Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns|
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COLD SASSY TREE - ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY / CRITICISM
After Rucker thinks Will has gone to sleep, he goes into the little room with Love. Will hears them kissing, and then Love pushes him away, trying to claim she doesn't love him that way. Rucker refuses to believe her, then tells her the story of his life with Mattie Lou. He had loved Mattie Lou dearly, but after her last child she had become ill, and the doctor said another childbirth would kill her. So Rucker stayed away from Mattie Lou, but in his loneliness, he fell in love with Love Simpson. He never let her know it, and she didn't encourage him, but he took advantage of every opportunity just to see her or be near her. When Mattie Lou got sick, he at first thought God was punishing him for lusting after another woman. He prayed for Mattie Lou to get well, but as she got weaker, he couldn't help thinking that if she died, he would be free to marry Love. After her death, Rucker recalled that Mattie Lou had told him, on at least two different occasions, that if she died first he was to take another wife so she wouldn't be worrying over who was taking care of him. That helps ease his guilt over wanting Love.
Rucker had proposed to Love so quickly because he was afraid she would marry Son Black, another person in town who had expressed an interest in her. He offered the house and furniture as enticements, planning to marry first and win her heart later on.
Love also has a story of her own. She had never married and had been jilted by McAllister because at the age of 12 she had been raped by her own father. She insists that if she had known Rucker wanted her for a real wife rather than just a housekeeper, she would have turned him down. Rucker tells her that it doesn't matter, but she orders him to leave the room.
On the way back to Cold Sassy, Rucker rides in the front seat with Will.
This chapter is the climax of the story as we now know that Rucker does indeed care for Love and that he married her because he wanted a real wife. His secret sin-that he was attracted to Love before Mattie Lou had died-is revealed, but doesn't seem like such a terrible deed to anyone except Will, and perhaps Grandpa himself who believed that to even think of another person was adultery. Love's secret is potentially more devastating because she has spent her life believing that she was "spoiled goods." Her failed engagement to McAllister enforced the idea in her own mind. She rejects Rucker in self-defense, but the stage is set for her to gradually accept him. We know that Rucker will not reject her on account of a childhood incident that she could not have prevented. However, a bit of minor suspense is created when Rucker rides home in the front seat, leaving Love by herself in the back.
By this time, Will is fond enough of Love himself that once he has acknowledged his grandfather's feelings, he wants him to be insistent with Love, to refuse to leave her side. As a teenager, he doesn't understand that the two adults need a little space to come to grips with the revelations they have heard from each other. Rucker may also be offended when Love tells him that if she had known about his true feelings, she never would have accepted his proposal.
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Ruff, Dr. K.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Sassy Tree".
. 09 May 2017