Just when Scarlett thinks things are starting to turn a corner and get better - they suddenly get worse. The
In Atlanta Scarlett is in serious danger of losing the little moral sense she had. Money becomes an obsession, money to send back to Tara to keep it secure. She buys a lumber mill, with Rhett's money and against Frank's wishes. She is a talented business woman but is not above lying and cheating to get the best prices. She scandalises the town by driving herself around, selling lumber and meeting contractors. She hires a convict gang and turns a blind eye to the cruel treatment meted out to them by the manager.
Ashley is still her weak spot. When she buys a second lumber mill she hires him to manage it. He is useless at business, but she forgives him mistakes that she would've fired anyone else for. Ashley is no good for her but she can't see it. He is unhappy and felt pressured into taking the job, when in fact he wanted to go North. He is weak, but at least he knows he's weak.
Reconstruction is taking its toll. Society is turned upside down and there is a growing groundswell of anger against the Yankees and the freed slaves and the carpet baggers. The Ku Klux Klan is on the rise and Frank, Ashley and several of their friends are members. After Scarlett is attacked on her way to the mill, the Klan goes looking for vengeance. Frank is killed. Rhett (not a member of the Klan) manages to save Ashley.
Scarlett is in danger of becoming an outcast. Only Melly and Rhett seem to be on her side. The final nail in her social coffin is when she agrees to marry Rhett. She says she doesn't love him, though she is fond of him. I think that he genuinely loves her, though he won't admit it until she does.