Study Guide

Gone With the Wind Perseverance

By Margaret Mitchell


"And I do not think she's been so much in love with him that she won't forget him. Fifteen is too young to know much about love." (3.77)

This is Gerald saying that he believes that Ellen will forget Philippe. She never does… just as Scarlett continues loving Ashley way past his sell-by date. Perseverance can be a good thing, but it can also mean being stuck in a rut. Is Ellen's life-long love for her cousin noble and tragic, or is it frustrating and irritating?

"I won't think of that now," she said firmly. "If I think of it now, it will upset me. There's no reason why things won't come out the way I want them—if he loves me. And I know he does!" (4.95)

Scarlett's ability to focus on a goal and get there, come Union soldiers or the collapse of civilization, is foreshadowed in her insistence on pursuing Ashley even after he's definitively gone. She uses the same trick, too—refusing to think about whatever it is that might stop her from pressing ahead.

"They both see the same unpleasant truth, but Rhett likes to look it in the face and enrage people by talking about it—and Ashley can hardly bear to face it." (12.116)

Gumption is facing the unpleasant truth… or is it? Is Rhett really showing gumption by tweaking people? Scarlett tends to just push on and ignore the unpleasant truths all together, rather than getting obsessed with them.

"Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you." (23.55)

Rhett is telling Scarlett that she has enough gumption for anything… and he's more or less right. When a Yankee does show up to get her, the Yankee ends up dead. Don't trifle with Scarlett, is the message here.

"She thought without surprise, looking down from her height, that her shoulders were strong enough to bear anything now, having borne the worst thing that could ever happen to her." (23.281)

This is when Scarlett has escaped Atlanta and come back to Tara to find her mother dead and Gerald broken. This isn't necessarily the worst that will ever happen to her, but she's more or less right; her shoulders are strong enough to bear anything. Rhett's shoulders aren't necessarily, though.

I won't be a big-mouthed fool, she thought grimly. Let others break their hearts over the old days and the men who'll never come back. (38.3)

Scarlett is determined to work with the Yankees if she has to, and her refusal to look back is seen as part of her strength. She doesn't get hung up on memory… except for Ashley's memory, maybe.

"I've never had anything to sustain me—except Mother."

"But when you lost her, you found you could stand alone, didn't you? Well, some folks can't. Your pa was one." (40.53-54)

Grandma Fontaine is one of the other gumptionful characters; she's explaining to Scarlett here that she has more gumption than her dad. This is at Gerald's funeral, so it seems like maybe not the best of all possible venues to do so, but we guess that when you're full of gumption you'll dare anything, even poor taste.

"The rest have gone under because they don't have any sap in them, because they didn't have the gumption to rise up again. There never was anything to those folks but money and darkies, and now that the money and darkies are gone, those folks will be Cracker in another generation." (40.98)

More from Grandma Fontaine on gumption. She's saying that the slave owners aren't anything without their slaves, for the most part. That's harsh… and even harsher if you see slavery as an actual evil, which Grandma Fontaine doesn't exactly. But if you do, she's saying that the only thing the pre-Confederate South had going for it was a willingness to brutalize and enslave people.

"Miss Melly, you know Miss Scarlett well's Ah does. Whut dat chile got ter stan', de good Lawd give her strent ter stan'. Disyere done broke her heart but she kin stan' it. It's Mist' Rhett Ah come 'bout." (59.49)

Mammy tells Melly that Scarlett can stand anything, but that Rhett Butler has collapsed following the death of Bonnie.

But… what about Mammy? What has she had to withstand, or not withstand? She's been enslaved—how has she withstood that? The novel can't really answer that question because it doesn't consider slavery a problem. Nor is Mammy allowed to have her own specific trials to overcome; her whole life revolves around Scarlett, so she's always dealing with Scarlett's problems. It's like she's a pet; she's not allowed to have her own trials, whether to overcome them or be broken by them.

"Don't look so determined, Scarlett! You frighten me. I see you are contemplating the transfer of your tempestuous affections from Ashley to me and I fear for my liberty and my peace of mind." (63.58)

Rhett is sort of joking here about being frightened—but maybe not really joking. Scarlett's a lot more determined and tougher than he is. If she decides to go after him, he may well fear for his liberty and peace of mind.