The theme of love is one of the themes that have appeared in many books or rather works of literature that has been written in the past. This has appeared in many forms; love as a virtue that brings peace and consolation in the society or love as a virtue that causes pain in the society. Following this point, there are various sides that love is shown to the public in different books in the society. One of the books that carry the theme of love is ‘Cold Sassy Tree’ by Olive Ann Burns. The book reveals different forms of love that are exhibited among its characters, in different ways. Whereas love is expected to be genuine and based on one’s choice, love in the book ‘Cold Sassy Tree’ is based more on lust and material things.
To begin with, whereas marriage is built on love, there is a perspective that is explained by some characters in this book that raises eyebrows in regard to their loving one another. In this case, the reader is left wondering whether the love that is exhibited among these characters is genuine or whether it is a fake love. In line with this, the novel begins with a love story between Grandpa Enoch Rucker Blakeslee, who announces that he had intentions of marrying Miss Love Simpson, one of the young girls that worked in his store (Burns 5). To the readers and to some of the characters in this novel, the love between grandpa and Miss Love is questionable since the wife to grandpa, Mattie Lou had died just three weeks earlier. On the other hand, interracial love is depicted in this case whereby the characters in this book do not expect grandpa to marry from people who were outside his race (5).
The genuineness of the love of grandpa to his late is also questionable. Whereas it was expected as a husband in this society to love one’s wife, and thus this love will be there whenever somebody is married, this is not the case in grandpa’s life. While he assures his daughters that it was not disrespect to her late wife for him to remarry just three weeks after her death, what he speaks to Miss Love shows that he had been eyeing her even when his wife was still alive. He says, “I been a-waitin’ for this minute ever since the day I laid my eyes on you!” (Burns 300). This raises the question whether his love to his late wife was a true love as it was expected. On the other hand, one cannot tell whether this love towards Miss Love by Grandpa was genuine since he argues that he loved her the first day he saw her whereas during this time he was married (300). This depicts lust and not love.
The theme of love comes out clearly in this book in different perspective. It is important to observe that there is a high attachment to material things in most relationships that are depicted in this book rather than these relationships being build on love. For example, grandpa argues that when he marries Miss Love Simpson, he would be able to reduce household costs that would have been incurred if he employed a house help (Burns 6). Similarly, he reiterates that he did not want to burden his daughters and therefore, to avoid this, he had to marry (6).
On the contrary, whereas Miss Love is expected to marry Grandpa Enoch Rucker Blakeslee out of love, it becomes evident in the novel that she agreed to marry him because of wealth. In one of the conversations, Miss Love argues that she accepted to marry Grandpa Enoch Rucker Blakeslee since he accepted to deed the house to her together with its furniture (Burns 130). In other words, her love was being bought by Grandpa Enoch Rucker Blakeslee. Thus, without the promise of a house and furniture, Miss Love could not have accepted to marry Grandpa Enoch Rucker Blakeslee since she had no love for him.
There is a lot of irony in the book that brings out the theme of love in a clear way. First, the name Love or rather Miss Love Simpson is an ironic name since this woman did not have any love in her. Instead, she believed in materials things as a way of allowing herself to give out her love to those that required it. To begin with, she accepts nothing less than a house and furniture in order to marry Grandpa Enoch Rucker Blakeslee (Burns 133). On the other hand, she has a high level of lust rather than love in her heart. For example, whereas she knew in her heart that she did not love her former fiancé, she allowed him to kiss her passionately disregarding her married status (137).
The theme of love is also depicted between Grandpa Enoch Rucker and Mattie Lou. From the conversation between Grandpa Enoch Rucker and Miss Love Simpson, there existed a one-sided love. Mattie Lou loved Grandpa Rucker with all her heart and did everything he could to make him happy. In fact, Grandpa Rucker reflects back and narrates to Miss Love that he gave birth to so many children thus endangering her health as she sought for a boy that would enable the lineage of Grandpa Enoch Rucker to continue (Burns 301). However, she also fail in delivering unconditional love to her husband as she is caught up in the web of materialism as a way expressing her love to her husband.
Whereas love is expected to be genuine and based on one’s choice, love in the book ‘Cold Sassy Tree’ is based more on lust and material things. Throughout this book, there are different characters that try to express their love to one another. However, it is notable that their love is based on material things rather than on the choice of one’s heart. Every character in this book that falls in love was found to have a particular attachment to material things in one way or the other. Similarly, there is a strong element of lust with some characters such as Will, Grandpa Rucker, Miss Love and her former fiancé disrespecting marriage because of lusting after other people.