The people who have brains and courage come through and the ones who haven’t are winnowed out.

Ashley speaks these words to Scarlett in Chapter XXXI after the Civil War has ended and he is living and working at Tara. Ashley understands the divide between Old South and New South. As an embodiment of the Old South, he finds himself completely out of place after the war, his old way of life having disappeared. He excels at a variety of leisurely skills practiced by Southern gentlemen: riding horses, talking politics, and treating his peers with respect. These skills are useless, however, in the harsh new world of Reconstruction, and Ashley cannot develop useful new skills. He struggles and fails to labor on Tara and run Scarlett’s sawmill for profit. Even though Ashley cannot change while Scarlett excels at improvisation, Ashley understands the absolute need for change while Scarlett does not. Scarlett’s survival instinct, not her analytical skills, guides her behavior. Here Ashley provides commentary and analysis of the South and of Scarlett’s actions because Scarlett herself cannot. In this quotation he expresses the idea that people like Scarlett have the “brains and courage” to survive.