Austin Hoover Mrs. McCall Honors Literature 20 April, 2010 Understanding Faith and Religion Cold Sassy Tree, written by Olive Ann Burns, discusses the topic of understanding faith and religion in a small town society. Cold Sassy is a town that considers faith important. Through the eyes of Will Tweedy, the reader sees how a few main characters practice religion and their understanding of God’s word. The primary discussion of religion in the book comes from Grandpa Blakeslee. He has a radical viewpoint on a number of religious issues.
Other characters’ religious opinions are also interjected throughout the story. As the story progresses, Burns uses the characters to display the understanding of faith and religion in the town of Cold Sassy. Burns shows the differences between strict religion and moderate religion in her characterization of Hoyt Tweedy and Grandpa Blakeslee. Hoyt is a Presbyterian and makes the family abide by certain religious practices. In the story, the reader discovers the view of Christianity in a comic way. Will and his Grandpa and Grandma Blakeslee believe some of the strict religious rules are unnecessary.
After his grandma dies, Will says “One thing I already missed was the pork and sausage Granny had been providing me” (Burns 54). Along with the restrictions on eating pork, Hoyt refuses to allow Will to fish on Sundays. Grandpa’s perspective on religion is different than Hoyt’s. Grandpa Blakeslee views religion as looking at the Lord as a close friend. Grandpa disagrees against predestination. Unlike the Methodist preacher, who thought Will was spared from being killed by the train, Grandpa believed the accident was not predestined.
Grandpa said “Naw, you livin cause you had the good sense to fall down twixt them tracks” (Burns 97). Burns is trying to show how certain individual interpret religion as obeying lays and others consider it a personal relationship with God. Will begins to understand in his faith through extreme circumstances. Initially Will, like most teenagers, is uncertain about his faith. But when Will survives being run over by a train, he grows closer to God. Will says “God save me! Please God save me…
I guess what made it seem fancy was the strange peaceful feeling I got, as if the Lord has said, Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Burns 77). Will became aware of God’s presence and that often God uses extreme events to get one’s attention. Burns exemplifies understanding faith and religion through Will Tweedy’s spiritual understanding. Mr. Blakeslee and Love Simpson adhere to their religious beliefs through struggles. The town of Cold Sassy, despite being involved with the church, is judgmental and rude to Mrs. Love Simpson.
Mr. Blakeslee and Mrs. Love try to settle the issues with faith and good works. The town rejects Mrs. Love and shows their dislike of her by not participating when she tries to lead a song in church. They also gossip about Mrs. Love and make wrongful allegations. Mr. Blakeslee instead has a sermon at his house rather at the church. And Mrs. Love tries to gain their respect by sending personal post cards from New York City. These examples show the faith Mr. Blakeslee and Mrs. Love have in God to be kind to their neighbors.
Many characters struggle through events in this book, but they find a spiritual comfort from a Bible verse Mr. Blakeslee interpreted. Rucker Blakeslee comes to understand the passage in the Bible that says “ask and you will receive”. Will overhears Grandpa talking to Mrs. Love about wishful praying. Grandpa says “Jesus meant us to ast God to help us stand the pain, not beg him to take the pain away” (Burns 363). The example shows Grandpa’s strong faith and understanding of religion. It helps Grandpa because he is sick during this time.
It also eases Wills mind about the death of his friend, grandma, and later Grandpa Blakeslee. Burns uses this to show the faith of Grandpa and how he helps others grow in their knowledge of faith and religion. In this story, religion helps to define the citizens of Cold Sassy. Burns uses various characters to show and compare the different ways people understand and practice faith and religion. In Cold Sassy Tree, Burns explains that everyone, regardless of their religious preferences, needs faith to handle life’s tough situations.