Death is spread all throughout Cold Sassy Tree, a novel that begins with the passing of Mattie Lou and ends with the passing of Rucker Blakeslee. While the book focuses on mainly on religion and the restrictions of the town Cold Sassy, the Grim Reaper seems to be floating around every corner. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. is a book that revolves around death, and the main character Will Tweedy seems to know just how to handle himself from the very start.
Will Tweedy is fourteen years old when his grandmother, Mattie Lou Toy Blakeslee, dies three weeks before the novel begins. There is no real explanation as to why she died, since the authour did not specify her sickness, so it was most likely due to natural causes. This might have made it somewhat easier on Mattie Lou’s family and the rest of Cold Sassy, who were very close to her, but it does not keep them all from grieving and mourning to Kingdom Come. They linger on her death and restrict themselves from doing anything they find pleasurable.
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This is understandable as well as common in their time, seeing that they could be judged for coming out of mourning too quickly. However, young Will sees that there is something wrong with staying upset for such a long period of time: “I just didn’t think I could stand anymore mourning. For three whole weeks… they hadn’t let me play baseball or go fishing or anything. ” (Burns 14). This shows that Will is somewhat ahead of others when it comes to dealing with the demise of close friends and relatives, though he deals with it in a very different way from others.
Will is puzzled by the conformity that is offered from Cold Sassy. He does not see why it is wrong for his grandfather, Mr. Blakeslee, to love both his dead wife and his new wife, Miss Love. He knows that it is strange for his grandfather to be marrying a young milliner shortly after Mattie Lou dies, yet sees the positive side and recognizes the fact that his grandfather will need help around the house. If Mattie Lou is dead, how can she help Mr. Blakeslee?
Will has also almost been killed by a train; this occurred not long after Mattie Lou’s death. The event was very surreal to him, and he was extremely scared when he found that he could very well be dead: “And as knowledge of what could have happened hit me, I started shaking and crying. ” (Burns 78). In addition to this, Will’s friend Bluford Jackson died the previous year due to lockjaw. Will grieves for him during the camping trip with his friends, but he covers it up with humour.
That is the revelation; Will deals with death through comedy so that he can deal with the emotions he does not understand. However, after he himself almost dies, Will begins to see that he should be more appreciative of life, and it makes him want to understand God and death more than ever. This brings us to Will’s spiritual mentor, which would be his grandfather, Rucker Blakeslee. Rucker helps Will mature in many ways through the novel, never lecturing but sharing his thoughts with young Tweedy. Rucker makes it clear that he