In this section, Rhett solidifies his position as the novel’s male hero. Throughout the novel, Mitchell makes it difficult for us to embrace Rhett, painting him as charming at times and downright obnoxious at others. Mitchell originally presents Rhett as an anti-Southern opportunist, although she endears him to us through his wit, strength, and charisma. He also charms us by refusing to fall under the spell of Scarlett’s charisma. He teases her and torments her about the same qualities that we may find annoying and repellent in Scarlett. In Chapter XXIII Rhett proves that some of his unpatriotic scoffing is just bluster when he joins the Confederate army. Now Rhett becomes even more respectable by supporting the Democrats and becoming a devoted and loving father. Rhett also shows that despite his seeming indifference he does care for Scarlett. He vehemently objects when she wants to endanger her life with a primitive method of abortion. Though Scarlett clings to her childhood passion for Ashley, she comes to rely increasingly on Rhett’s strength and love. As he becomes more and more important to Scarlet over the course of the novel, Rhett replaces Ashley as the dominant male figure.

Rhett’s decision to change party loyalties foreshadows the coming shift in political power in the South. Rhett, who always caters to the group that is set to emerge wealthy and powerful, now deserts the Scalawags and Republicans to join the Democrats. As the Southern Democrats rebuild their party and the Republicans become increasingly corrupt and unpopular, Rhett transfers his loyalties and his money to the Democratic cause, showing that he cares more about his social position than his honor. He makes this shift for Bonnie’s sake, to regain the respect of Southern society, but he does it in accordance with his unerring instincts. Rhett’s shrewd political sense never fails, and, as he has sensed it would, Reconstruction soon draws to a close.