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Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

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"Love" Simpson's name
Symbolizes the only thing both Grandpa and Love wanted.

The new cars
Changes are coming to Cold Sassy, but most of the people, including the owners of the cars aren't exactly ready for them.

The store
A reflection of changes that have taken place since the Civil War. Most people can no longer make their living off the land. The merchants have replaced the big money holders. It symbolizes control as those who have merchandise to see and credit to give can control even the farmers.

Lightfoot McClendon
Symbolizes Will's awakening. His dream in which she is shattered suggests that she is part of something which is forbidden to him, not entirely for the reasons he thinks. Her "bloodless" fall of sparkliing pieces into the creek symbolizes the innocense of his first love.

The silver studded saddle
McAllister's attempts to buy Miss Simpson's love after he had cruelly cast her aside. The value of the gift and McAllister's refusal to take it back may suggest that he actually loved her. On the other hand, it may be a symbol of his attempt to "buy" love, in which case he is no worse than Rucker. Rucker has purchased Love with the promise of a house and furniture.

The hand covered journal
Loma's attempt to cling to hopes and dreams that will never come true for her. Also, Will's future as a writer.


Cold Sassy Tree

Olive Ann Burns

March, 1984

Meaning of the Title
The town had at one time had a grove of sassafras trees just at the outskirts of town. People would take train rides just to look at the trees. At the time Will tells his story, only one tree is left standing, the Cold Sassy tree.

Cold Sassy and other small towns in Georgia

Young adult novel

First person, Will Tweedy

Rucker Blakeslee/Will Tweedy

Rucker's family and the town of Cold Sassy

Humorous, reminiscent

Point of View
First person/Will's view point


Primary Conflict
Rucker Blakeslee vs. Cold Sassy and Will Tweedy vs. boyhood innocence

Rising Action
Grandpa becoming more obviously in love with Love Simpson, and Will awakening to an understanding of adult relationships

Will finds out that Grandpa actually does love Love and learns the secret past that makes her try to keep her distance from him.

Grandpa and Love fall in love openly, and the town gradually becomes more tolerant of her if not totally accepting.

Falling Action
Campbell Williams commits suicide, Grandpa hires Will's enemies to help in the store, the store is robbed, and Rucker dies from his injuries and pneumonia after being told that Love is pregnant.

Major Themes
Love/acceptance, maturing, prejudice

Minor Themes
Family, Religious faith

Love's name, new cars, the store, the saddle, Lightfoot McClendon, hand covered journal


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