Rucker says these words at the end of Chapter 1 in response to Mary Willis’s and Loma’s indignant reactions to the news of his second marriage. Rucker’s careless response to his daughters’ outrage reveals much about his character. Because he feels that he is right, Rucker exercises no tact. Instead of speaking gently to his daughters and explaining the benefits of his remarrying, he speaks roughly of their dead mother, using the approach most certain to offend Mary Willis and Loma. Rucker uses slang to make his point, which contrasts with the refined language that his daughters speak. Rucker responds to their pleas with the colloquial exclamation, “Good gosh a’mighty!” Rucker responds so unfeelingly partly because he feels genuinely frustrated when his daughters do not understand something that seems so clear to him and partly because he does not care enough to avoid shocking them.
Will poses this question to Miss Love in Chapter 19, after she has given Rucker a haircut that makes him look much younger. Although the whole town wonders why Miss Love marries Rucker, only Will has the courage to ask her outright. Consequently, he is the first to know the true nature of Rucker’s new marriage. This question signals the beginning of Will’s friendship with Miss Love. Eventually, Miss Love helps Will understand the world, and this question marks the first time Will turns to her for instruction. It also shows Will’s innocence. The townspeople consider themselves too worldly to ask Miss Love this question and would rather make assumptions and dream up scandals than find out the truth. By Cold Sassy’s standards, Will’s question is an example of bad manners, but Will’s ignorance of the ways of the world allows him to act honestly and openly. Will is young enough that he does not care about the town’s restrictive rules.
I’m sayin’ I love you, dang it! I’m sayin’ I want you to be my wife! I’m sayin’ I been a-waitin’ to hold you in my arms ever since the day we got married…. No, way longer than thet, Lord hep me. Miss Love—Love, I been a-waitin’ for this minute ever since the day I laid eyes on you!
In this quotation from Chapter 41, Rucker reveals his love for Miss Love, changing their relationship. This conversation marks the novel’s climax, in which the characters openly discuss the hidden problems that haunt them. The syntax of this quotation reflects the explosiveness and excitement of the moment. Rucker races from exclamation to exclamation, interrupting himself and stammering. Rucker’s high emotion shows that he has been wanting to unburden himself of his true feelings for a long time. Rucker speaks honestly. He is not trying to finesse Miss Love or woo her with suave speeches. Rather, Rucker speaks without any artifice, and his raw honesty reveals the strong passion that motivates him.
Lightfoot McLendon speaks these words of farewell to Will at the end of Chapter 46. Her words show the impact of Rucker’s kindness to downtrodden people like Loomis and Hosie. Lightfoot makes it clear that without Rucker’s help, she and Hosie would not be able to marry. The fact that Rucker hires Hosie means that Rucker has undermined Will’s chances with Lightfoot, but we feel little sympathy with Will because, ashamed of Lightfoot, he has neglected her. Lightfoot says she will never forget Will, suggesting she feels genuine affection for him even though she loves Hosie. This turn of events reinforces a lesson for Will. Rucker’s relationships with Mattie Lou and Miss Love suggest that people can feel affection for more than one person, and now Lightfoot shows that Will that she feels tenderly toward both him and Hosie.
We can ast for comfort and hope and patience and courage . . . and we’ll git what we ast for. They ain’t no gar’ntee thet we ain’t go’n have no troubles and ain’t go’n die. But shore as frogs croak and cows bellow, God’ll forgive us if’n we ast Him to.
Rucker speaks these words on his deathbed in Chapter 48, revealing the answer to the novel’s most persistent question. When Will first encounters death and heartbreak, he wonders how such things can exist in a world created by a just God. As Rucker begins to die, he reveals the answer he has come up with: God does not give material things that the prayerful seek, but he does give strength. Although he does not articulate it until now, this belief motivates Rucker’s life. He never avoids confrontation or asks for relief from adversity. Instead, Rucker confronts his problems and realizes that although some trouble is inevitable, trouble does not prevent a happy life. Will understands Rucker’s philosophy because Will has gotten past the deaths of loved ones and the failure of his relationship with Lightfoot. Will understands now that such sad occurrences should be recognized, dealt with, and laid to rest, not bemoaned or wished away.
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