Sunday, 15 April 2012

War in Atlanta and home to Tara.

So... a few things... Firstly, the war is reaching Atlanta. The South is losing quite badly at this point, with only a few small victories to keep the spirits of the Confederacy alive. The women have taken to nursing the thousands wounded that make their way back into town. It is dirty, awful, saddening work, and Scarlett is highly put out about having to do it, yet she works tirelessly to help the dying soldiers, as do many other women and men from Atlanta.

Scarlett helping the wounded men.

Secondly, Melanie is having a baby (!), which she is ecstatic about, but is not doing great things for her health. Melly is a sickly, small person, and being pregnant has left her weak and ill, almost as if the baby is sucking the life right out of her. Aunt Pittypat has left her house in Atlanta to take refuge with friends in a town further away, but Melanie is too sick to move in her condition. Scarlett’s father has written to her to tell her not to come home because her mother and sisters have fallen ill with typhoid.  Scarlett is beside herself, because as the Yankees get closer to Atlanta, all she wants to do is go home, home to Tara and be safe in her mother’s arms. If it weren’t for Melly and her unborn baby, she would have been home by now, where the Yankees could not reach her. 

The sounds of war are ever present, and finally news comes that the Yankees are on their way into Atlanta. Just as this news finds Scarlett, Melanie goes into labour (perfect timing...). Scarlett rushes out to find the doctor amongst the wounded soldiers and bring him to her, but when she finds him, he is far too busy tending the wounded that he won’t leave to help her.
With the help of her simple minded slave girl Prissy, Scarlett delivers Melanie’s baby boy, Beau, but Melly has not fared well in childbirth, and is incredibly weak and ill. Scarlet must get them out of Atlanta at once, and so she sends Prissy to find the only person she can think of to help her – Rhett.
When Prissy brings him back, he has stolen an old, “on its way out” cart horse and broken buggy that is meant to bring Scarlett and her lot to safety. She tells him, hysterically, that she is going home to Tara and that no one is going to stop her, even when he explains that the railroad is closed and the Yankees have taken over the road that leads to Tara. Scarlett’s mind is made up, and no one will change it – she is taking Melly and her baby with her to Tara. 

Scarlett telling Rhett she's going home to Tara.

Rhett comforts Scarlett.

Rhett gets them out of the burning Atlanta just in time, but when they’re out onto the country road, he suddenly decides to leave her there. Again, this is another terribly poignant part of the story that I could explain, but is far better portrayed by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable...

Days are spent trudging along deserted highway, and through bushland, and then dodging Yankees soldiers. The small party are hungry and tired, and badly sun burnt. Scarlett’s hopes are continuously dashed as she comes across neighbouring plantations that have been burnt to the ground and abandoned, including the beloved Twelve Oaks. All she wants is for Tara to still be standing, and for her mother to be there. The baby is screaming for milk that Melanie can’t provide and they are all dehydrated and hopeless. The horse is on its last legs when they finally reach Tara, which is still standing, much to Scarlett’s amazement and joy. It has, however, been robbed of livestock, crops and all the slaves set free. The only remaining members of the household are Mammy, Pork – her father’s house servant, her father Gerald and her sisters. Scarlett’s mother had died the day before their return from the illness that had struck her and the other girls, who were now recovering. Scarlett is overcome with grief at the news of her mother’s passing – all she had wanted was to be home and taken care of, and she returns to a debilitated house with her father who has gone simple from the ordeal of losing his wife. It is up to Scarlett to run the house and feed them all, with what little is left at Tara.

She starts putting the house to work, scrounging for food, seeing if the leftover neighbours have anything to spare and tending to the last remaining animals that might give them some form of food. The entire household is starving. Melanie, Scarlett’s sisters and Gerald are too unwell to do any form of hard labour, and the leftover slaves are not “outdoor” slaves, and so are not used to working outside gathering food etc. Scarlett is determined to survive, and somehow they find a way to source food and to find seed to start planting. If they are able to plant some crops, then they will be able to, eventually, make some money to buy more seed to plant. 

Scarlett and sisters working in the field. 

Scarlett is now a hard woman, her only thought being to survive this hunger and devastation. There has been no word from Ashley, and he could very well be dead and they wouldn’t even know...

Famous scene from the movie, just before the intermission. Very moving! Vivien Leigh is fabulous!

Mitchell, M .(1974). 'Gone With The Wind'. Pan Books Ltd, Cavaye Place, London, MacMillan London Ltd.

All still frames and movie clips courtesy of Selznick International Pictures and MGM. 

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