Cold Sassy Tree: Character Profiles
Son Black is a mean farmer who has been courting Love Simpson. Grandpa proposes to Love so soon after his wife’s death because he is afraid Love will marry him. She is not really interested in him because his mother runs him and the farm.
Enoch Rucker Blakeslee
Grandpa Blakeslee is a Civil War veteran with one hand, an important leader in Cold Sassy because he owns the general store and is related to half the county. He is the eccentric and willful patriarch who loves his first wife, Mattie Lou, but is too cheap to give her the things she needs. She overworks herself and dies, thus sending Rucker looking for a second wife. Crazy about Love Simpson, he marries her three weeks after his first wife dies and gets her pregnant just before he dies a year later. He allows Love to change him. She cuts his hair and makes him younger and more modern in outlook. Rucker has his own radical ideas about religion and hates what he feels is the hypocrisy of organized religion. He passes on his wisdom and point of view to his grandson, Will. Though wise in many ways, Grandpa also has a mean and stubborn streak. He likes to fight and play practical jokes on people he thinks deserve it. He dies from injuries in a store robbery when he is beaten up.
Mattie Lou Toy Blakeslee
Grandma Blakeslee is kind and generous and uncomplaining, even though her husband will not give her indoor plumbing, electricity, or a telephone. Her garden is a sort of Eden, and she is known for her nursing the sick. She is a loyal companion and wife to Rucker, though she is mortified at having many miscarriages and producing only daughters. Rucker wears her out in childbearing to give him a son but has to give up when she is sickly. Her death tears her family apart. Will misses her and speaks of her as the touchstone of balance and kindness in the family.
The refined and learned Aunt Carrie studies philosophy and poetry and holds meetings for young children to teach them culture. She is odd, however, and the parents object to her lectures on using human excrement for fertilizer. At Granny’s funeral, she objects to Mary Toy’s red hair and dyes it black.
Clem Crummy is the owner of the Cold Sassy Hotel. He once cheated Grandpa on a land deal, so Grandpa gets his revenge by winning a drawing and having the hotel renamed after him, The Rucker Blakeslee hotel.
Lias is the town mailman to whom Will Tweedy confides he wants to be a farmer. Lias tells Will the story of his disastrous marriage to Sal who ran around on him and ruined his life. He was going to kill his wife and her lover, but decided they weren’t worth it. God took care of it when Sal got bitten by a cottonmouth and died.
Will’s best friend, Bluford Jackson, died six months before Granny. Will feels guilty because they were playing with his firecrackers when one went off and burned him, giving him lockjaw.
Knowledge Henry Jamison
Mr. Nolly Jamison and his wife, Miss Gussie, put up Grandpa and Love and Will overnight at their home in Cushie Springs when Grandpa’s car breaks down. This is where Will overhears Grandpa’s and Love’s confessions of love.
Mrs. Jones is Grandpa Tweedy’s third wife, who wants to be buried sitting up with a chocolate cake in her lap because there is no room for her in the cemetery with the first two wives already there.
Lucille is the telephone operator in Cold Sassy. She didn’t connect the call to the policeman in time to help Grandpa with the robbers at his store.
Clayton McAlister is the handsome Texas cowboy who was engaged to Love Simpson but broke the engagement. A ladies’ man, he ran off with her best friend. He comes to Cold Sassy after Love marries Grandpa and begs Love to come with him. He apologizes to her and kisses her, but she sticks by her arrangement with Grandpa.
Lightfoot moves to Cold Sassy from the Blue Ridge mountains when her mother dies of TB. Her father also dies of TB, working in cotton factory. She has to go to work full-time when her father dies and drops out of school. Though Will has a crush on her and kisses her in the cemetery to console her about her father’s death, she marries Hosie Roach, another mill worker.
Mr. Pearl Potter
Pearl Potter is the policeman of Cold Sassy who finds Grandpa unconscious after the robbers beat him up at the store.
Queenie is the Tweedys’ black cook, married to Big Loomis. She helps to take care of Loma’s baby when Loma moves in.
Hosie Roach is a Mill Town boy of twenty-one who goes to Will’s school to get an education and work in the mill at the same time. Will picks fights with him to show he is tough, but Hosie is a decent man, and Grandpa gives him a job at the store, enabling him to marry Lightfoot McLendon.
Mr. Sheffield owns the cotton mill in Mill Town. He had an only son, Daniel, who married a Jewish woman from New York. His said that anyone who married a Yankee or a Jew was the same as dead. The father built an ornate tomb for his son in the cemetery to show that he was dead to the family.
Miss Love is a thirty-something milliner from Baltimore and considers herself an old maid who will never marry after her experience with her fiancé, Clayton McAlister. She confided to him before the marriage her deep dark secret that she was sexually molested by her father, and Clayton broke off the engagement. She takes this as a sign from God that she is not supposed to marry. She only agrees to marry Grandpa Blakeslee because he says he only wants her as a housekeeper. He deeds over his house to her. She marries for security and to have family connections, though the town does not accept her. She finally falls in love with Grandpa and becomes his real wife, having his child after his death. Love is a pretty, buxom, and freckled woman who plays the piano and sings. A spirited person, a suffragette, and equal to Grandpa in independence, she changes his looks and personality for the better. She also increases his business with her knowledge of marketing. She is joyous, generous, a good cook and a creative thinker. She tries hard to get accepted by the family and town, slowly succeeding by her good will and efforts, and the child she has by Grandpa Blakeslee.
Dr. Slaughter tends both the dying Granny and then the dying Grandpa. He also takes care of Will Tweedy after he is run over by a train. He has only gone to medical school for two years but everyone trusts him as the last word in medicine.
Effie Belle Tate
Effie Belle is Grandpa’s neighbor. She is 89 and a spying busybody who watches what Grandpa and Love are doing and gossips in town. She lives with her brother who is 102. She gets Love kicked out of her position as the church pianist in the Methodist Church and takes over playing herself, though she is awful.
T. R. is Will Tweedy’s birddog, who almost got killed with him on the railroad tracks, but was rescued by Big Loomis.
Big Loomis Toy
Big Loomis is Queenie’s husband. A black preacher, he preaches in Grandpa’s home church and at Grandpa’s short burial service. He also saves Will’s dog, T. R., on the railroad tracks.
Grandpa Tweedy is Hoyt’s dogmatically religious father, who is a lazy farmer and makes Hoyt give him money for his rundown farm. He makes Will recite his catechism every time he sees him but loans him the big wagon, that is also a hearse, for Will’s camping trip.
Hoyt Tweedy is Mary Willis’s religious husband, prominent in the Presbyterian church and obsessed with sin. He works for Grandpa Blakeslee in the store and has to keep his opinions to himself. Hoyt is responsible, industrious, a good person and good father to Will, though Will prefers his grandpa’s liberal opinions and behavior. Grandpa leaves him as the manager of the store when he dies.
Mary Toy Tweedy
Mary Toy is the daughter of Hoyt and Mary Willis, and the younger sister of Will Tweedy. She has bright red hair that Aunt Carrie dyes black for Granny’s funeral.
Mary Willis Blakeslee Tweedy
Mary Willis is the elder daughter of Granny and Grandpa Blakesley. She is hard working and conventional. She married Hoyt Tweedy when she was seventeen, thus cutting herself off from the Baptist church. Afraid of her father, she has headaches whenever someone does something scandalous in the family. Jealous of Grandpa’s new wife, she fears that he may have a child by the second marriage that will take away her inheritance. She is especially upset when Grandpa and Love steal her trip to New York for themselves.
Will Tweedy is the first-person narrator of the story. Will is a good boy but fourteen and a little rebellious. He plays practical jokes like his grandpa. He looks like his grandpa and acts like him. They are both storytellers and keepers of the local lore. Will watches and documents his grandfather’s life, especially with his second wife, Love. Will becomes a secret admirer of Love’s and tries to befriend her and help negotiate for her with the hostile town. He is the main person who understands and admires the relationship his grandfather has with Love and sees how it changes both of them and the town. He becomes his grandfather’s chauffeur and is expected to be his heir. Grandpa Blakeslee wants him to take over the store, but Will plans to go to Agricultural College because he wants to run a farm. Will is questions the meaning of life when people close to him die (grandparents, friend, uncle), and he himself has a near-death experience. He is testing the social limits when he gets a crush on a lower class girl, Lightfoot, from Mill Town. He tries to keep his relationship with her secret, but after he kisses her, he is caught and has to give her up.
Loma Blakeslee Williams
Loma is the rebellious and spoiled younger daughter of Granny and Grandpa Blakeslee. She goes to college to study theater and poetry. When she tries to run away with some actors, her father reins her in, and she gets her revenge by marrying the stupid and lower class Campbell Williams. She has a baby, Campbell, Jr. but is an indifferent mother and housewife. She nags her husband until he commits suicide. She and her nephew Will Tweedy have an ongoing feud. Nevertheless, she recognizes Will’s creative talents and gives him a journal, encouraging him to write down his stories.
Campbell Williams is a very slow son of a tenant farmer who marries Loma and works for her father in the store. Constantly insulted by Loma and Grandpa Blakeslee, he finally blows his brains out. Grandpa then sticks up for him and sees he has a proper burial.