing that keeps her running backward.

    I guess that makes Scarlett a sad figure, too.

    Didn't Margaret Mitchell say that the story ended where it ended, and she wanted no sequels? That sounds like the novel could have no further ending.

    (An excellent blog, this!)

    :-)

    - Corra

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  4. *thanks Shaninalux for her wonderful contribution*

    *waves at Fuji and bella*

    *welcomes Corra into whose blog she's now immersed*

    *wipes forehead and proceeds*

    I think that Scarlett at the end, like throughout the whole book, is longing for something that doesn't exist or doesn't exist anymore. The Rhett she's pining for is not this Rhett, aged and tired and changed in so many ways by Bonnie's death. The man she now wants, and the man she thinks she finally understands, is the old Rhett, but my feeling is that "the sea change" he suffered is irreversible. And if that's true, then Scarlett's just managed to create herself the perfect crying for the moon situation.

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  5. *waves at everyone, with sincere thanks for your kind words* :)

    Fuji, when I read your interpretation of Mitchell's response, I was reminded of a letter to a reader Richard Harwell included in "Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind Letters":

    "I wish I could tell you what happened to them both after the end of the book but I cannot, for I know no more about them than you do. I wrote my book from back to front. That is, the last chapter first and the first chapter last and as I sat down to write it that seemed the logical ending. I do not have a notion of what happened to them and I left them to their ultimate fate. With two such determined characters, it would be hard to predict what would happen to them."

    Finally, "Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta" may be old, and it may have glossed over certain aspects of Margaret Mitchell's life, but I think that it would be difficult to improve on Finis Farr's assessment of the open ending: "what Margaret had accomplished was the releasing of her two characters into the realm where fictional creations live outside the stories which gave them birth."

    Pretty well said, I think. :)

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  6. What a gem of a post. Big thanks to the guest blogger!

    On the misinterpretations by the biographers; they have to sell books and this IS the question on most readers’ minds so why not present your bio as the answer to that question? I call that good marketing. Having said so I think it is very nice to come here and read what MM actually said. There is no way around it; she is a fabulous storyteller.

    Furthermore I resent being called a person with the mental age of a 15 year old ;-). Because I believe in the resilience of human beings and the state of affairs as they were left at the end of the book might have undergone a sea change of their own in a year or five.

    Taking note of how MM had not reread the book’s last scene in over two years, I wonder if she was sufficiently detached from it by the time she did in order to be moved by it in the same way that a lot of us are moved by it over and over again. I so wish she was still here to ask her those kinds of questions.

    Oh, and I found the remark about the alternate ending of that awful Frank Kennedy very interesting, since I did not know MM had written two versions for that. Has that other ending ever been published somewhere? And how would all that play out; no scene where Rhett saves the day by claiming the gentlemen were at the brothel during the time of the KKK attack? It almost makes you feel grateful that there was a mention of that despicable organization in the book.

    As you see; a very thought provoking post. I guess it is my turn to apologize for the long ramble ;-)

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  7. Well, I can't claim to be an expert in matters pertaining to Margaret Mitchell's biography and the fate of her papers (perhaps Shaninalux could better answer your question), but my guess is that the alternate scene of Frank's death was burned along with the rest of the GWTW manuscript after MM died.

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  8. Does anyone know the plot of Anne Edward's sequel?

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  9. @ Anon. This is the best info I could find: http://www.gwtwmemories.com/forums/bbdaily/messages/22.html

    Quoted from that page:

    According to author Pauline Bartel, writing in "The Complete 'Gone With the Wind' Trivia Book", the book that Edwards submitted was 775 pages long and was supposedly set in 1872-82 and contained a divorce for Scarlett and Rhett. Scarlett remarried in the book and created more intrigue between the former Mrs. Butler and her "ex". According to Bartel, MGM was not pleased with either the book nor James Goldman's screenplay and the "book was shelved and the deal collapsed".

    Also, I remember reading in a newspaper once that their dream team for this movie would have been... Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Don't get me wrong, I love them both, but still...

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  10. Rita From St. LouAugust 8, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    We had an elongated conversation about this very topic on the IMDB board for GWTW and you can see all of my comments and remarks there under the user name "hey_teacher".

    I had always been highly sceptical of the last chapter and the so-called "coda".

    The story naturally ends with Rhett's "My dear, I don't give a damm". However, this is Scarlett's story, as she is the novel's protagonist, therefore the final thought or observation must be hers. As GWTW has a circular structure, it makes perfect sense that Scarlett returns to Tara at the end because that is where she returns every time her life is in upheaval.

    The problem is that this ending is contradictory with the preceeding chapter(LXII) where Scarlett simultaneously realizes that she loves Rhett and that her love for him frees her from the "the fear which had haunted her dreams since the night she stumbled to Tara to find the world ended". In this chapter she finally makes the cognitive leap to understand that Tara is as much a part of the old days of her girlhood as was her love for Ashley.

    When Mitchell claimed that she wrote the last chapter first, I wonder what she was thinking. Rhett - not Scarlett- is the driver of the action in the final chapter. Scarlett sits, listens, and reacts to what he says and does. Considering that this book as a journey into Scarlett's pysche and emotional development, I find it a little perplexing that the book ends with an examination of Rhett's physche.

    One could argue that for all Rhett says that he doesn't care, he takes the trouble to tell Scarlett everything so that she "won't ever wonder about it all". That in itself shows his love for her. How many men just pack up and leave with no explanation at all?

    The final action of the story describes Scarlett watching Rhett "go up the stairs". I often wondered what the point of that line was. The answer came to me only recently. In Chapter LX, Scarlett worries about Rhett's emotional and physical deterioration. This is emphasized by her dismay that Rhett would "beat on the door of the servants' house so that Pork might help him up the back stairs and put him to bed". By having the story's final act be Rhett going up the stairs without assistance - and Scarlett witnessing it - signifies to her and to the reader that the virile Rhett has returned and that there may be hope for them as a couple after all.

    @bugsie - I disagree with your assessment that Rhett is beaten down at the end. While he certainly is bloodied, he is not beaten. The virile Rhett - tired as he is- remains at the end of the story because of what he says and does after Scarlett offers him "more babies". He replies:

    "My darling, you're such a child...Take my handkerchief, Scarett. Never at any crisis of you life, have I known you to have a handkerchief."

    His handkerchief is symbolic of his chivalric code to aid a damsel in distress. He gives his handerchief to Scarlett every time he comes to her in her time of greatest need; her flight from Atlanta and immediately after Frank's death. By giving her his handkerchief, he silently tells her that he will be there when she needs him.

    Further along in their conversation, Scarlett warns him (with bull-headed determination) to not be a fool because she can "make up" for the past. He, in turn, "flung up a hand in mock horror and his black brows went up in the old sardonic crescents". This is further evidence that the old Rhett is hiding behind his gambler's mask. However, Scarlett is too hysterical to see him.

    In a sexual connotation, the last time the reader observed Rhett going upstairs he carried Scarlett along with him. One could presume that Scarlett watched him go upstairs and then joined him in the bedroom when she symbolically thought of devising a plan to get him back when she's at Tara.

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  11. This is such a wonderful blog!

    Has anyone read My Beloved Tara by Jocelyn Mims and Melanie Pearson? Is it possible to obtain a copy?

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  12. Rita from St. LouAugust 8, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    I have the synopsis of the Everett review that Edwards included in ROAD TO TARA. As it's quite long, I'll post it separately at a later time. He made some very interesting comments and Mitchell's reply was interesting as well.

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  13. @ Rita no2. Would you be interested in writing a post with that synopsis (or whatever else you find of interest)? We both love your comments and would be happy to have you as a guest blogger. The email address is the one in the sidebar if you're interested. As for your first comment, you have some very good points and I will try to offer my two cents later.

    @Anon. Thanks! No, I've only read a synopsis at Scarlett Online. It didn't seem so great so I didn't look further. I think your best shot is on ebay, if you're lucky (and willing to pay a lot of money).

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  14. @Rita- Such intriguing and thoughtful points as always. I really like your idea about Rhett being able to go back up the stairs unassisted- I'd never considered that before but I think it makes a great deal of sense and works as a nice metaphor for him gaining the resolve to take this next (sad) step of leaving.

    I think on some level, whether he still loved Scarlett or not, he wanted some purpose and drive in his life again--and that Scarlett turning her "tempestuous affections" on him and fighting to win him back would have breathed new life into him. You can see shadows of it in his departing speech--the raised mocking eyebrows, the glib way he offers to return to keep gossip down, the flippant mention of the handkerchief. I take comfort in those small things and hope they mean that he's not as truly done as he says he says...versus Scarlett's just giving him new life and determination to move on without her (shudders in horror).

    @everyone else- Switching gears, I'm late to the game on this (as always, it seems) but please let me join Bugsie in the general waving and welcoming of guests and, of course, thanking of Shaninalux for her contributions. What a great discussion this has been!

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  15. *part 1 of comment cut in two b/c I am too wordy and Blogger sucks*

    @ Rita. I can't see the transition between chapters LXI and LXII as a contradictory one. And it's mainly because I don't think this part of your argument holds true: "In this chapter she finally makes the cognitive leap to understand that Tara is as much a part of the old days of her girlhood as was her love for Ashley."

    Nowhere in that chapter does she give up on Tara. The sentence you quoted comes from this paragraph, and I will highlight below two aspects that I think underline that line of reasoning:

    "At this realization it was as though chains fell away from her and with them the fear which had haunted her dreams since the night she stumbled to Tara to find the world ended. At the end of the road to Tara she had found security gone, all strength, all wisdom, all loving tenderness, all understanding gone--all those things which, embodied in Ellen, had been the bulwark of her girlhood."

    1. When Scarlett returns to Tara after Atlanta falls, the world ended, but Tara is still standing: "The white walls did show there through the darkness. And untarnished by smoke. Tara had escaped! Home!" It is not of course the Tara she expected to find, but it is Tara nonetheless and she clings to it throughout the next chapters, not as a symbol of the world she lost, but as a source of strength and a means for immediate survival. The wreck of the world she refers to in that paragraph is not about Tara, but about the dissolution of Ellen's reign which had offered her both a moral compass and a feeling of security. And that brings me to my second point.

    2. Scarlett is not entirely aware of the importance Tara has in her world. When she looks back upon that moment, she doesn't refer to what Tara itself offered, but to the security Ellen's presence offered. And I think this applies throughout the novel. Scarlett is not after the comfort a place or any other accomplishments can offer, but after the love and protection of a person, be it Ellen, Ashley or, in the end, Rhett. The moments when she realizes how important Tara is for her are the moments when she stands to lose it/is away from it and longs for the comfort and strength it offers.
    --> see next comment

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  16. *part 2 of of comment cut in two b/c I am too wordy and Blogger sucks*
    <--read previous comment
    So Tara is mostly a hidden source of strength. Rhett is aware of that (see his conversation with Melanie when he compares Scarlett to Antaeus). And so is Ashley. The symmetry between the orchard scene and the last chapter is actually quite striking. That is a point in her life when Scarlett thinks everything is over. She goes to Ashley for support (that under these circumstances she equals with love), and he fails to give her that. But when she thinks all is lost, he directs her towards another thing that is more valuable to her than him: Tara. And she understands what he meant:

    "There was nothing else she did have, nothing but this red land, this land she had been willing to throw away like a torn handkerchief only a few minutes before. Now, it was dear to her again and she wondered dully what madness had possessed her to hold it so lightly."

    Similarly, in the last scene, she thinks that everything is lost, that she has no one (and nothing) left in the world. And then she thinks of Tara first, the place that will give her new power to fight and win Rhett back, and then of Mammy (because, like I said, she's always in search of a person to direct her):

    "All she wanted was a breathing space in which to hurt, a quiet place to lick her wounds, a haven in which to plan her campaign. She thought of Tara and it was as if a gentle cool hand were stealing over her heart. "

    And if Tara is an outward image of her inner strength, a symbol of her resilience and energy, then this part had to be there. (Ignoring the fact that it had to be there because MM put it there, like Shaninalux gracefully pointed out.) Rhett's speech, throughout which Scarlett is silent, is the last blow of the night. In the course of a couple of hours she lost three people that were the last standing pillars of her life (real or, in Ashley's case, imaginary) besides Mammy. And yet she doesn't give up. And that's the message of the book. Not that Rhett doesn't give a damn anymore, which is, as all windies know, debatable, but that, regardless of whether he does or not, Scarlett can and will survive on her own.

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  17. still @ Rita. I love your first observation about Rhett climbing the stairs (not so much the second, I think that's a little too much to say). Remarkable insight there.

    As for Rhett being beaten down or not, I don't imply that he's KO and that's it. Only that he is largely different from the man he was. He will survive, he obviously tries to make sure of that at the end, but he is not the same person, and he might not be able to give Scarlett what she's looking for. This paragraph sums it up:

    "She remembered how Rhett had always been able to laugh her out of her fears. She remembered the comfort of his broad brown chest and his strong arms. And so she turned to him with eyes that really saw him for the first time in weeks. And the change she saw shocked her. This man was not going to laugh, nor was he going to comfort her."


    I know about the hints that the old Rhett is still there somewhere, and iso in particular is very skilled at highlighting them when she argues the case of hope. I think that it's not necessary for Rhett to lose his entire personality for my argument to apply. But further than that, we must agree to disagree, I think :)

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  18. Um, my comments are so long they need errata now :D I was obviously talking about chapters LXII and LXIII above, and not LXI and LXII.

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  19. Thank you ladies for your prompt replies. Yes, I'd be happy to guest blog about the Everett review. I'll e-mail you about that shortly.

    I agree Bugsie, this blogging can be a bXtch. In these posts I'm limited to just over 4900 characters, and frankly, that makes writing limited.

    @annon and Shaninalux- I was previewing my original post when Bugsie posted her Wiki find about the Edwards sequel. ROAD TO TARA was published while Edwards was still writing the sequel book. That's why I believe she attributed the "I think she gets him in the end" statement to MM, because that would justify the ultimate ending of her sequel. The basic plot of the sequel (no matter who wrote it)was supposed to be: Scarlett loves Rhett, Scarlett loses Rhett, Scarlett gets Rhett back.
    I can'tremember the source I found that from, but I'll try diligently to find it. This was the same basic plot structure Ripley used in her sequel SCARLETT.

    Whoever made the "she gets him back" comment about Rhett and Scarlett's final outcome, it was clear from MM letters to Harold Latham that she agreed with Everett's overall assessment. Latham confirms this in a letter dated July 30 that he sent to Mitchell.

    I have a copy of ROAD TO TARA and will be happy to post the entire communication in a guest blog.

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  20. Rita from St. LouAugust 8, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    @Bugsie- Your points about Tara are well taken. I did a really poor job of explaining myself in my first post. Yes, I agree that Tara was always Scarlett's inner source of strenght and that Rhett knew it. This is clear when he tells Melanie that Scarlett is like the giant
    Antaeus(son of Gaia and Poseidon)who draws strenght from Mother Earth. That's the problem in their marriage. He wants her to draw her strenght in his love for her (and her love for him) NOT from her love for Tara - which he refers to as "that white elephant in Clayton county you love so much".

    In Chapter LXII, Scarlett finally realizes her love for Rhett she realizes that he is "the haven she sought in her dreams" and that he has always been a silent source of strenght for her. So she runs TO him at the end of the chapter. Whenever she returns to Tara she's running AWAY from something. This is where her new maturity come into play. In her final "I'll go home to Tara" speech, she again is running AWAY -from Melly's death, and from Ashley's then Rhett's rejection of her. THAT'S the point I tried to make -albeit a very poor attempt, I admit -in my first post.

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  21. Rita from St. LouAugust 8, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    Still at Bugsie-

    Rhett's "I don't give a damn" line is a repeat of the same thing he said on the road to Tara when he told Scarlett he loved her, but he was going to fight with the army. Here's the quote:
    "I'm not asking you to understand or forgive. I don't give a damn whether you do either."

    THAT Rhett is the Rhett in the final scene. The Don Quixote of the South- but as Mitchell stated about Gable's performance- he's more mature and not so impetuous. He says he doesn't give a damn in the end because he knows Scarlett will be alright (because she'll do whatever it takes to be alright) and because she still has Tara.

    He, however, has no Tara, so he must go fight another fight somewhere and this time be victorious, to fully recover from his losses- Bonnie, Melanie, Scarlett, and the Old South. His male pride is wounded more than he is because as the alpha male, he's lost everything that matters to him: his wife and child (on the micro scale) and the chivalric, genteel way of life that is secretly at the core of his being (on the macro scale).

    With ALL of that said, I bid you lovely ladies a good night!

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  22. Rita, so nice to see your comments here! I recognize your user name (hey_teacher) from the thread I started about this over at the IMDB Board. One thing to point out, the excerpt of the Everett Report included in "Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta" is more comprehensive than the one included in "Road to Tara". As far as I can tell, Farr is the only one to include Everett's detailed synopsis of the original manuscript.

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  23. @ Rita. Another interesting point you make, but I will have to disagree about the lines. He might have used similar words, but those lines are not identical in meaning.

    Rhett at Rough and Ready: He doesn't care about whether she approves of his actions. He does care about her fate, only that honor at this point comes before that concern. He's however convinced she will survive. It is a Rhett close to orchard scene Ashley if you like, that knows Scarlett will survive without him.

    Rhett in the final scene: He doesn't care about her fate. "I don't give a damn" is his shorter answer to her question "If you go, what shall I do?". His longer answer includes this sentence: "I wish I could care what you do or where you go, but I can't." Yes, she will survive, we all know that, but he will simply not be there to see it and he doesn't really care what her path will be, if she can mend her ways or not etc. ("Anyway, I can't wait that long to see. And I have no desire to wait.")

    So no, he doesn't say "I don't give a damn" in the end like he did on the road to Rough and Ready, because he knows she will be alright without him. He says "I don't give a damn" because he doesn't give a damn.

    I agree with your description of all he lost though.

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  24. @Shaninalux- here's wave back at you! It's so nice to see you here, and you brought up a very interesting discussion. Yes, I agree Edwards' version of the synopsis is abridged. Most likely she included only those portions which supported her attempt to be the ultimate Mitchell scholar and position herself as the logical (if not only) choice to write the sequel. Since you have access to both versions, wouldn't it be better for the sake of the discussion if you posted rather than me? Then everyone could see both excerpts vis-a-vis one another. I was only responding to the ladies kind invitation. Once upon a time, when I first started all of my research into this, I had copies of everything. However, that was a LONG time ago!

    @Bugsie- as you stated earlier, my friend, we agree to disagree on this point. But that's what is wonderful about this novel - we all have our own insights as to what Rhett really means. ;-)

    It's been very nice chatting with both of you about these points.

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  25. Well, re: the synopsis post, here's what I think. I agree with Rita that it would be nice to have a version as complete as we can possibly gather and then discuss in the comments below it, so, Shaninalux, if we can rope you in on this second post, we'd be very happy :D

    But, Rita, the offer is still open for whatever else you find of interest.

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  26. An outstanding post; thorough, well-written and well-researched. In just a few short paragraphs you make a compelling case regarding Mitchell's specific intent (or lack thereof). And, like you, I think that is the true genius of the book. The ambiguity of Mitchell's ending was (I believe) specifically designed to create the very debate reflected in the comments to your post. Does Scarlett get Rhett back in the end? Does Rhett, exhausted and sad by the end of the novel, really no longer "give a damn?" I have my own opinion, as do millions of other readers, but who knows for sure? No one...because there is no definitive answer. That's literary genius. Has there ever been a novel in American history where readers remain more emotionally invested in the characters? Where the characters become as real, if not more so, than a family member? I can't think of one. But a definitive ending would have muted much of the connection, and the passion, fueled by the open ending to the book.

    So well done Shaninalux!

    If only every GWTH "expert" was as conscientious and well-informed as you.

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  27. I personally think that Rhett's leaving may have been the "kick in the butt" that Scarlett needed to GROW UP. After a separation of a couple of years (discounting Ms. Ripley's sequel), Rhett came home on one of his "enough to keep the gossip down" visits and found her maturity level had changed tremendously. Then, as mature adults would do, perhaps they sat down in the dining room to discuss their relationship and everything that had occurred, including Bonnie's death, and decided to try again. I think they sold the big house at Five Points, moved away to a new place, a new start where they had no one who knew of either of their pasts. After all, it's so much easier to start fresh when there's no baggage.
    Scarlett, having matured, also curbed her excesses, 'grew a woman's heart', and FINALLY became (albeit outwardly) the lady her mother had been. In their private life, I still say she was a spitfire with him (what woman couldn't be in his arms???) but she was no longer SPITEful....and THEN they lived happily ever after...with the occasional Irish temper flare up!!!

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