(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The two main characters of Cold Sassy Tree are E. Rucker Blakeslee and his grandson, Will Tweedy. In many ways they are the same character shown at opposite ends of life's spectrum. Together they create a composite view of life, love, and family. Will is the image of the grandfather in terms of physique and temperament. Their shared predilection for practical jokes, story telling, fighting, and stubbornness creates a bond which is foundational to the book's positive tone.

Will's devotion to his grandfather and his fascination with Miss Love make his narration both natural and vivid. Will fits in easily with the newlyweds, and Rucker encourages Will's presence for chores and for companionship. The youth's privileged relationship permits him an insider's view of the marriage.

Rucker Blakeslee is the backbone of the novel. He symbolically stands tall and commanding. Despite his incontestable authority, his bearing is good-natured. A clever man who rises to the challenge of any conflict, he takes particular relish in shaming hypocrites or simply separating himself from their pettiness. His allegiance to principle over community approval is a constant irritation to his daughters.

The hallmark of Rucker's character was the integrity which serves as a framework for all that he says and does. Even in his worst moments Rucker faces himself squarely. His deference to his creator imbues him with both the humility and confidence that color his life.

During his marriage to Miss Mattie Lou, Rucker's temperament reflected the weight of the hardships of loss of life and difficult childbirth. He outwardly treated his family well but his sadness found...

(The entire section is 692 words.)