Full title   Cold Sassy Tree

Author  Olive Ann Burns

Type of work  Novel

Genre  Coming-of-age tale; love story

Language  English

Time and place written   1976–1984, Georgia

Date of first publication   1984

Publisher  Ticknor & Fields

Narrator  Will Tweedy

Point of view  Will narrates in the first person, commenting on the events and people in the story.

Tone  Will’s tone is youthful, exuberant, innocent, and colloquial.

Tense  Past

Setting (time)   1906 and 1907, although Will is telling the story years later, in 1914

Setting (place)  Cold Sassy, Georgia

Protagonists Rucker Blakeslee and Will Tweedy

Major conflict  Rucker Blakeslee and his new bride, Miss Love Simpson, attempt to live happily and ignore the town’s and the Blakeslee family’s general condemnation of their union. Will struggles to grow up and maintain his integrity.

Rising action  Rucker announces his marriage to Miss Love; Rucker and Miss Love go to New York City; Will loses Lightfoot to Hosie Roach

Climax  Rucker reveals his love to Miss Love; she reveals that her father raped her

Falling action  Rucker and Miss Love enjoy their newfound love; Rucker hires Hosie; Will understands the love between Rucker and Miss love

Themes  The struggle to understand death; the dawning of the modern era; the fight to overcome social constraints

Motifs  Humor as a coping mechanism; family as a burden and a blessing; language as a reflection of class and place

Symbols  The Cold Sassy tree; Valentine’s Day

Foreshadowing  In Chapter 46, Will’s hope that something bad will happen to Hosie and his comment that it happens to Rucker instead hints at the illness that strikes Rucker and his death shortly thereafter.