Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns|
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The Stumps and Tuttles along with other town members arrive at the Tweedy
home, and everyone sit around telling stories of people who have had close
calls and spent the rest of their lives in service to the church or community.
Mr. Tuttle acts as though he had personally rescued Will. It all becomes
very boring to Will, especially as he is told by the doctor that he shouldn't
eat any of the food begin brought in, but should be restricted to liquids.
The party suddenly comes alive, however, with the arrival of Grandpa who
comes in shouting that he would have been there sooner if he had known
they were throwing a party for him.
Since we discover later that Blakeslee actually knew the real reason
for the party, this chapter simply presents more of his uncanny ability
to turn a situation to his own favor. He enters boisterously, as if he
actually believes that everyone is celebrating his wedding, but everyone
except Will knows better. He is simply taking advantage of an occasion
when he would be expected to show up and congratulate Will on his survival
to thrust Love into the midst of the family and dare them to reject her.
Of course, they can't; the women may be cold toward her, but the men will
behave as gentlemen. And in the presence of the entire community, no one
will be the first to violate the rules of southern hospitality.
Will discovers-years later-that Grandpa knew people were at the house
on account of the accident, but he put on an act as if he thought everyone
was actually there to celebrate the wedding. Rucker finds some time to
listen to Will's story and does so without adding to the family diatribe
on God's will or God saving Will from the train. He considers it merely
common sense that Will thought to lie down between the rails. Before the
party breaks up, Rucker makes everyone pause for a prayer. He stuns the
group by blessing the memory of Mattie Lou and asking for help in being
a good husband to Miss Love. It seems to dissolve a little of the iciness
toward Love, at least for the moment. Several of the women give her kisses
and hugs. Loma alone refuses to acknowledge Miss Love. Will is astonished
at the ease with which Grandpa handles his large, angry family.
As the people have all been occupied with trying to find religious reasons
for Will's escape from certain death, it provides Grandpa with a perfect
opportunity to take the role of family patriarch and ask God for a blessing
on Will. Of course, no one can interrupt or object to anything a man might
say in prayer, so in asking for a blessing on his new marriage, he is
also overtly telling the family that the deed is done and he expects them
to behave appropriately in welcoming her. His prayer, while pointed, is
also sincere, as he expresses his personal beliefs about the influence
of God in our lives. He brings tears to the eyes of the women because
they know that he is sincere and, although they may not be willing to
admit it yet, they also know that his marriage to Love was not from any
intention to bring harm to them.
Will dreams about the train. In his first dream, Lightfoot is on the
trestle and is half naked-teasing him to join her. Then, just as she steps
out of her skirt, the train hits her, shattering her into a shower of
bloodless pieces. The second dream is of Loma who stands in his path preventing
him from running away from the train until finally he is sandwiched between
the train and her. When he awakes, he is reminded of a childhood incident
that caused some of the enmity between himself and Loma.
When Loma turned 12, she had started considering herself a "lady"
and had demanded that Will address her as "Aunt Loma." He refused,
and she retaliated by breaking a set of toy soldiers his grandpa had purchased
from London. His mother explained the next day that Loma really was his
aunt. However, they believed Loma when she said Will had broken the soldiers
himself. From that time on, he hated Loma with a passion although he eventually
Lying there in the night, Will thinks about the other family members
and acquaintances he doesn't like. His feeling for the others pale when
compared to Loma. He secretly hopes Miss Love will be a match for her.
This chapter provides that background for Will's dislike of Loma. Part
of it results from bitterness caused by suddenly having to treat a childhood
playmate-and victim of his pranks-as an adult. He knows her better than
anyone else in the family with the possible exception of his grandfather.
He knows she will lie if it suits her, but that the family will believe
her over him.
Loma is also jealous of the fact that Will is Grandpa's favorite and
works in the store where her own husband hardly makes enough of a wage
to live on. She doesn't take into consideration the fact that Will doesn't
get paid for what he does. With the enmity between them, nearly anyone
who is Loma's enemy will be Will's friend.
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