Nuclear Family. Noun. A couple and their dependent children, regarded as a basic social unit (Abate and Jewell, The New Oxford American Dictionary). This definition has changed in both meaning and prevalence over time; it used to signify just a father, a mother, and their children, but now it’s become more inclusive to families who didn 't quite meet that description. Also, this set-up is far less common that it was, since rates of single parents have skyrocketed over the past 50 years (Tenenbaum, “Honor Thy Mother”). Despite this, the nuclear family is still the basic foundation of all familial relationships today. The novel Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns is based on the lives (and deaths) of each member of a nuclear family: parents Mattie Lou and Rucker Blakeslee, and their two adult daughters, Mary Willis Tweedy and Loma Williams. All four of these characters all share a flawed, yet close bond; at their core, they are fiercely loyal to each other even though they often disagree. Characters outside of this nuclear family, like Will Tweedy and Love Simpson, feel like outsiders since they can’t comprehend the complicated dynamics behind this group. In the novel Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, the characters Mattie Lou, Rucker, Mary Willis, and Loma all feel conflicted by their differences and natural loyalty to each other, which adds to the book’s tone of confliction and confusion.
In the novel Cold Sassy Tree, author Olive Ann Burns demonstrated the bonds between the original members of the Blakeslee family: Rucker, Mattie Lou, Mary Willis, and Loma. For instance, after Loma’s husband commits suicide, her father and sister comfort her in the quote “Mama [Mary Willis] got up from the bed and put her ha...
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...’m a-go’n take Miss Love. (Burns 219)’” Even though she was extremely disappointed, Mary Willis didn’t protest her father’s decision because of her both her diffident disposition and her lack of desire to have a full-blown argument with her father. The dynamic between these two characters really is peculiar: both characters love each other, but Mary Willis still feels a little intimidated by her father. Miss Love tries very hard to work her way into this family, despite the efforts made by Loma and Mary Willis to keep her out.
Keeping up with the constantly changing politics of the Blakeslee family was nearly impossible for the members themselves to do, let alone outsiders of this nuclear family. Therefore the, complicated dynamics of this nuclear family corroborate the theme of confliction and confusion felt throughout the novel Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.
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