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Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

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Miss Love "declares war" on Cold Sassy and on Will's family. Loma and Camp visit her-ostensibly to pay a social visit. While there Loma notes all of the changes Love has made and declares that she wants certain furnishings, including pictures, the mirror in the parlor, and the piano. Camp berates Love for moving Grandma's things around so freely. Love becomes angry and informs them that she owns the house and everything in it. She gives them the mirror because she doesn't like it anyway, but says they will get the piano over her "dead body."


Loma's visit furthers the conflict between herself and Mary Willis. Although Will doesn't mention it here, Mary Willis was the one who said she wanted the piano and the mirror. In coming directly to the house-under the ruse of a friendly visit-Loma is trying to get the jump on her sister in collecting Granny's things. Since Will had not told of the changes in the house, Loma's visit also makes the "take-over" public knowledge. If Love is not truly married to Grandpa, she should have no right to re-arrange Granny's house to suit herself. The visit gives Love a chance to announce that she is getting not only the house, but also everything in it. The inheritance issue was the primary concern of Loma and Mary Willis in the first place.

For once, Will agrees with his mother regarding Love's actions. He thinks that it was improper for her to tell her "personal business" in the store. He is probably somewhat offended that Miss Love confided in him and then told everyone else anyway. It occurs to him that possibly she wasn't "confiding" in him, but was hoping he would tell everyone the things she had told him.



Will and Miss Love talk about customs and trips they have taken with different people. Miss Love eases Will's mind by telling him that she, herself, told Grandpa about McAllister kissing her. She casually suggests that Will has probably taken numerous trips with Grandpa, but that isn't the case as Rucker doesn't like to travel.


Miss Love offers Will a glass of lemonade, and as a way of starting conversation he relates a brief anecdote about Queenie who always drinks her lemonade from a quart jar because she wants the first glass "as big as [she] can get." He laughs about it, the "way white folks always laugh when they tell something funny a colored person said." The implication is that this is a kind of laughter different from something humorous among white people. Love laughs with him but then forces him to think about the real reason Queenie drinks from quart jars and eats from old plates or pie pans. Love sees the inequality that the white citizens in the town refuse to acknowledge. Will's angry reaction shows that he sees it too, but he has been taught to expect the separation between black and white.

Love's words bring up a racist attitude that he has known about all along, but, like his family, he simply hasn't talked about it. He still is not ready to accept the notion that there is anything wrong with denying the use of good dishes or family dining rooms to the black servants.



Will visits Loma, intending to apologize for his stories. He isn't really sorry, but is in the mood to hear her fuss at him. She is indeed angry when he arrives, but not at him. Her angry is directed against Camp who has painted a white enamel over the fireplace mantel-without first cleaning the mantel. Thus, he has painted around a tin matchbox and over a cockroach, pencil and a button.

When Will apologizes to Loma for his stories, she further surprises him by laughing. She tells him that if he can think up such outrageous stories, he ought to be a writer. At first, Will rejects the idea, solely because it comes from her. But she melts some of his animosity by play-acting the part of a bride with a leaking rubber bust, and they are soon laughing together. Finally, she gives him a blank journal which she had once thought to use for herself; time and life had gotten in the way, and she had never done any more than put her name in it. Will thinks of it as just another bossy gesture, but is touched in spite of himself. At that point he begins keeping the journal-writing down the things that happen in Cold Sassy.


In addition to showing how the writer in Will was identified, this chapter cast Loma in a more favorable light. Earlier in the story, she seems to be merely the leader of the antagonism against Love and Will's primary enemy. However, she has a story of her own and dreams that will never be realized. A life of hard work and borderline poverty has made her angry and bitter-especially as her own sister has a house with servants, a good income and every comfort she could want for the time period. We also see that Will and Loma are more alike than he understands; he is capable of writing the stories while she has a flare for acting and adding to them. She is part of the leading family in the town, and the stories were not believable anyway, so the incident did not result in rumors or attempts to ostracize her as they would have if the same had been applied to Love.


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Ruff, Dr. K.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Sassy Tree". . 09 May 2017