Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain

1429 Words6 Pages
Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain

In Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier describes the epic journey home of wounded Confederate soldier Inman from Petersburg to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Inman’s physical voyage home is paralleled by the mental journey made by his sweetheart, Ada, in her transformation from ‘city girl’ into ‘mountain woman’. The story is woven around the experiences of Inman and Ada trying to rebuild their lives from the desperation and disaster of the war, all the while trying to find a way to see each other again--whilst they are so far apart. It also blends the horrors of war into their current lives, and the corruption that has scarred them forever. Inman and Ada’s respective ordeals help develop the themes of war, homeland, women and children which this essay aims to reveal.

The motivation behind Inman’s desertion, when he “set his foot on the sill and stepped out of the window”, is not an issue that Frazier ever invites his readers to question. Having been surrounded by the dying, having witnessed the horrors of the first industrialized war which pitted countryman against countryman through the eyes of Inman, one feels deep sympathy. The horrifying battle scenes further add to the sense of the impermanence of escape offered by the war: “The fighting was in the way of a dream, one where you foes are ranked against you countless and mighty. And you are weak. And yet they fall and keep falling until they are crushed.” Frazier’s somber cataloging of the horrors of war creates enormous sympathy for his protagonist’s desertion, making it eminently justifiable. Inman’s disinterest in the issues of the war serves to show the lie of the common soldier’s involvement in the war. Frazier would posit that it is the job of the common soldier just to die, and in the most inhuman way possible: "Inman could hear the firing, but also the slaps of balls into meat. A man near Inman grew so excited, or perhaps so weary, that he forgot to pull the ramrod from his barrel. He fired it off and it struck a Federal in the chest. The man fell backward, and the rod stood from his body and quavered about with the last of his breathing as if he had been pierced by an unfletched arrow." Inman’s return home to a deeply changed place where he no longer has a role is indicative of the common fate of soldiers. What he has seen and done marks him out so distinctively fr...

... middle of paper ...

...ich their mothers had been before their assimilation of each others characteristics. In the light of the horrors of the Civil War, and of Inman’s death after having journeyed home, it is also spiritually important for the novel that something of worth is seen as coming from all the hardship. There is nothing which could possibly equate with the magnitude of the birth of a child, offering hope where Inman’s wasteful death had seemed to banish it.

The Odyssey, closely alluded to in Cold Mountain, imposes a multitude of trial and tribulations on Odysseus and Penelope. Inman takes on the role as the modern American hero who is irreversibly changed by the circumstances of the war, enduring ‘rainy days’ and waves of hardship to return to his sole hope-giver, Ada. The individual experiences of the young couple liken to peeling an orange; each peel unveils images of the horrors of war, the romance with one homeland, the women’s strength and of the importance of children, all of which construct the themes that soundly define the novel.


This paper aims to discuss the themes in the story "Cold Mountain", that is revealed through Inman and Ada’s respective ordeals.
Open Document