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Cold Sassy Tree

Olive Anne Burns

Chapters 28–31

Chapters 21–27

Chapters 32–35

Summary: Chapter 28

Mary Willis tells Will how everybody found out about Miss Love’s arrangement with Rucker: while Will was away camping, Miss Love went into Rucker’s store, where a customer greeted her as Mrs. Blakeslee. Miss Love politely corrected the customer, telling him that she intended to keep her name. This announcement shocked a customer named Mrs. Predmore, who told Miss Love and Rucker that she disapproved of their behavior. Miss Love was outraged by Mrs. Predmore’s presumptuousness and announced to the whole store that she and Rucker were married in name only and slept in separate beds. The gossips of Cold Sassy think this arrangement suggests that Miss Love is only after Rucker’s money. Mary Willis tells Will that she is beginning to hate Miss Love.

Summary: Chapter 29

Loma and her husband, Camp, visit Miss Love in an effort to get Mattie Lou’s piano. Miss Love informs them that the piano belongs to her now. She points out that she knows how to play, whereas Loma does not. She does allow Loma to take one of Mattie Lou’s mirrors, a large piece with a picture of Saint Cecilia painted on it. Everyone in Cold Sassy has something with Saint Cecilia painted on it. Will says Miss Love has declared war on the family by laying claim to everything in the house.

Summary: Chapter 30

Will goes to Rucker’s house to help Miss Love train her horse, Mr. Beautiful. Will and Miss Love discuss Queenie, the Tweedys’ black cook. Will laughs at the fact that Queenie drinks out of mason jars and eats her food off of old trays. Miss Love tells him that Queenie does so only because her white employers do not want her eating from the same dishes they do, but Will insists that Queenie eats that way by choice. Miss Love’s accusations anger Will. He thinks she does not understand life in Georgia, since she is practically a Yankee.

Will finds out that Rucker knows about the kiss between Miss Love and Clayton McAllister. Rucker has two free tickets to New York, and Miss Love asks if Will’s parents will be using them. Rucker had planned to send Will’s parents to New York to do shopping for the store, but Mary Willis is still mourning her mother and refuses to go. Will assures Miss Love that his mother will not change her mind. Before Will leaves the house, Miss Love thanks him for being her friend.

Summary: Chapter 31

Elated by his closeness to Miss Love, Will goes to Loma’s house to apologize for the stories he told his friends about her. He arrives to find Loma furious with Camp. It embarrasses Will to see how Camp lets Loma treat him. To Will’s shock, Loma is amused by the stories he told. They share a laugh and enjoy each other’s company for the whole afternoon. Loma gives Will a journal and encourages Will to write in it every day. Loma herself briefly attended college and once loved the theater, but she no longer has time to write and urges Will to become a writer in her place. Will does not want Loma to plan his life. He wants to be a farmer, even though Rucker expects him to take over the store. Still, Will appreciates Loma’s confidence in him and leaves feeling perplexed that he and Loma have gotten along so well.

Analysis: Chapters 28–31

When Miss Love condemns the racism of the some Southern customs, Will initially blames ignorance and Northern snobbishness, but her point of view eventually makes him think about the small racist gestures that are so common as to go unnoticed. Until Miss Love points out the racism of white employers, Will naïvely assumes that Queenie eats from old dishes and trays because she wants to. He is so used to Rucker doing as he pleases and breaking social conventions that he forgets that not everyone in Cold Sassy has the same freedom. Will initially finds Miss Love’s opinions peculiar and even arrogant because they are so unfamiliar. By reacting harshly to her views and judging them as ignorant Northern thinking, Will shows that he has partially adopted the close-minded attitudes of his neighbors. Miss Love sets off a series of awakenings in Will. Her sexuality excites his sexual maturation, her marriage to Rucker causes him to question God and society, and her Yankee opinions about life in the South awaken him to the prejudices inherent in his culture.

Loma’s husband, Camp, suffers from low self-esteem and worries about what others think of him. At home Loma constantly berates Camp for his ineptitude and at work Rucker berates him for his laziness and lack of initiative. Loma resents Camp because he comes from a poor family and moved up the social ladder when he married her. Rucker and Hoyt are harsh to Camp in an effort to toughen him up. Rucker and Hoyt believe in the absolute value of hard work and believe that buckling down will make Camp a better, stronger person. The constant criticism makes Camp see himself as a disgrace with no hope for redemption. The catty, judgmental town erodes Camp’s happiness, and his family makes him feel worthless.

Burns criticizes Rucker and Loma for their heartlessness, but she also suggests that personality can combat the bad behavior of others. Loma yells at Will just as she yells at her husband, telling him he is worthless and trying to take charge of his life. Whereas Camp wilts, however, Will bristles. Will refuses to submit to Loma’s will just because she is older than he is, and he refuses even to give much weight to the undeniable truth that she is his aunt. He does not want anyone controlling him, and Loma’s attempt at control simply energizes Will to work hard and follow his own heart.

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