[T]omorrow is another day.

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Analysis: Chapters LVIII–LXIII

Bonnie’s death climactically links Scarlett’s past, present, and future, lending a sense of inevitability to the conclusion of the novel. Because she is their child, Bonnie represents the union between Scarlett and Rhett, and her death symbolizes the death of Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage. Bonnie’s death also evokes Gerald’s death, in Chapter XXXIX, thus infusing the present with a painful reminder of the past. Bonnie dies in exactly the same manner as Gerald, after calling out exactly the same words before taking the fatal jump. Scarlett even notices how closely Bonnie resembles Gerald in the moment before the horse jumps. This look backward heightens the tension of the story, but it also foreshadows the end of the novel. Mitchell shows that Bonnie, like Gerald, dies from her O’Hara hardheadedness. Scarlett ignores this warning that stubborn actions lead to death, however. She has achieved great things throughout the novel by virtue of her willpower, and at the conclusion of the novel she decides to persevere no matter how great the obstacles facing her. As Gerald’s death symbolizes not only his hardheaded nature but also his pride in the Old South, the recall of his death at this moment in the novel foreshadows the fact that Scarlett, like her father before her, will persevere in the spirit of the Old South, not just in the spirit of the new order.

At the end of the novel, Scarlett finally understands Ashley and Rhett. She has long perceived the striking similarities between the two men, who often surprise her with shared beliefs in the futility of war, the rampant hypocrisy in the South, and the foolishness of the Ku Klux Klan. Finally she realizes that the crucial difference between them is not that Ashley is fine while Rhett is coarse but that Ashley is weak while Rhett is strong. When Melanie dies, Scarlett feels strength drain from her. She turns to Ashley for support and finally understands that Ashley is not strong. He is a weak man, not the heroic man she imagines him to be in the beginning of the novel. On her way home, she realizes that Rhett is the man who gives her real strength, whereas Ashley only reflects the strength that Scarlett projects onto him.

Scarlett and Rhett torment us with their inability to feel the same emotion at the same time. If one feels passionately in love, the other feels sullen; if one is talkative, the other is silent; if one is desperate, the other is indifferent. They cannot work out their difficulties because they are too similar, and they are both equally to blame for the failure of their love. Scarlett ignores years of Rhett’s devotion, too self-absorbed to see that true love lies just underneath Rhett’s veneer of apathy. Rhett cannot rein in his passion for Scarlett, and lets it erupt in violence. When he does win her love, he throws it away in a true, unfeigned fit of apathy.

The end of the novel can be read as either tragic or hopeful. Scarlett insists that she can get Rhett back and seems certain that she will go back to Tara, renew her strength, and continue fighting to survive and find happiness. The final phrase of the novel, “tomorrow is another day,” could signify that the story does not end with the novel and that Scarlett will never give up in her quest for happiness. However, the same events can be read more darkly. Scarlett has lost Rhett’s love, and although we have seen her survive through many hardships, she has never lost a husband she loved (she does not love either of her previous husbands). Her determination to return to Tara seems either valiant or deluded, for it is not entirely certain she will find happiness alone at Tara. Her final repetition of the mantra “tomorrow is another day” seems slightly disappointing. Scarlett always thinks she will put off moral considerations until an easier time, but as the novel ends she still has not reflected on her actions or learned from her wrongdoing. In some ways, she has not progressed at all.

Still, Scarlet does stand for the South and the South’s resilience. When Scarlett chooses Rhett over Ashley it suggests that the life of the Old South, symbolized by Ashley, no longer exists. Like the Old South, Scarlett gives up hopeless dreams of a past life and looks to build a better future. Rhett scoffs at the South early on, but in the end he speaks sentimentally of his Southern heritage, so that when Scarlett chooses Rhett to love, she chooses the strange mixture of old and new that Rhett embodies. Like Scarlett, the South survives by changing with the changing times.