Trudging dejectedly from Rhett’s jail cell, Scarlett encounters Frank Kennedy in a new buggy. Frank says that he now owns a store and plans to buy a sawmill soon, which would be extremely profitable because of all the rebuilding needed in Atlanta. Despite Frank’s engagement to Suellen, Scarlett determines that she must marry Frank in order to pay the taxes on Tara. She tells Frank that Suellen is set to marry another man. Scarlett realizes that, contrary to most well-bred Southerners, she would rather have money than pride.
A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well as or better than a man. . .
Two weeks later, Frank marries Scarlett and gives her the money to save Tara. Scarlett ignores Suellen’s sadness and the neighbors’ malicious gossip. She manipulates Frank into making more profitable business decisions, fending off guilt with her practice of putting off worrying about things. Frank soon falls ill, and Scarlett takes advantage of his immobility, going to the store to see the account books. She quickly realizes that Frank runs the business badly—his friends owe him vast sums of money that he is too embarrassed to collect. Scarlett thinks she could do a much better job in the strictly male world of business and begins to think of acquiring a sawmill.
Rhett, who has blackmailed his way out of jail, enters the store and congratulates Scarlett on her marriage. After mocking her for still loving Ashley, Rhett changes his tone and agrees to loan her the money to buy the sawmill as long as she does not use the money to help Ashley.
To Frank’s chagrin, Scarlett quickly becomes a ruthless businesswoman, devoting all her time to the mill and turning a sizable profit by any means necessary. Scarlett is the only businesswoman in Atlanta, and the city gossips disapprovingly. Embarrassed and afraid of his wife, Frank hopes that a baby will take Scarlett’s mind off business.
Tony Fontaine, a planter’s son from Scarlett’s county, arrives one night in a panic. He has killed Jonas Wilkerson and a black man. He explains that Wilkerson was telling freed slaves they have the right to rape white women, and one such slave made a lewd comment to Tony’s sister-in-law. Ashley, who accompanied Tony on his revenge mission, advised him to seek help from Scarlett and Frank. Tony leaves, and Scarlett reflects that the South has become a dangerous place. She begins to fear losing everything to the powerful Yankee government and freed slaves, and she pins all her hopes for safety on making money. She tells Frank that she is pregnant. While Frank glows with pride and relief, Scarlett thinks of the Ku Klux Klan, a newly formed organization supposedly intended to protect whites against violent blacks. She feels grateful that Frank is not in the Klan because the government in the North has been gearing up to crush the organization.
Scarlett searches for the right man to run the mill while the birth and the baby occupy her. To the horror of old Atlanta, she also begins doing business with the Yankees, although she hates them. She shakes with anger when three Yankee women declare in front of Uncle Peter that blacks are untrustworthy. Scarlett begins to run into Rhett frequently, and she drinks brandy to soothe her nerves. News arrives that Gerald is dead, and Scarlett heads home with a heavy heart.
Scarlett’s return to Atlanta to marry Frank Kennedy begins a new stage in the novel, and her emergence as a ruthless businesswoman begins a new stage in the development of her character as a strong, independent woman. People in Atlanta describe Scarlett’s head for business as masculine or unladylike, but, despite criticism, Scarlett drives ahead and proves herself more business-savvy than any man in the novel except Rhett. Frank feels emasculated and embarrassed by Scarlett’s success, but he is too weak-willed to stop her. Only Rhett does not disapprove of Scarlett’s decision to enter the business world. As Scarlett becomes more independent, she feels drawn to Rhett because he talks business with her and respects the business-savvy facet of her character. With her newly discovered business acumen, Scarlett finds herself in an unlikely alliance with Rhett. They share an unabashed instinct for self-preservation that nearly everyone around them lacks. Scarlett’s business savvy also brings her into further contact with Yankee businessmen and paves the way for her movement into Yankee social circles.
The brief scene depicting Tony Fontaine’s escape raises the tense issue of race relations in the era after the war. We see evidence of the violence of this relationship earlier in Rhett’s arrest for allegedly killing a black man who insulted a white woman. Historically, freed slaves (often referred to as “free-issue” blacks in the novel) lacked resources, education, property, and self-direction, and white Northerners manipulated them in an effort to shore up political power. The bulk of the freed slaves found shelter in squalid, hastily built shantytowns. Mitchell ignores these facts, however—one of the novel’s most blatant exhibitions of racism. She describes black people’s lives as “a never-ending picnic” and attributes their hardships to their inability to care for themselves once away from the plantation owners’ care. She describes freed slaves as “creatures of small intelligence” who take “perverse pleasure in destruction.” The only blacks not portrayed as part of a threatening, insolent mass are loyal house servants like Mammy and Pork, who never once indicate any dissatisfaction with their lowly position. The novel doesn’t make any acknowledgment that unhappy house slaves even existed, nor does it hint at the terrible and terrifying power of slave-owners over their slaves. Rather, it portrays a world in which slaves are always a beloved part of the family, and no one strikes them except the brutal Scarlett.
Mitchell’s racism reveals the mindset of Southern gentleman like Ashley Wilkes. Terrified by their sudden loss of political and social power, such men fixed blame on blacks. Confused by a world of freed slaves, they became convinced that black men posed a sexual threat to white women, and formed the Ku Klux Klan to protect their wives and to feel important and powerful once again. Mitchell does point to the Klan’s danger and foolishness, but she mitigates her condemnation of the group by showing only peaceful Klan participants. Even though Ashley supports the Klan, he opposes the organization on principle and is “against violence of any sort.” Thus Mitchell suggests that men like Ashley join the immoral Klan on moral grounds and thus cannot be faulted for their membership if they refrain from violence. According to Mitchell, they remain unsullied by the Klan’s evil as long as they stick fast to their own principles. Mitchell’s demeaning depiction of blacks and her neutrality about the Ku Klux Klan demonstrate that racism pervaded not only Scarlett’s time but also Mitchell’s.