Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for ’tis the only thing in this world that lasts.
Gerald O’Hara expresses this philosophy to Scarlett in Chapter II in an effort to comfort her in her disappointment about Ashley Wilkes’s engagement to Melanie Hamilton. Gerald emphasizes the importance of land, and of Tara in particular, foreshadowing the end of the novel. Scarlett initially rejects the idea that land can be more important than getting Ashley, the man she loves. However, love of Tara increasingly motivates Scarlett’s actions. Years later, Ashley hands Scarlett a clump of Tara’s dirt and tells her that she loves Tara more than she loves him. Scarlett realizes that Ashley is right. By the end of the novel, Scarlett has been abandoned by her true love, and only the thought of Tara gives her hope and comfort. Gerald’s speech precisely predicts the end of the novel: Scarlett loses her love for Ashley, her relationship with Melanie, and her marriage with Rhett, and only Tara “lasts.”