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Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

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The conflict is two fold. The external conflict is between Rucker Blakeslee and his new wife and the rest of the family who reject her. The internal conflict is with Will himself as he matures from a boy to a young man and has to cope with his own emotions and decide when to defend his grandfather and when to keep quiet or go his own way.

Will likes Love Simpson and sees the cruelty of his family toward her, but he also understands their reasons and, in some ways, agrees with them. Part of Will's struggle is that he, himself, is attracted to an unacceptable mill girl; thus he both sympathizes with and is fascinated by his grandfather's scandalous romance with Love Simpson.


The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. The protagonist of Cold Sassy Tree is Rucker Blakeslee


The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character or even a character at all. The town of Cold Sassy, especially Rucker's family; Will's own struggle to master his immaturity


The climax of a story is the major turning point that determines the outcome of the plot. It is the point to which the rising action leads. The climax takes place in a private home where Will, Rucker and Love spend the night after their car breaks down. In the night, Will hears Rucker and Love tell their personal stories. He finds out that his grandfather actually married Love because he loved her and hoped to win her later, while Love herself had agreed to a platonic relationship because she believed that a childhood rape by her father had "tainted" her, making her forever unsuitable to be married to anyone. Nevertheless, it is apparent that Love really does care for Rucker and only rejects him out of self-defense.


Also known as the resolution or denouement, this is the place in the plot where the action is resolved or clarified. Rucker woos Love in earnest, eventually winning and the two have a few happy months together. However, Rucker's store is robbed one night and he is attacked and injured. Before he can recover from the injuries, pneumonia sets in and Rucker dies. Love is pregnant, and decides to stay on in Cold Sassy where she will inherit a quarter of Rucker's estate and where she knows his child will be accepted by the family regardless of how they feel about her.


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