Cold Mountain

Charles Frazier uses reverse psychology as a great advantage in his
very well known novel, Cold Mountain, a Civil War story with blood on its
bayonets and romance in its gentle soul. The author takes some creative
risks by reshaping the true battle tales of the Civil War into an epic
story that accumulates power and purpose with each turn of the page. The
story is set around the middle of the Civil War, perhaps somewhere around
1864, the later and more depressed years at that. These years were packed
with perils and dangers that outweighed any romance or patriotism that was
prevalent at the beginning. Cold Mountain is the story of two parallel
journeys during the Civil War: Inman’s long and hazardous journey across
the American landscape, and Ada’s internal odyssey toward an understanding
of herself. What makes Frazier’s novel so appealing, to most teenage and
mid-aged readers, is the depth of detail surrounding both journeys. Frazier
based this story on family history, and in the characters of Inman and Ada.

Inman is a Confederate soldier who received a neck wound from a battle and
is forced to go to the hospital. After he goes to the hospital he stays
there for a few months. Then one night he climbs out the window and starts
on his journey back home. Ada is a woman of knowledge. She is able to read,
write, figure out arithmetic, draw, and play the piano. She may be able to
do all of these things but she can’t cook or care for farm animals. Inman
and Ada experience many different shortcomings to fulfil their personal
odysseys. The main theme throughout the book revolves around love between
two individuals, Inman and Ada. Their love for each other is the motivation
that keeps both characters moving toward reaching their separate but linked
odysseys.

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The main focal point of Frazier’s novel, Cold Mountain, is to reunite
Inman and Ada. Inman deserted the Confederate army a few years after the
start of the war, and he tries to go back to Cold Mountain where he can
find Ada’s home. On his way to Cold Mountain Inman faces many challenges.

The major challenges Inman faced were getting wounded, the Home Guard,
raiders, and finding food and shelter on a daily basis. At the beginning of
the book Inman was injured by a bullet that hit his neck during the Battle
of Petersburg. Civil War injuries by bullets and pieces of shrapnel often
resulted in a deadly disease called gangrene. Gangrene is local death of
soft tissues due to loss of blood supply. (webster.com) Gangrene was the
least of Inman’s worries. The Home Guard is a group of men whose job is to
capture runaway soldiers. Inman was always in fear of the Home Guard
catching him. Raiders, who were another group that Inman was very much
afraid of, could be from either North or South. It did not matter what side
you were, confederates or union, Raiders stole, killed, and burned anything
and anyone in their path. The Raiders were solely out for what they could
do for themselves at the expense of others. One of the biggest challenges
for Inman was finding food and shelter while trying to heal from his wound,
hide from the Home Guard, and stay as far away from the Raiders as he
could. Behind every challenge faced was Inman’s love for Ada which
propelled him forward at all costs.

On the way to Cold Mountain Inman meets many different people. Some
of these people are very helpful to Inman, and others endanger his life.

The most memorable people that Inman meets are Swimmer, Veasey, goat woman,
Junior, and Sara. Swimmer is a Cherokee Indian that is good friends with
Inman. Swimmer gives Inman a gift when they have to say good-bye. Veasey is
a bad preacher, whom Inman encounters toward the beginning of the book, who
tries to push a woman over a cliff after having knocked her out with some
drugs. Veasey is a traveling companion of Inman and follows him until his
end. Goat woman is an old lady that takes care of goats. She meets Inman
while she is adjusting a bird trap. “She stayed hunkered down, adjusting
the trap in great detail…”(Cold Mountain 263) The goat woman takes care
of Inman for a few days. The goat woman helps heal Inman’s wounds that he
had received from battle and from the wandering Home Guard. Junior is a
really nasty old man that almost gets Inman killed. Junior is either beat
up or killed by Inman later on in the book for turning him in to the Home
Guard (the book does not specify weather he was just beat up or killed).

Sara is an eighteen-year-old girl that has a child to care for. She feeds
Inman and houses him for a few days. Inman does a great favor for Sara when
the Federals came and took her hog and chickens. These are just a few of
the most memorable characters that Inman runs into on his way back to Cold
Mountain. No matter whom Inman met along his journey or how those people
affected him, his love for Ada kept him focused.

Inman’s tragic experiences fighting in the American Civil War, meeting
challenges and dealing with good and bad characters have left him sick with
the knowledge of man’s inhumanity. He wants his home in Cold Mountain and
the woman he loves, Ada, who is confined and limited by her grief and
despair. The following excerpts from Cold Mountain show the sickness Inman
felt and the grief and despair Ada experienced. “What real hope he had was
no brighter than if someone had lit fire to a taper at the mountain’s top
and left him far away to try setting a course by it”(Cold Mountain 66).

This passage describes the bleakness of Inman’s journey. Ada asks Ruby, her
teacher, “Why was man born to die”(Cold Mountain 60). One answer to this
question lies in returning to the basics. An example of this is: Ada learns
that food only makes its way to the table through hard work. Ruby “held
Ada’s nose to the dirt to see its purpose”(Cold Mountain 81). Acquiring
livelihood involves “verbs, all of them tiring” (Cold Mountain 71). These
three passages are excellent examples of Ruby trying to teach Ada that the
only road to survival is via hard work and sacrifice. Ada felt the “envy of
people who seemed to care nothing at all for the things she and Monroe
knew. They had evidently come to entirely different conclusions about life
and lived utterly by their own light” (Cold Mountain 43). Ada never had to
work for anything. Survival was given not an earned right. The Civil War
changed all this. Ada had to learn to give in order to receive. The book
is a catalogue of small sacrifices. These passages bring out Inman and
Ada’s hurdles to their personal odysseys expressively. The underlying theme
in all of their adventures is true love.

Ada encounters one main person throughout the whole bulk of the story,
who changes her whole life. This person is Ruby. Ruby has been neglected by
her father, Stobrod, ever since she was born. Her father, Stobrod, has a
friend by the name of Pangle. Ruby is a woman that has a horrible past. Her
father didn’t care for her when she was a child, and her mother died when
she was an infant. Ruby had to care for herself many times when she was a
child because her father was never there. When she is a grown woman, she
lives by herself, but then goes to Ada’s home to help her because the
Swangers said that Ada needed some help. Ruby is an energetic and hard-
working young woman. She helps Ada manage the farm and becomes a very close
friend of Ada’s. Stobrod is Ruby’s father. He doesn’t care for Ruby at all.

He cares more for his fiddle than for his daughter. Stobrod loves to drink
and loves entertainment. He would leave Ruby all by herself for days when
he heard there were dances going on at some area. When the Civil War
started, Stobrod enlisted in the army and left Ruby to fend for herself.

Later Stobrod deserted the army and hid with some other deserters up in
Cold Mountain. Pangle is one of these deserters and a companion of Stobrod
often called “Pangle Boy.” He plays the banjo along with Stobrod whenever
he plays the fiddle. Ruby’s struggle through childhood and her reliance on
herself makes her the perfect teacher for Ada. Ruby’s great example of hard
work leads to survival. Without Ruby, Ada would not have been able to
continue her odyssey. Ada was in love with Inman before the war started.

Her struggles to learn how to be independent only strengthen her love and
great devotion. If a comparison is made between Ada at the beginning of the
novel and towards the end of the novel you will find that she changes
greatly. She shifts from being reliant on others to being very much self-
sufficient. Without Ruby by her side she would have perished long before
Inman had left the army on furlough to the hospital. With Ruby, Ada adopts
a strong resolve to be there in strength when Inman returns.

Inman and Ada experience many challenges on the road to their personal
odysseys. These challenges include the Civil War, overcoming complete life
style changes, meeting and dealing with all types of people, and self will.

But throughout the entire book, Inman never gives up trying to get home to
Ada and Ada never stops traveling down the tough and somewhat tiring road
to0 survival. Their separate roads lead to one goal, being reunited and
rekindling their love. Inman’s love is illustrated in his determination to
continue his journey despite the challenges and characters he meets. Ada’s
love is illustrated in her willingness to learn a totally new lifestyle.

Their odysseys are very different but their goal is the same.