Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns|
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COLD SASSY TREE - LITERARY CRITICISM / NOTES
Loma spends the day with a friend, encouraged by Camp. While she is
out, Camp commits suicide. He tries to fix a leaking faucet first, then
wraps himself in an oilcloth and shoots himself in the head. He leaves
Loma a note saying he planned it so she wouldn't be the one to find him
and that he tried to make sure he wouldn't mess up her kitchen. Even so,
the faucet still leaks. Will fixes it so no one will say that Camp couldn't
even fix a leaky faucet.
In spite of the suicide, Grandpa makes sure Camp has a nice funeral.
He sets up a closed casket viewing in Loma's parlor, and whether people
come out of curiosity or concern, they dare not disobey when Grandpa orders
them into the room to file respectfully past the casket. In spite of the
talk, he buries Camp at the foot of Mattie Lou's grave and refuses to
let anyone suggest that Camp would be in "hell." He explains
to Will that there are liars and crooks who die, and people can't say
enough good stuff about them at their funerals. The only thing Camp ever
did wrong was that he just didn't know how to do anything. He never intentionally
Rucker's hand in the funeral is surely a reflection of his own feelings of guilt, even though he knows he was justified in refusing to give Camp a raise. Still, he regrets his cruel and pointed comments about Camp's uselessness and realizes that everyone in town had a hand in Camp's suicide. Because of the way they treated Camp, Rucker forces people to participate in the funeral as if Camp had died of ordinary causes. Burying Camp at the feet of his own wife shows that Camp had become a part of the family, regardless of what people thought of him.
Rucker is also silently showing some consideration for Camp's son, little Jr. It would be difficult for a boy to grow up, knowing his father was in an unmarked grave and had died in a way that would condemn him to hell. Putting Camp in the family plot will spare the child later on.
Rucker's comments on the deaths of people who "are mean and hateful, cheat their folks, or beat their wives and their colored" are a reflection of his own religious beliefs and sympathies for his family. He is also accurate in his opinion that if a hateful person can have a decent funeral, there is no reason to deny one to a person whose only fault was hopelessness and despair.
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Ruff, Dr. K.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Sassy Tree".
. 09 May 2017