Charles Frazier uses reverse psychology as a great advantage in hisvery well known novel, Cold Mountain, a Civil War story with blood on itsbayonets and romance in its gentle soul. The author takes some creativerisks by reshaping the true battle tales of the Civil War into an epicstory that accumulates power and purpose with each turn of the page. Thestory is set around the middle of the Civil War, perhaps somewhere around1864, the later and more depressed years at that. These years were packedwith perils and dangers that outweighed any romance or patriotism that wasprevalent at the beginning.
Cold Mountain is the story of two paralleljourneys during the Civil War: Inman’s long and hazardous journey acrossthe American landscape, and Ada’s internal odyssey toward an understandingof herself. What makes Frazier’s novel so appealing, to most teenage andmid-aged readers, is the depth of detail surrounding both journeys. Frazierbased 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 andis forced to go to the hospital. After he goes to the hospital he staysthere for a few months.
Then one night he climbs out the window and startson 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 todo all of these things but she can’t cook or care for farm animals. Inmanand Ada experience many different shortcomings to fulfil their personalodysseys. The main theme throughout the book revolves around love betweentwo individuals, Inman and Ada. Their love for each other is the motivationthat keeps both characters moving toward reaching their separate but linkedodysseys.
The main focal point of Frazier’s novel, Cold Mountain, is to reuniteInman and Ada. Inman deserted the Confederate army a few years after thestart of the war, and he tries to go back to Cold Mountain where he canfind 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 ofthe book Inman was injured by a bullet that hit his neck during the Battleof Petersburg. Civil War injuries by bullets and pieces of shrapnel oftenresulted in a deadly disease called gangrene.
Gangrene is local death ofsoft tissues due to loss of blood supply. (webster.com) Gangrene was theleast of Inman’s worries. The Home Guard is a group of men whose job is tocapture runaway soldiers. Inman was always in fear of the Home Guardcatching him. Raiders, who were another group that Inman was very muchafraid of, could be from either North or South. It did not matter what sideyou were, confederates or union, Raiders stole, killed, and burned anythingand anyone in their path.
The Raiders were solely out for what they coulddo for themselves at the expense of others. One of the biggest challengesfor 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 hecould. Behind every challenge faced was Inman’s love for Ada whichpropelled him forward at all costs.On the way to Cold Mountain Inman meets many different people. Someof 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 withInman.
Swimmer gives Inman a gift when they have to say good-bye. Veasey isa bad preacher, whom Inman encounters toward the beginning of the book, whotries to push a woman over a cliff after having knocked her out with somedrugs. Veasey is a traveling companion of Inman and follows him until hisend. Goat woman is an old lady that takes care of goats. She meets Inmanwhile she is adjusting a bird trap. “She stayed hunkered down, adjustingthe trap in great detail.
..”(Cold Mountain 263) The goat woman takes careof Inman for a few days. The goat woman helps heal Inman’s wounds that hehad received from battle and from the wandering Home Guard. Junior is areally nasty old man that almost gets Inman killed. Junior is either beatup or killed by Inman later on in the book for turning him in to the HomeGuard (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 feedsInman and houses him for a few days.
Inman does a great favor for Sara whenthe Federals came and took her hog and chickens. These are just a few ofthe most memorable characters that Inman runs into on his way back to ColdMountain. No matter whom Inman met along his journey or how those peopleaffected him, his love for Ada kept him focused.Inman’s tragic experiences fighting in the American Civil War, meetingchallenges and dealing with good and bad characters have left him sick withthe knowledge of man’s inhumanity.
He wants his home in Cold Mountain andthe woman he loves, Ada, who is confined and limited by her grief anddespair. The following excerpts from Cold Mountain show the sickness Inmanfelt and the grief and despair Ada experienced. “What real hope he had wasno brighter than if someone had lit fire to a taper at the mountain’s topand 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, herteacher, “Why was man born to die”(Cold Mountain 60). One answer to thisquestion lies in returning to the basics. An example of this is: Ada learnsthat food only makes its way to the table through hard work. Ruby “heldAda’s nose to the dirt to see its purpose”(Cold Mountain 81).
Acquiringlivelihood involves “verbs, all of them tiring” (Cold Mountain 71). Thesethree passages are excellent examples of Ruby trying to teach Ada that theonly road to survival is via hard work and sacrifice. Ada felt the “envy ofpeople who seemed to care nothing at all for the things she and Monroeknew.
They had evidently come to entirely different conclusions about lifeand lived utterly by their own light” (Cold Mountain 43). Ada never had towork for anything. Survival was given not an earned right. The Civil Warchanged all this.
Ada had to learn to give in order to receive. The bookis a catalogue of small sacrifices. These passages bring out Inman andAda’s hurdles to their personal odysseys expressively. The underlying themein 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 byher father, Stobrod, ever since she was born. Her father, Stobrod, has afriend by the name of Pangle. Ruby is a woman that has a horrible past. Herfather didn’t care for her when she was a child, and her mother died whenshe was an infant. Ruby had to care for herself many times when she was achild because her father was never there. When she is a grown woman, shelives by herself, but then goes to Ada’s home to help her because theSwangers 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 closefriend 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 drinkand loves entertainment. He would leave Ruby all by herself for days whenhe heard there were dances going on at some area. When the Civil Warstarted, Stobrod enlisted in the army and left Ruby to fend for herself.Later Stobrod deserted the army and hid with some other deserters up inCold Mountain. Pangle is one of these deserters and a companion of Stobrodoften called “Pangle Boy.” He plays the banjo along with Stobrod wheneverhe plays the fiddle. Ruby’s struggle through childhood and her reliance onherself makes her the perfect teacher for Ada.
Ruby’s great example of hardwork leads to survival. Without Ruby, Ada would not have been able tocontinue her odyssey. Ada was in love with Inman before the war started.Her struggles to learn how to be independent only strengthen her love andgreat devotion. If a comparison is made between Ada at the beginning of thenovel and towards the end of the novel you will find that she changesgreatly. She shifts from being reliant on others to being very much self-sufficient. Without Ruby by her side she would have perished long beforeInman had left the army on furlough to the hospital.
With Ruby, Ada adoptsa strong resolve to be there in strength when Inman returns.Inman and Ada experience many challenges on the road to their personalodysseys. These challenges include the Civil War, overcoming complete lifestyle 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 toAda and Ada never stops traveling down the tough and somewhat tiring roadto0 survival.
Their separate roads lead to one goal, being reunited andrekindling their love. Inman’s love is illustrated in his determination tocontinue his journey despite the challenges and characters he meets. Ada’slove is illustrated in her willingness to learn a totally new lifestyle.Their odysseys are very different but their goal is the same.