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Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

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Miss Love starts sending postcards back from New York, but instead of the usual trip notes, she writes to nearly every woman in town, informing each of something she is bringing back that will be "just perfect." It is considered a stroke of salesmanship genius that for once has the town doing something other than criticizing Miss Love.

While taking fresh vegetables to Mr. Slocum, Will comes across Lightfoot. She looks thin and miserable, compared to the way Will remembered her, and she is dressed in black mourning clothes for her father. Will takes a short detour into the cemetery where the two chat for a while. Lightfoot begins crying at the sight of the nice looking graves, then explains that her father is buried back in the hills. Also, the aunt with whom she now lives insists that Lightfoot earn her own keep and has forced her to leave school and work full time in the cotton mill. Will attempts to comfort her and is soon kissing her instead. The two are caught by Miss Alice Ann, who followed them into the cemetery when she saw Lightfoot in the car.


Love is still trying to get the people to accept her; her ingenious approach shows that she knows how to appeal to human nature herself. The items she finds in New York are intended to appeal to the egos of the women in that each will have something the others don't have. Their desire for new and fashionable things overcomes their need to have someone to gossip about.

Will's little detour with Lightfoot is at least partially in response to the awakenings of puberty that took place when he saw McAllister kissing Love. He had never seen adults kissing, other than the little pecks which his parents gave each other in front of him and similar gestures between his grandparents. The idea of deep, prolonged kissing was something he would have liked to experience for himself. He doesn't intend to kiss Lightfoot, as doing so without an invitation from her would be considered an intrusion on his part. Nevertheless, he notices that even while she says no, her arms and body accept him.

The incident creates a little subplot in the story as we hope that he will be able to have a future with Lightfoot and help to lift her out of the hopeless plight of her mill town life. Of course, it can't happen as Cold Sassy is not yet ready to break the barriers they have set up between the people of "class" and those they consider poor white trash.



In an attempt to lighten his punishment, Will tells his mother that he kissed the mill girl. It doesn't help as she shames him mercilessly, and Hoyt not only whips him but also takes the car away for two months. The people in town sympathize with Will, putting all the blame on Lightfoot. Will feels that he should be credited for the shame he feels when his friends talk dirty about Lightfoot, but he admits to himself that ever since he saw Love and McAllister, he has had a "deep down itch" to kiss someone. Also, he feels sorry for Lightfoot as he knows that she is not a bad girl even if she is one of the mill people.

Grandpa and Love return home. Hoyt goes to the depot to get them in the new car and Mary Willis decides to invite them to supper. Things go well at first, as Love and Grandpa pass out all the presents, but during supper Aunt Carrie asks questions about things they did in New York. Miss Love tries to keep the focus on the time spent in the warehouse and in visits to churches and museums, but Grandpa scandalizes Hoyt and Mary Willis by talking about attending musicals and going dancing. Since he can't dance himself, he gave a quarter to another man to dance with Love while he watched. When a stony silence settles over the supper table, Aunt Carrie says that a person ought to be allowed to dance if he wishes to. Will realizes that Aunt Carrie knows the town laughs at her behind her back on account of her "educated" ways, but she makes sense to him. He decides that a person should be able to do whatever he wants, as long as he isn't hurting anyone-including kissing a mill girl.


Aunt Carrie's ideas are a foreshadowing of changes that will be coming to Cold Sassy, although not immediately. Most of the people do not yet understand the value of an outside education, nor do they appreciate the types of entertainment found in the bigger cities. Love also shows her sensitivity to the social rules by trying to discuss only their business and visits to places that imply a state of seriousness if not actual melancholy. Grandpa, however, is more straightforward. His isn't mourning Mattie Lou any longer, and he isn't about to hide his experiences of a good time just to make others happy.


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