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Cold Sassy Tree

Olive Anne Burns

Chapters 32–35

Chapters 28–31

Chapters 36–41

Summary: Chapter 32

Will and Hoyt manage to persuade Mary Willis to go on the trip to New York. She has just agreed to go when Rucker arrives and announces that he plans to use the tickets to go to New York with Miss Love. His decision devastates Mary Willis, but Rucker has made up his mind. Rucker embarrasses the family by inviting the entire town to a church service at his house that Sunday. Will is the only person who knows that Rucker is angry at the townspeople for hurting Miss Love with their cruelty and that he is intentionally trying to stir up trouble.

Summary: Chapter 33

Rucker asks Loomis to preach at the second church service at the Blakeslee house. Hoyt tells Will that a pretty girl from Mill Town came into Rucker’s store and asked Hoyt to tell Will that her father died. Will realizes that the girl must have been Lightfoot McLendon. Hoyt is in an unusually giddy mood and declines to accompany the family to the Presbyterian service. Hoyt never misses these services, and Will and Mary Willis wonder if he could possibly be going to Rucker’s service. When they leave church, they realize what Hoyt has been planning. He is waiting outside in a shiny new Cadillac, the first man in Cold Sassy to own a motorcar. Will and Mary Willis get in and drive by Rucker’s house. They wave to the surprised crowd leaving Rucker’s service but do not stop.

Summary: Chapter 34

Some people are jealous of the Tweedys’ car, but most people are excited. After practicing driving for a week, Will and Hoyt begin offering rides, and Hoyt pointedly does not offer one to Miss Love. Will and Hoyt ride out to the country to pick up Will’s younger sister, Mary Toy, whose hair has recovered from Aunt Carrie’s makeover but is still a strange shade of red. Mary Toy asks if she should call Miss Love “Grandma”; Mary Willis tells her to keep calling her Miss Love.

Summary: Chapters 35

Miss Love begins to win friends in Cold Sassy by sending them postcards from New York describing the dresses she has picked out for them. While he is out driving one day, Will comes upon Lightfoot and takes her for a drive. They park at the cemetery to talk. Lightfoot begins crying because her father is dead, she is too poor to afford a grave marker for him, and her aunt has pulled her out of school. Suddenly, Will takes Lightfoot in his arms and begins kissing her passionately, imitating the way Clayton McAllister kissed Miss Love. They are interrupted by Miss Alice Ann, a nosy woman from Cold Sassy, who tells Lightfoot to keep away from Will in a voice so loud Will thinks it might be God’s. As Lightfoot slinks away, Miss Alice Ann lectures Will and tells him she plans to let his parents know what she has seen.

Analysis: Chapters 32–35

Rucker’s decision to take Miss Love to New York City instead of letting Mary Willis go complicates the already changing ways in which Will’s family members relate to one another. When Rucker was married to Mattie Lou, he stood at the center of the family and acted as a benign dictator. Loma and Mary Willis answered to Rucker because he was their father, and Loma’s and Mary Willis’s husbands obeyed him because he was their employer. When Rucker chooses Miss Love over Mary Willis for the trip to the city, however, Hoyt decides to go against his father-in-law for the first time in the novel. Instead of standing by his boss’s decision, Hoyt challenges Rucker’s dominance by buying the town’s first automobile. In the old days, Rucker would not have stood for such insubordination, but his new marriage has made him eager to please, and he does nothing to punish Hoyt. Because Rucker has so offended his daughters by remarrying, he can no longer boss them around as he used to. Mary Willis is already so disappointed by her father that his decision to go to New York has no real impact on her.

A number of new technologies come to Cold Sassy over the course of the novel, and these inventions are clear indicators that the town is entering a more modern era. Set in 1906 and 1907, the novel chronicles a time when indoor plumbing, toilets, electric light, recorded sound, and automobiles are beginning to revolutionize the way people live. Rucker’s marriage to Miss Love prompts a number of the older townspeople to proclaim that times are changing, and the advent of all this technology shows that, to a certain extent, they are right. For the most part, this change is positive, but the speed with which it comes to Cold Sassy is almost overwhelming. Indeed, before all the residents have even had time to switch over to indoor plumbing, the telephone, and electric power, Hoyt’s car has arrived. In later chapters, in fact, a number of the town’s traditions are set aside in order to let the new progress continue.

As Rucker and Miss Love experience a romantic awakening during their trip to New York, Will too has a moment of passion when he kisses Lightfoot at the town cemetery. The kiss’s cemetery setting is the novel’s most direct symbol of the inextricable link between love and death. In the same way that Mattie Lou’s death allows Rucker and Miss Love to start a romance, the death of Lightfoot’s father also marks the beginning of her romance with Will. Even though Rucker and Will make this progression from death to growth seem natural, it is still very much a taboo in Cold Sassy. Will has not yet broken free of his hometown’s traditions and still believes so strongly in the morals of his upbringing that when Miss Alice Ann breaks up the kiss, Will hears her voice as the voice of God. Like Rucker, Will follows his passions, but unlike his grandfather, he is not yet able to ignore the criticisms of his neighbors and parents.

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